2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS: Living the High Life

Strong points
  • Turbo six is a strong performer
  • Excellent MBUX infotainment system
Weak points
  • No diesel option in North America
  • Hefty price
Full report

Who actually needs an SUV that costs more than $100,000? Nobody. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read the following review to find out what the completely redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS has to offer.

Formerly known as GL, this full-size luxury SUV now debuts its third generation. And The Car Guide got the opportunity to put it to the test on the mountain highways of Utah and beyond.

Turbocharged and mildly electrified

The base GLS 450 4MATIC is motivated by a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine that produces 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. If you prefer the more upscale GLS 580 4MATIC, you’ll get a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 instead, with as much as 483 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.

In both cases, the engine benefits from a 48-volt mild hybrid system that provides an additional 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet. A nine-speed automatic transmission is also standard.

I almost never say this, but the six-cylinder mill is more than enough in this case. Sure, the V8 runs out of steam less quickly, but it’s not really worth it in the end.

By the way, fuel economy ratings in Canada have not been announced yet. And forget about the diesel engine sold in Europe; it’s not coming here.

Photo: Germain Goyer

MBUX: More Than Just Four Letters

The little Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the vehicle that introduced the brand’s all-new MBUX infotainment system, which comes in the form of two 12.3-inch displays mounted side by side atop the dashboard.

The graphics are clear and sharp, while the multiple menus are easy to navigate. Having said that, it’s just as easy to become distracted behind the wheel. And how will the system age over time? That remains to be seen.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Off the Road

After getting acquainted with the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS, we were invited to discover what this big rig is capable of on an off-road course, more specifically with regard to the performance of the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system.

It was kind of weird to drive through rocks, mud and water in such an expensive vehicle. As a matter of fact, only a tiny fraction of GLS customers will ever dare to tackle more daunting obstacles than our typical potholes.

We appreciated the rigid chassis—more rigid, actually, than that of the ageing Cadillac Escalade. And the wonderful thing is that it doesn’t compromise the high levels of comfort provided by the GLS.

Should the vehicle get stuck somehow, a technology called E-Active Body Control will come to the rescue. Hydropneumatics generate dynamic forces that overlay the air suspension forces and the aptly named Rocking mode automatically raises and lowers the suspension level several times, thus alternately increasing and reducing the ground pressure of the tires and improving traction—essentially, the GLS rocks itself free.

Photo: Germain Goyer

A Carwash Function, Seriously?

In addition to being technological showcases, flagship models like the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS usually express the fantasies of engineers. Consider the available carwash function. When activated, the exterior mirrors fold in, the windows and sun roof close, the rain sensors for the windshield wipers shut off, the climate control changes to recirculation mode and the 360-degree camera activates after eight seconds to assist the driver in navigating into the carwash. All of these settings automatically shut off after the GLS reaches a speed above 20 km/h upon exiting the carwash!

It’s safe to say that mankind has survived for thousands of years without a system like that. It’s nothing more than a gadget to wow passengers and you will never find it in the history books. Yet, the folks at Mercedes-Benz were quite proud of it.

The GLS also includes a dual sun visor for the driver. That’s great if you don’t want to be blinded by two different suns. Oh, right, there’s only one…

Photo: Germain Goyer

Plenty of Room

Compared with the Escalade, which is built on a full-size pickup architecture and offers very limited room in the third row, the new Mercedes-Benz GLS allows much easier access to the rear seats and proves way more comfortable, too.

In Canada, a bench seat comes standard in the second-row. Optionally, you can replace it with a pair of captain’s chairs.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

A Niche Product

Mercedes-Benz wouldn’t tell us the price of the 2020 GLS yet, but promised that it will be similar to the outgoing model (starting at $88,000) and most direct competitors.

In 2017, sales of the GLS in Canada reached an all-time high of more than 2,700 units. In comparison, Mercedes-Benz sold nearly 11,000 C-Class cars the same year.

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