The big, bad, GL-Class, arguably the biggest car on sale in India takes the notion of ‘bigger is better’ to a new extreme. With space to lug seven around in comfort, the GL-Class is one of the very few options in the premium segment for those who prefer travelling with their family. Introduced first in India in 2010, the new GL-Class has come back as a more premium looking machine, with more features and a lower price tag. Here, in this New GL350 CDI review, we’ll try and figure how much sense does the big SUV makes for a nigh 75 lakh price tag
Words: Amit Chhangani
Images: Amit Chhangani / Yatharth Chauhan / Deepak Dongre
The face of the new GL-Class is defined by the massive twin slat chrome radiator grille bearing the equally big triple pointed star. The big bumper features a wide and aggressively styled central air dam flanked by horizontally laid out string of LED fog lamps sitting over big rectangular sections with honeycomb mesh effect.
The lower portion of the bumper is lined with chrome, and under it you can see a faux diffuser, laden in chrome, again. Big headlamps, somewhat resembling the shape of an eye have wavy DRLs lined above them. With the wide bonnet featuring pronounced, muscular creases and twin air inlets the GL looks like an imposing, intimidating machine front-on. The face of this car is it’s most well designed and daunting bit.
In profile, Mercedes have tried to disguise the sheer length of this behemoth by introducing tight lines – a pair of roof rails, along with angular cuts for the wheel arches lends the GL the much require visual tautness. Our test car came equipped with the AMG body kit, featuring massive 21 inch alloy wheels and special skirts up front and rear. Those wheels further add to the butch appeal of this massive SUV.
The design at the rear is rather simplistic, and doesn’t quite exude the aggression expressed at the front. The rear bumper is designed in a fashion similar to the front unit with a big central opening flanked by two smaller rectangular units topped by slim horizontally placed reflectors. The chrome draped faux diffuser under the front bumper is present here as well. There is a chrome accent, with a diffuser shaped design on the loading lip of the boot too. A trough shaped registration plate recess, topped by a horizontal chrome slat and flanked by angular tail lamps complete the design at the rear.
The new GL Class, with its more than five meters of length needed to obscure its excessive girth to appear ready for action, and so it does, especially from front and in profile. The big glass area suggests a light, airy and comfortable seating for the occupants and the overall stance is that of a big, go-anywhere machine.
Interior / features
Inside the cabin, the GL350 CDI has space as one of its biggest virtues. It’s a genuine seven-seater which can carry adults in the third row for a few hundred kilometers without any trouble. The seats are comfortable, there is ample light coming in thanks to the big windows and glass all around, and the really enormous triple section sunroof puts the proverbial halo above the GL’s head as regards interior. The space in all three rows is generous, and we would be stressed to think of a car that could carry seven in more comfort than this one. As for boot space, even with all seven seats up, there is more luggage space available at the back than you would find in a mid-segment sedan.
Our test car came draped in hi quality perforated leather in brown shade, with a criss-cross pattern on seats and door panels. The colour and quality of the leather along with the ‘matte’ finish genuine wood inserts made the GL-Class cabin look and feel something really special.
The dashboard has been laid out in a familiar Mercedes fashion, which, after remaining unchanged for a very long time is only now getting transformed with new designs incorporated in the new A, S and C-Class. The central screen on the dashboard offers a good combo of control and information. Various functions related to Audio, Telephone, Video, Navigation and other car systems can be controlled via the COMAND system represented on the screen. The big knob ahead of the central armrest facilitates navigation and selection of menus. The one generation old system could have been more intuitive in our opinion.
Like most Mercedes Cars, positioning of the drive selector behind the steering wheel releases ample space for a pair of (chilled and heated) cup holders and a cavernous storage area under the central armrest. The doors too have ample space to carry big bottles of water and then some more space to store documents. The last row of seats can be electrically dropped down to enhance the loading area. With the second and third rows down, the GL-Class boasts 2300 liters of space.
For the driver, the steering is adjustable for reach and rake, and the seat is adjustable to the finest preference. It’s easy to find the perfect driving position and the visibility all round is good too, enhanced further by the cameras which show live images on the central screen to ease maneuverability in tight conditions.
In terms of equipment and features, the GL-Class impresses with its long list of toys. For safety, the GL features nine airbags, Pre-Safe and Attention Assist. ABS, intelligent lights Electronic Stability Program and the whole bevy of trusted Mercedes safety gear is provisioned for.
