Mercedes-Benz has a mandate to be in virtually every segment of theauto industry. This is why we see the Smart doing battle with the Kias of the world, the B-Class with Mazda5s and so many AMG products that BMW must feel as if it’s surrounded by horsepower-spewing tri-star sedans.
The automaker also offers two seven-passenger vehicles — one a Grand Tourer that looks like a minivan and the other a sport-utility vehicle that does double duty as a minivan.
The GL450, nominally a replacement for the ageing but iconic Galendewagen, is actually a stretched ML with a 4.6-litre engine and a humongous wheelbase. Stretching almost 5.1 metres from stem to stern, the most obvious question that will be posed for all those shopping the new GL will be: “Does it really fit seven?”
The answer is yes. Adults can actually sit in the rear-most seats without amputating their lower extremities, and the first and second rows are positively roomy. Not only that, learning from the mistakes of other seven-passenger SUVs, Mercedes has made both utility and ingress/egress as simple and easy as possible. The rear-most seats, for instance, can be folded flat by the push of a button — in fact, by the push of two buttons as the switchgear that controls the seat is located both by the right-side door and in the trunk. As well, the passenger-side, second-row seat is a doddle to fold up to let the long-limbed into those not-so-tortuous rear quarters. A single lever and a light pull sees it fold and tumble forward with a meaningful if not quite generous opening to climb in.
Also automated is the rear cargo hatch, which can be automatically opened with a pull of its latch or by a double click of the key fob. A single push of the bright red button on the bottom of the door sees the hatch glide majestically if a little slowly back into place.
Sharing so much with the ML means there’s no surprise in interior decor. The gauge set, centre console and switchgear is virtually the same, which means it’s both clearly laid out and functional. And Mercedes seems to have completely cleared up the quality control issues that held back its first effort into the SUV realm.
That said, my tester’s mild grey leather covering left a feeling of banality not in keeping with a $76,000 purchase. Of course, this is a matter of taste. I’m sure there are those for whom tepid is the perfect descriptor for their taste and life. As well, the GL450 hides are sewn together with the wide and prominent stitching that I think is supposed to exude old world charm. Again, it’s a personal choice but one I could do without, especially since Mercedes purports to be such a high-tech company.
And high-tech is what the GL’s engine feels like. Only 4.6 litres in displacement, the GL’s V8 nonetheless pumps out 335 horsepower and a worthwhile 339 pound-feet of torque. This almost makes the 2,430-kilogram sport-brute feel light on its feet. Certainly, it never feels lethargic. A sprint to 100 kilometres an hour takes just over seven seconds, at least if every seat isn’t filled with a McDonald’s-fed adult.
One of the reasons the GL feels so sprightly is its seven-speed automatic transmission. Calibrated to make the most of the 4.6L’s horsepower, the engine will spin to its 6,400-rpm redline in the first two gears with the throttle pedal only half way to the floor. In almost every situation, the GL’s transmission is calibrated to let the engine rev freely, disguising its relatively small displacement when compared with the Escalades and Navigators of the world. And since the engine is so smooth, the extra revs generate hardly any additional vibration or noise.
All that power is transferred through M-B’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, which is also used on the ML SUV as well as the R-Class Grand Tourer. With three differentials, electronic stability and traction control systems as well as anti-lock brakes monitoring the engine’s output, there’s plenty of grip.
However, the base system does not have an off-road-friendly dual-speed transfer case. For that, you’ll need the off-road package, which not only adds a two-speed transfer case and electronic differential locks but also Mercedes’ second-gen adaptive damping system (ADS II).
Back on the highway, I found the GL’s Airmatic all-wheel independent suspension inordinately cushy — bumps were swallowed with almost no body motion. At crawling speeds, however, the ride was definitely lumpy, with potholes, creases and sharp-edged bumps distinctly noticeable.
When the GL450 was first announced, many journalists assumed it was a replacement for the archaic G500. But, due to overwhelming demand, the G500 will still be available on an “as ordered” basis until 2010. In virtually all areas of performance save the possible exception of off-roading, the GL is a far superior vehicle. However, like many new SUVs, it appears to be a homogenized version of previous serious off-roaders. I wish a little of the Galendewagen’s personality had rubbed off on the GL450.
TYPE OF VEHICLE All-wheel-drive, full-sized sport-utility vehicle
ENGINE 4.6L DOHC V8
POWER 335 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 339 lb-ft of torque @ 2,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed automatic
BRAKES Four-wheel disc with ABS
TIRES 265/60 HR18
FUEL ECONOMY L/100 KM 16.3 city, 11.7 hwy.
PRICE: BASE/AS TESTED $76,500/same
STANDARD FEATURES Six-disc CD changer with MP3 capability, automatic climate control, COMAND display system with 6.5-inch colour display, AM/FM/CD, Tele Aid emergency calling system, power windows, mirrors and door locks, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel
by DAVID BOOTH, CANWEST NEWS SERVICE | AUGUST 10, 2011
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Condition: Nigerian Used,