The Goodwood Test: Mercedes-Benz GLS

30th May 2017
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.



Previously just the GL-class, the GLS is the “S-class of SUVs”, according to Merc. Below it sits the GLE and then the GLC: E-class and C-class, geddit? Its predecessor, the GL, was introduced in 2006 to satisfy the huge – literally – demand from America, where it was built, and increasingly the Middle East, for a big SUV to sit above the M-class. The first M-class – Mercedes’ first dip into the luxury SUV waters, back in the Nineties – was not a roaring success, but the company has worked hard on its premium off-roading offerings since then, and while it still believes that 99 per cent of people will never go near a serious off-road adventure, the GLS now offers downhill speed regulating systems akin to those offered by Land Rover as part of a £1,985 off-road package that includes a 100pc differential lock on the centre diff, guard under the engine with reinforced underbody paneling, low-range gearbox, three off-road ride heights and off-road algorithm for ABS and ESP.

But for most drivers, a rundown on the heritage of the S-class executive saloon would be more appropriate as this is first and foremost a stonking luxury car, with seven seats.



It’s huge. Bigger, even, than that. As a Goodwood road tester with four boys, I’ve experienced nearly every seven-seater on the market in the past two years, and this has the greatest interior space, more than the Range Rover, Hyundai Santa Fe and Volvo XC90. The third row of seats comfortably swallowed my 6ft 1in rugby-playing partner with still enough room in the boot for eight bags of Sainsbury's shopping. If you want to take six adults in comfort on a road trip, this is your car.

The exterior design makes no effort to hide its bulk with defined corners and slabs of metal reinforcing a utilitarian, rugged approach to motoring, plus huge 21in alloys. Inside, however, any agricultural pretensions are banished, replaced by the softest pale nappa leathers, polished black polar wood and immaculate stitching. There are the familiar central dial and touchpad controls to activate all functions such as satnav and audio on a high-definition screen, smartphone integration for Apple CarPlay and a Bang and Olufsen BeoSound AMG 14-speaker sound system with illuminated futuristic tweeters in the A-pillars.



Pretty staggering. Obviously, you get *cough* miles per gallon but it’s frankly an expected and small price to pay for hoofing seven people and bags around in near silence and at effortless speeds. Under the bonnet of our GLS 350d 4MATIC sits a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 258bhp and 457lb ft of buttery torque, spread via the 9G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission. 

All of which gives you 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds (kerb weight: 2,455kg), and a quoted Combined fuel consumption of 37.2mpg – we got about 22mpg, but we weren’t hanging around.

Like the vast majority of customers for this car, we didn’t get the chance to take the GLS seriously off-road, but my goodness, it’s a swanky 4x4 on the tarmac, with a smooth chassis, air suspension with adaptive damping, and great build quality. It’s fully deserving of that “S” badge in the name.



If you wanted a grand off-roading badge, you’d probably go Land Rover, but if the status for you lies in the power and prestige of the badge, a huge stylish grille and superior on-road presence, you’ve got to go Mercedes GLS. It’s hard to ignore this car; it’s bold, it’s brash, and it’s possibly the best-looking seven-seater on the roads today. Only a Bentley Bentayga beats this car for unabashed luxury in its class, and, while some people may argue the GLS carries a hefty price tag, it’s still a bargain compared with the Bentley. 

Price-tag of our car: £89,470 

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