The 2020 Mercedes GLS

Posted 5/17/19

Mercedes-Benz is a popular choice for many luxury car buyers in Rhode Island, and for good reason.  They’re safe, feature packed, and tend to keep their value better than most.  …

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The 2020 Mercedes GLS


Mercedes-Benz is a popular choice for many luxury car buyers in Rhode Island, and for good reason.  They’re safe, feature packed, and tend to keep their value better than most.  Mercedes Benz’s new motto is “The Best or Nothing”.  It’s a bold statement and there are few brands that could get away with it.  But Mercedes is one of them.

There are thousands of Mercedes vehicles in and around Rhode Island.  Take a trip to the East Side, or the Providence Place Mall, Garden City, or many of the other upscale shopping areas and you’ll see dozens of them.

So when Mercedes Benz introduced the all-new GLS sport utility vehicle at the New York Auto Show last month, we were there to get the details on the important changes.  But first, a bit of history.

Mercedes Benz has a plethora of sport utilities, starting with the GLA and increasing in half sizes to get to this GLS, their largest.  Th GL series SUV has been around since 2007, The original, dubbed “GL450” was introduced at the North American International Auto Show in 2006 and released to the US public shortly after.  When it was redesigned in 2012, it increased in size, and also traded some of its chiseled lines for smooth corners and better overall aerodynamics.

In 2017, Mercedes decided to change the model designation from GL to GLS, to bring the alphanumeric naming in line with the rest of the lineup.  Essentially GL is Mercedes speak for Sport Utility Series, and S is the largest in the series, just like the S550 is the pinnacle of the sedan series (we’re not including Maybach models here, as that would just complicate things).  And speaking of complicating things, the biggest MB Sport Ute isn’t it’s most expensive.  That honor goes to the G-Wagon, which is smaller, but significantly more expensive.  If you’re looking for one of the ultimate statement vehicles you could possibly drive-and also one of the most capable SUV’s on the planet, take a closer look at the aerodynamically challenged G-series.  But you’ll need deep pockets (They start at $125,000) and a max of four friends, as it’s available sans third row only.

But back to the new GLS. At launch, it will come in two varieties, the GLS 450 and GLS 580.  The 450 is propelled by an inline 6-cylinder engine with 362 horsepower and 369 lb/ft of torque.  It has an electric motor that replaces the starter and alternator, this wizardry brings 21 of the aforementioned horses to the party. More importantly, it adds 181 lb/ft of torque.

Should you have the desire (and the means) to step up to the GLS 580, you’ll get the 4.0 liter, twin turbo V8 (the same as the one in the S560 sedan), and the same integrated starter generator as the six, which combine to provide a whopping 483 horsepower and 516 lb/ft of torque.  The new GLS is no slouch, and when Mercedes (inevitably) decides to come out with an AMG version, it’s a pretty good bet that it’ll top all other seven passenger luxury SUVs in performance.

In both models, those engines are combined with a nine-speed automatic gearbox mated to an all-wheel drive system that can send one hundred percent of all that torque to either axle.  And if you do go for the GL580, you’ll have an optional low range AWD system, just in case you need to pull a house or something.

As for seating configurations, the new GLS matches its newest and most obvious competitor, the BMW X7, with six or seven passenger capacities, depending on whether you opt for the second-row captain’s chairs or three across bench seating that’s been standard on all GL and GLS models to date.

The new GLS sill also come with the new MBUX system, which is a huge improvement in functionality over the previous version.  Having owned both previous versions of the big Benz, I can say that this is one area that was in dire need of improvement.

The other notable option is the E-Active Body Control System, which was first available on the new GLE (GL for sport utility, E for mid-size).  This is a pretty wild setup that ditches the sway bars completely, and everything’s done through the shock system and the air springs.  What that means is that all the necessary adjustments are done independently at all 4 corners and done instantaneously using the 48-volt hybrid system.  And it can actually capture regenerative energy from the motion of the dampers.

It seems that the US can’t get enough SUVs.  They outsold passenger cars last year (something that’s never happened before) and are on pace to do so easily, again in 2019.  Currently there are nearly one hundred to choose from.  But when you get to the rarified air of the 100K luxury seven passenger SUVs, there are only a few to choose from.  If you’re lucky enough to be in this category, the new GLS is worth waiting for.

The GLS is expected to be in Mercedes-Benz dealerships by the end of the year.  Pricing will be announced soon.

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.