In terms of comfort and convenience features, you get a three zone automatic climate control, a fab sounding audio with DVD changers, cruise control and the ease of being able to control most of the things through the steering wheel. You also get the miraculous Active Parking Assist which would parallel park the GL by itself, once you have shown it the spot.
The GL is unparalleled when it comes to the in-cabin space. Its feature list may not have the tech-wizardry of some of the more recent models, but it’s impressively well- kitted and boasts a cabin which looks really premium.
Performance / Ride / Handling
The new GL350CDI is powered by the 3.0 liter V6 turbo diesel with close to 260bhp of power at 3600 rpm and close to 620Nm of torque from 1600rpm. It’s a substantial improvement over the old GL’s output figures. The new V6 is typically Mercedes – smooth, silent and incredibly potent. With all that torque at avail, the GL surges forward with reassurance even from low revs. Power is available from the very bottom of the rev range and the throttle response you get remains impressive in both slow city conditions, as well as on the highway. There’s always ample shove in store, the GL350 CDI makes light work of overtaking and wouldn’t ever leave you in doubt on median-less highways.
Even with its near 2.2 ton weight, the GL doesn’t feel bogged down, thanks to that torrent of torque available within a very useable part of engine speed spectrum. The GL can dispose the 0-100km/h sprint in a little over 9 seconds in the real world, and will hit a top speed of 220 km/h. The tried and tested Mercedes 7G-Tronic transmission offers silky smooth, jerk-free shifts. And while there is relative slowness to this transmission system, the character of the GL-Class as a machine is such that the smoothness and seamlessness of the gearbox is more desirable than outright quickness.
As regards fuel efficiency, the GL-Class on being driven through a mix of city traffic, highway, windy roads and with a bit of off-roading returned a figure of 8 kmpl. With its 100 liter fuel tank, the GL will go a full 800 km (or more, if you’re traveling only on highway) before having to refuel
The electrically assisted steering has a decent feel and weight to it, and the GL-Class belies its size, coming across as an easy to drive machine. The new steering system also features tech to automatically correct over-steer and counters imbalance in strong crosswinds by applying brakes mildly to individual wheels.
The GL Class, being a space oriented, family SUV is tuned on the softer side to enable a cushy ride. It features air suspension and has two modes – comfort and sport to choose from. Sport mode tightens the steering wheel, stiffens the suspension with a reduced ride height and makes the transmission more aggressive. You can also raise the ride height with the press of a button if you’re venturing out in the wild, like we did.
While the GL-Class handles wavy undulations and moderately rough surfaces well enough, it does tend to get jarred a bit on encountering vicious bumps at speed. We have a feeling that the massive 21 inch wheels with lower profile tyres (lack of primary suspension) were a reason for this happening.
The GL-Class is a nice handling car in normal circumstances. It responds well to steering inputs and doesn’t exhibit any pronounced pitch even when you brake hard. Things change when you start pushing it around, making it change direction in quick succession though. The weight of the car starts reflecting in the body roll, and the GL struggles to regain composure when shown a series of challenging corners which require it to stay taut all through. It’s best to use Comfort mode for normal driving conditions, and Sport for a windy road where you may want to have some fun.
The GL comes with a basic version of the 4MATIC AWD drive, which makes it a fairly capable off roader. It’s heft and road going tyres along with a non-lockable differential means that it’s not the best choice for attacking boggy surfaces. However, its massive ground clearance along with the fairly capable off-road gear means that it can reach places where some other vehicles can’t as we discovered during our visit to the Tansa Lake.
In Addition to the 4MATIC, you also get special a button-actuated off-road setting to maximize traction at slow speeds. You also get hill-descent control.
Space is GL-Class’s biggest virtue, and there is no challenging this monster on that count. It looks imposing, especially at the front and boasts great road presence. On the inside, the build is typical Mercedes, it’s laden with features and the brown leather and matte finish wood inserts make the cabin appear really, really special – the big triple panel sunroof is also a GL-exclusive.
For those who are looking for a big, no-compromise luxury car to travel often with family, almost nothing comes close to the GL. Handling is not the biggest virtue of this giant, but that’s not the need that this segment addresses either. At close to Rs 75 lakh ex-showroom, the GL-Class in its newest avatar makes an extremely compelling case for itself.
Price: Rs 75 lakh Ex-Showroom
Engine Type V6, turbo-charged diesel
Displacement 2987 cc
Max Power 258 bhp @ 3600 RPM
Max Torque 619 Nm @ 1600 RPM
Transmission 7G tronic – Auto
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 CDI facelift image gallery