A new name and mainly a cosmetic update of the very capable, Mercedes-Benz GL. Under the new nomenclature pattern, all the Mercedes SUV names have three alphabets, wherein the ‘GL’ as a prefix is standard while the last alphabets denotes the size of the car. If the GLA is the A-Class of Mercedes SUVs, then obviously the GL under the new format becomes the GLS!
The GLS is a mid-life update of the GL launched in 2012. It incorporates the new Mercedes design language with a stylish bumper, revised headlamp and more enhanced split grille that houses the larger logo. There aren’t any noticeable changes to the side and rear profile either, barring additional chrome elements and new LED lights. But overall the new GLS looks different from before, where the face of the GL looked sort of droopy, this one is almost stylish. Even then compared to its rivals like the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90, the GLS remains understated.
With the GLS though, it is not as much about the style as it is about the size. It is a huge with the large overhangs and even larger wheelbase; its presence won’t go unnoticed even in the company of more luxurious or sportier cars.
How is it on the inside?
There aren’t many changes to the inside compared to the GL. The dashboard layout is the same, but inside of a small integrated screen in the dashboard for the infotainment system, it gets the new tablet-like unit with the updated COMAND system. There is also a touch-pad to operate the system like in all the new Mercs.
In terms of size, this is the largest SUV one can buy at this price point. The GLS is one of the few seven-seaters sold in the country that can actually accommodate seven adults comfortably. It also has all the features that one expects from a luxury SUV of this size, right from an extra-large sunroof to 360 camera view to electrically folding tailgate and seats. It ticks all the right boxes on safety as well with nine airbags and all the electronic assistance that such a big car needs.
My only grouse with the GLS cabin is its feel. For a car that costs close to Rs 83 lakh (ex-showroom), the interior seems too ordinary. The quality or layout isn’t an issue, the material is rich, the colours with contrasting elements look nice and there are ambient lights for luxurious feel; but somehow it doesn’t make the occupant feel special.
How does it drive?
Apart from the cosmetics, the only other change in GLS compared to the GL is the new nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. It has the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine, producing 258bhp and 620Nm of torque and carrying the ‘350 d’ badge of the boot lid. This isn’t the most refined engine, there is clatter but hardly any of it percolates into the cabin.
Despite the similar power figures, the car performs much better with the two additional ratios. It is a quick gearbox, immediately responding to a tap on the paddle shifters, however, it does act slightly confused in cities when left to choose on its own. In comfort mode, the gear shifts come at around 1,600rpm unless there is extra pressure on the accelerator pedal. The drivability for an SUV of this size is commendable, it builds momentum quickly, downing a gear or two if required.
There are a few other modes, most important being the Sport Mode, that makes the steering heavier, gear shifts sharper and the ride stiffer. It has airmatic suspension that can be tuned for comfort or sporty ride, plus it can raise the car height thereby offering better ground clearance for off-roads. The other modes are for snow / slippery conditions and off-road, which reduce the throttle response to offer better traction in harsh conditions. The individual mode allows you to separately adjust the engine response, steering and suspension set up.
For a car that weighs close to 2.5 tonnes and is mainly intended to be a luxurious people carrier with a diesel engine, the GLS 350d is decently quick to reach 100kmph from standstill in 8.3 seconds. It has decent drivability as well with ample of low end torque, getting to 80kmph from 20kmph in 4.8 seconds. The GLS is not intended to be pushed around the corners, but should the need arise, the GLS does better than expected from an SUV of its size. The steering has decent feedback and brakes that manage to bring it to a halt quick enough.
The ride of the GLS is comfortable for most parts. Of course, there is plenty of body roll and even in sportier setting the feel isn’t much different. But this soft set up means, this is one of the most comfortable SUVs for the passengers.
Why should I buy one?
The GLS is the biggest of the luxury seven-seater SUVs available in India, barring probably the Land Rover Discovery. But the latter is a much older car and also almost Rs 30 lakh more expensive. The GLS is the best option if space is priority over everything else, it is available in abundance and then it has everything else that is essential for a vehicle that carries a price tag of Rs 82.36 lakh.