OUR APPETITE for SUVs is showing no signs of abating. In the first six months of the year alone we’ve seen at least one new SUV from Audi, BMW, DS, Ford, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Peugeot, Range Rover, Skoda and VW.
This is not necessarily a problem for most people, but how on earth can the proud plutocrat look down their nose at the proles if they’re riding several feet below the great unwashed in the back of a luxury limo?
The Mercedes GLS is the answer to this most first-world of problems – it’s gigantic in every way, including in height, and luxurious enough for the car maker to call it, modestly, “The Mercedes S-Class of SUVs”.
But just how gigantic is it? Well, the GLS is longer than either a BMW X7 or its most deadly rival, the full-size, full-fat Range Rover.
And there’s no chance you’ll mistake the GLS for either of those rivals, because it has a Mercedes badge the size of a dinner plate on its chrome grille.
Huge alloy wheels – you can specify rims up to 23in in diameter – do an impressive job of filling the enormous, boxy wheelarches, while illuminated running boards, a roof spoiler, LED rear lights and some gaping exhaust tips deliver a backing track of suitably chunky visual fizz.
Inside, the GLS packs quite the aesthetic punch, too. You’re greeted first by a huge one-piece screen for the instruments and infotainment, which is flanked by two massive air vents. Below that sit four further squared vents set into wood or metal trim. Like Mercedes’ smaller GLE, the GLS’s interior is more visually stimulating than its rivals, which also includes the Audi Q7.
And while Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system isn’t quite as easy to follow, menu-wise, as an X7’s iDrive, it’s still one of the best on sale — and one of the coolest-looking, with the two screens merging together to form one wide wraparound display. Through this you can control everything from the climate control to the built-in sat-nav. Bluetooth, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all thrown in too.
It’s not all good news, though – some of the car’s switches feel too flimsy for a car at this price level and there are some cheaper-feeling plastics at the bottom of the dashboard and doors.
At least there are no issues with interior space. The Mercedes GLS is a proper seven-seater, meaning two adults will be comfortable in all three rows, and even three sat side-by-side in the middle row won’t complain.
Of course, the GLS’s boot is cavernous, offering more space than a Mercedes A-Class even with its third row of seats in place, and more than an X7 or Range Rover in five-seat mode. With all the seats folded down, there’s 2,400 litres available. Which is enough for a medium-sized planet.
The Mercedes GLS has no issues with interior space. With all the seats folded down, there’s 2,400 litres of room in the boot.
At least to begin with, there’ll be just one engine option – the 400d, which packs a 326bhp 3-litre straight-six diesel offering a thumping 516 lb ft of torque. As diesel engines go it’s superb: smooth and quiet, with a silky straight-six gargle when revved hard. Flooring the accelerator brings a wave of grunt from low revs to give the GLS a surprising turn of speed for such a huge car.
That’ll come in handy for sprinting down motorway sliproads to join traffic, and once the GLS is at a cruise it proves extremely quiet and rides beautifully – even more so than an X7. It also has some semi-autonomous functionality, essentially a very sophisticated adaptive cruise control system that’ll accelerate, brake and steer to keep you in your lane.
Should a sprint down a country lane take your fancy, an X7 would feel like the more agile SUV, but there isn’t much in it and nobody is buying these cars for the way they go around corners.
You’ll be more likely to see the GLS cruising around town, where its light steering, standard 360-degree cameras and parking aids make it much easier to manoeuvre than you might think, for something so chunky.
It pains us to tow the marketing line but the Mercedes GLS really is the S-Class of SUVs. It’s huge, luxurious, technologically advanced and offers a wonderfully comfortable driving experience. If only some of those interior plastics were a little less flimsy-feeling.
Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class rivals
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