Test drive GL 350 Bluetec: the S-Class of the SUV Segment

Mercedes GL 350 BlueTec
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The second generation of the Mercedes GL plays the part of a luxury SUV, a kind of an S-Class in its class. It is as silent and comfortable like the S-Class saloon. Test with the turbodiesel version GL 350 Bluetec.

Is there anything above Mercedes ML, BMW X5 or Audi Q7? The answer is Mercedes GL, a car based on the ML, but longer and bearing seven seats. Until we will see the next SUV top models made by Bentley and Rolls-Royce, the only competitor of the GL is the new LWB from Range Rover.

The GL has seven seats as standard and this is one of the few cars in the world in which the seven seats are all of them full-size seats. On the third row, an adult could stay comfortably, because the interior height and width are increased by 9, respectively 19 mm. Not only the living space is more generous, but also the access to the third row is very convenient. The bench from the second row folds down very easily, in two steps, (optionally, the operation is fully electric), meanwhile the electric adjustment for the third row of seats is standard. And this adjustment is more practical now, because there are two possibilities: from the switches in the boot like in the first generation or from other switches placed near to the rear doors. And the boot volume is huge, bigger than in any other competitor: 680 litres (179.64 gal) with 5 seats to a maximum of 2,300 litres (607.6 gal) when the second row is also folded. The front multicontur seats (optional, available in the test car) offer royal comfort and have similar adjustments with the seats from the S-Class, including length adjustment.

Test GL 350 Bluetec 7

In the press kit, Mercedes claims that the noise level is as low as in the S-Class. After this test, we can say that Mercedes does not overestimate this quality. Despite the SUV form which favors a high wind noise, due to a higher frontal surface , the GL is very silent, close to the level offered by the S-Class saloon. And we must keep in mind that the S-Class is more silent than a BMW 7 Serie or Audi A8.

By comparison with the ML, in the GL pneumatic suspension Airmatic is standard and, with the On&Off road package, you also get an adaptive suspension. With all these technologies on board, the GL is the absolute king of comfort and silence.

The 3-litre V6 turbodiesel meets EU6 norm and is one of the cleanest diesel in the world. Mercedes claims figures of 9.5 l/100 km (31.36 mpg) for the combined consumption, impressive figures, but very hard to reach in real life. During an economical drive, the 9.5 l/100 km fuel consumption (24.76 mpg) is possible, but on country and windy roads, the fuel consumption raises up to approximately 11 l/100 km (21.38 mpg). But even with these figures, the new diesel is 20% more economical than the former version. The engine is very refined and perfectly fits the upgraded 7-speed automatic gearbox. It is not quite fast, like the 8-speed automatic gearbox from competition, but it changes gears fast enough and very smoothly.

  • It may be the most silent luxury SUV in the world
  • Powerful torque of the V6 3 litre diesel
  • Seven full-size seats even in American meaning
  • Top comfort with the Airmatic
  • Good off-road abilities with the On&Off-road package
  • Less body roll and more dynamics with the Active Curve System


  • The AMG package does not fit the On&Off-Road package
  • Real fuel consumption slightly higher than the official figures
  • Expensive options

The Mercedes does not use 2 or 3-turbines level supercharging like the BMW, as the 3-litre engine from Mercedes shows that this solution is not necessary. The fabulous torque of 620 Nm available from 1,600 up to 2,400 revs gives a pulling power comparable to King Kong’s. By comparison, the 3-litre engine from the BMW, with supercharge in steps from the new X5 xDrive 40d, has 630 Nm between 1,500 and 2,500 revs.

On the road, the GL is a classical Mercedes. The electromechanical steering is a little too much power-assisted, but, comparing it to the former generation, the inertia of the car in bends is not that important. You have this feeling on driving because the car is 90 kg lighter and from these 90 kg, 36 kg were saved at the front and rear axles. With double wishbone on the front and multilink configuration on the rear, the GL has a very safe and neutral roadholding. Up to the limit, the GL pushes a little on the front axle until the control stability system ESP reacts very effectively. The 4Matic system is probably one of the best safety systems in any situation, from gravel road to snow. It reacts progressively and reduces understeering when you reach the limit. There is never an oversteering and it is ideal for a normal driver. Driving up to the limit, you have to face a little body roll, but adaptive air suspension reduces it.

Those who want something more dynamic could purchase, as an option, something like the ML Active Curve System, with active stabilized bars. It is very expensive, but it helps to reduce the body roll. In tough curves, the side inclination could be reduced up to 10 degrees, as you can see on the off-road display of the Comand multimedia system. In off-road, the Active Curve System disconnects the stabilized bars to achieve a long suspension travel.

Test GL 350 Bluetec 5

The safety package is also impressive, as it contains the Driving Asssistance package, which includes the Distronic Plus, the Active Lane Keeping Assist, the Active Blind Spot Assist and the Pre-safe system. The test car had the AMG package, comprising the 21- inch AMG wheels (20 inch wheels for USA). Even with these nice 21-inch wheels with sports tyres, the high level of comfort is not reduced, but, on the other hand, if you order On&Off road package, it does not perfectly fit together with the AMG package, especially if you want to drive off the paved roads. You can go in no man’s land thanks to the excellent off-road abilities. As a driver, you can select from six programs: trailer, sport, auto, winter, off-road 1 and off-road 2. The electronic brain knows, during any of these programs, how to adjust ground clearance (from level -1 to +3, which means 306 mm) and when to activate the reductor. But if you please, you can adjust ground clearance also manually. With a wading depth of 600 mm, approach/departure angle of 33/27 degrees and ramp brakeover angle of 23 degrees, the GL could dare to go to many difficult places, even the Range Rover offers some better values at these characteristics (wading depth og 900 mm, approach/departure angle of 34.7/29.6 degrees, ramp brakeover angle of 27.3 degrees). A typical feature is the additional function of the intelligent light system for the off-road. In this case, the headlamps lighten a large area in the proximity of the car.

The Mercedes also improved the ergonomics. Like in the ML, the GL still has the former design version of the Comand system. It is old in therms of ergonomics of the control buttons, because the rest of it has all the facilities of a modern multimedia system: 80 GB hard disk, a lot of apps, a media interface. The programs of the On&Off Road package are intuitively illustrated and all the time, you can see the exact position of the ground clearance.

 The Verdict

Mercedes succeeded to build a luxury SUV as silent and as comfortable as the S-Class saloon and this is the main advantage against of competition of the GL. The GL is very expensive, but with a plentiful standard equipment, it is still 20,000 euros cheaper than the Range Rover, which is his main competitor. With the On&Off-Road package, it has good off-road skills and, with Active Curve System, it is pretty dynamic for an over 5-meter SUV category.


Technical data Mercedes GL 350 BlueTec EU version

ModelGL 350 BlueTec 4Matic
Engine typeV6, turbodiesel
Displacement (cmc)2987
Max. power/revs(CP/rpm)258/3600
Max. torque/revs(Nm/rpm)620/1600
Transmissionaut. 7 speed
L/l/h (mm)5120/1934/1850
Wheelbase (mm)3075
Boot capacity (l)680-2300
Kerb weight (kg)2455
Maximum speed (km/h)220
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)8
Combined fuel consumption (l/100 km)7,4
Emission CO2 (g/km)192
Price (euro with VAT,GER)73.661,00