2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Review
Clean diesel model joins lineup.
The Mercedes GL-Class has similar styling cues to those of the M-Class (ML), but applies them to a larger package and adds some strong, more muscular touches. For example, both in front and at the rear, a metal skid plate (designed to protect underlying mechanical parts from damage when driving off pavement) is a prominent feature that underscores the GL's image of strength.
Unique to the GL550 is a deeper, more aggressive front-end treatment, including a larger three-pointed star. It also features larger fender flares to cover the massive tires and dual-split exhaust outlets.
Seen in profile, the nicely raked windshield and bulging wheel arches over large wheels (18-inch and larger) help balance what is basically a tall and long vehicle. But even being tall and long, the GL doesn't look as bulky as, say, the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. And even with the squared-off rear edge of its D-pillar, the GL doesn't look as boxy as the Jeep Commander.
Viewed from the rear, the GL offers a formidable stance. It's tall and wide, with a large rear hatch opening and large tail lights, all sitting above a substantial skid plate bracketed on either side by large, rectangular exhaust pipes.
Compared to the ML, the GL is over a foot longer overall and an inch wider in track (the left-to-right distance between the centers of the tires), though it is barely a hair wider overall and not quite an inch taller. Despite their similar styling, the Mercedes SUVs share only their front doors; otherwise, each has unique sheet metal.
As large as the GL may appear, it's three inches shorter than the R-Class touring wagon, which also has three rows of seating, though with less room for seven occupants.
The GL is built using unibody construction rather than the body-on-frame design that full-size pickups and SUVs traditionally use. Mercedes notes that because of this architecture, the GL-Class is 300-600 pounds lighter than its full-size competitors. To make sure the GL class is strong enough, 60 percent of the vehicle structure is made from special high-strength steel.
While the Mercedes GL may look sleeker than its competitors, it was designed to offer class-leading interior room and ease of entry and exit.
Cargo space also benefits. With all seats in their upright position, there's still 14 cubic feet of storage between the third-row seatbacks and the closed rear hatch door. A power folding feature for the third row is standard equipment on the GL with controls near the rear hatch and next to the right-side second-row passenger's seat. Power down those third-row seats, and cargo capacity expands to 43.8 cubic feet. Fold down the 60/40-split second row seats and the GL provides as much as 83.3 cubic feet for cargo. There's also room under the cargo floor for a full-size spare tire.
The interior layout is familiar to Mercedes drivers, with deluxe cloth or real leather trim for the seats (Mercedes notes that not all luxury car buyers want leather seating surfaces), wood trim and metal rings around gauges, air vents, and cup holders.
The second-row seats provide ample legroom. When occupied by only two people, the back of the center section can be folded down as an armrest and storage tray.
We climbed into the third row and found room for two adults to ride back there, each in a separate seat. The room is enhanced by foot wells for your feet so you don't sit with your knees at chest level, and even the third-row seats are thickly padded to provide comfort. Fears of claustrophobia back there evaporate quickly thanks to the sunroof that extends over the third row.
For 2009, all GL models come with a new, standard COMAND system, a touch-screen affair that manages all accessory systems. It features a 6.5-inch color display screen; a standard in-dash, six-disc DVD / CD changer; and a Bluetooth interface that allows a phone still in a pocket or purse to be operated through the car's audio system. COMAND can also be equipped with an optional iPod/MP3 interface, Sirius satellite radio, HD radio, and an enhanced voice control system. It can play tracks stored on a data CD, DVD or SD memory card. The new system can also display maps and directions for the optional hard-drive navigation system, which can be set up for SIRIUS real-time traffic info and Zagat restaurant ratings as well.
All GL-Class models can be equipped with an optional 610-watt digital harmon kardon Logic7 audio system, and a rear-seat entertainment system that includes two eight-inch screens (mounted in the rear of the front-seat headrests), wireless headphones and an integrated DVD player with dual-source capability.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, click here: 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.