If you’re somebody who loves getting work done during your daily commute to work, need two extra seats at the back for those weekend getaways with your kids and family, in addition to having a budget north of a crore rupees – then you’ll want something luxuriously large, one that sits high off the ground with a great back seat experience while being cocooned in leather and wood, and having the adaptive air suspension corseting you when you’re heading off-paved-roads! Yes, I’m talking about the newest avatar of one the most promising contenders in the super-luxury SUV segment – the all-new third generation Mercedes-Benz GLS.
Mercedes claims it has sold over 6,700 units of the GLS since its launch a decade ago,
originally as the ‘GL’, and subsequently to standardize its nomenclature, it was renamed the
GLS – ‘S’ signifying the pinnacle of its SUV’s luxury line-up. This third-generation model is going to be locally assembled at their Chakan plant in 400d diesel and 450 petrol guises – in one fully loaded trim, and we’re here to find out how good it really is. And let me start by saying – it is quite possibly one of the biggest cars on sale in India. It so long that you can fit a Tata Nano just within its wheelbase and it’s actually as wide as a 407 truck! We even parked it alongside some of its daily neighbours on our Indian roads – the humble auto-rickshaw, a Hyundai Creta as well as a JCB crane – for perspective! Now in its third generation, Mercedes says the GLS competes with the Range Rover. But in our market, its closest rival will be the new BMW X7. We reckon it’ll also appeal to people looking at pricier versions of the Volvo XC90 (7 seater version), Audi Q7 and the Land Rover Discovery.
The massiveness on the outside has also resulted in increased interior space – and like its
rivals, the GLS is as enormous inside as it is outside, with space for seven fully-grown adults and all their stuff. Its grown by 77mm in length and 22mm in width over the last generation car, with an increase in wheelbase of 60mm which has liberated even more legroom for the second and third rows.
Exteriors: Elegant but Unglamorous
The GLS does look more imposing than ever before – and its actually the longest in this
segment now at 5207 mm long and 22 mm wider than the car it replaces. The 21-inch multi-spoke alloys are quite attractive surrounded by a gigantic tyre setup of 275/45’s at the front and 315/40’s at the rear. The multi-beam LED headlamps upfront with a lighting range of up to 650 m and that gaping rectangular grille inset with an XXL 3 pointed star scream that you have arrived.
The side profile with the glasshouse extending to the D-pillar showcases the car’s long and towering silhouette with the slim taillights and chrome surrounded real exhausts in the bumpers complete the SUV’s somewhat unglamorous look. The styling is subtle and restrained which is something that buyers would not want in an SUV this expensive, given that its competition like the BMW X7 or the Range Rover Sport look more expensive.
Interiors: The CEO’s High Set Chair
As an owner of one these full-sized 7 seater SUV’s your time would be divided about 80:20
between the back seat and the driver’s seat and Mercedes likes to call this GLS the S class of SUV’s – so let’s do a quick fact check here to validate that claim – you get spacious and comfortable back seats with many-way powered adjustments, you get the soft pillowy headrests, the chauffeur package with front passenger seat adjust from the rear, acres of legroom and knee room, not 2 but 3 AC vents blasting cool air at you with individual temperature zone controls, electrically operated rear sun blinds, a retractable tablet in the centre armrest to control the MBUX multimedia system functions, a massive panoramic sunroof and even independent multi-link air suspension with adaptive dampers for a cushy ride.
The seat cushioning and comfort and even the switchgear and materials feel on-point, though perhaps not quite as nice as the ones you get in an actual S-Class. The few things missing really – and I’m nit-picking, is actually the seat massaging function
which surprisingly is available only on the front seats and not the rear, soft-close doors and
rear door umbrellas! You also get the option to choose the individual entertainment screens
package if you wish for the rear seats as extras. A total of 11 USB Type-C ports are peppered around the cabin and even 2 wireless chargers (albeit slower in charging compared to the conventional fast-charging USB ports) which complete the convenience package wherever your seated in this car.
Apart from getting work done, you will want this car to double up as a weekend caravan for
your family’s trips to the farmhouse or a nearby getaway location, and that’s where the third row of seats can actually come in handy. But first, getting into the third row requires you to be really patient – given that all the seats in this car move about electrically and slowwwly. The middle row takes its own sweet time, to move forward in an awkward upright position without folding forward like some conventional SUV’s and after you’ve stepped into the last row of seats, don’t hold your breath while the middle row forms back into a comfortable seating position – all of which takes a lot of time and some frustrating grunts from my fellow passengers.
The last row’s legroom though is definitely better than the last-gen car due to the increased
wheelbase and moving the middle row passenger seat slightly forward. Young adults can get comfortable here for short journeys with decent legroom, headroom, individual speakers, two bottle holders and even 4 USB ports!
With a full house, you will need ample boot space for all that luggage. With all seats up, the
car’s boot space stands at a respectable 493 litres – which is equivalent or more than some
luxury sedans. But the magic really happens when you can electronically fold down all seats-at a touch of just one button – to liberate 2,400 litres and an almost flat floor with no loading lip! A spare wheel is also standard with space to store a retractable rear parcel shelf.
Interiors: The Driver’s Seat
The driver’s seat is where the pampering is slightly better with Seat Kinetics which provides
the front passengers with in-seat massagers and you also get the gorgeous looking twin
screen setup – each of 12.3in sizes with superb graphics and crisp legible displays.
The interior of the new GLS is a massive leap in design quality, technology and luxury
compared to the old car. It’s like a beautiful living room with a widescreen TV that takes
centre stage, a chunky leather-wrapped steering wheel to hold, wood, leather and soft-
touch plastics wherever you see, complemented by a beautiful sounding 13-speaker
Burmester surround sound system pumping out crisp notes of your favourite soundtrack!
The GLS now boasts of the latest connected features with Mercedes’s MBUX multimedia
system and the Mercedes me connect app.
You can activate the MBUX Interior Assistant by saying “Hey Mercedes” and through various commands, you can get directions, information or some humorous responses all done in a ‘contactless’ way. If you wish to control and navigate the plethora of options including ambient lighting options, your music or driving information display – you can do it via touchscreen, touch-pad or even the button and scroll pad on the steering wheel.
You also get clever microphones all around the car – that pipes the driver’s voice through
the rear speakers and the rear passengers’ through the fronts, so you can have a
conversation without having to shout.
Driving: Brave in Its Comfort Zone
The GLS 400 d 4MATIC that we’re driving here features Mercedes’s latest OM 656 BS-6
compliant 2,925cc straight-six turbo-charged diesel engine producing 330bhp of power and a massive 700Nm of torque which propels this 2.5 tonne African elephant competing SUV
from 0-100 kmph in a respectable 6.3 seconds. But it does this in ‘Comfort Mode’. It’s linear power delivery begins only after 2500rpm as it lunges ahead each time you step on the accelerator, there is plenty of torque in the bottom end and makes overtaking and making up short gaps almost effortless. And with no option of a Sport Mode in this SUV – I am left guessing how much more entertaining this power and performance could have been.
Gearbox duties are accomplished by the Merc’s established nine-speed auto gearbox with
smooth and responsive gearshifts complemented by a light and easy to use steering wheel
which makes this giant easier to manoeuvre than what its size and proportions might
suggest. Thanks to a refined engine and top-notch cabin insulation, there is little of that
typical diesel clatter – inside as well as when you’re standing outside the car.
Off-road mode allows you to tackle the muddy lanes and the potholes in our cities and drive up the steep parking slope in your apartment or office premises. It handles well with only a hint of body roll on the twisty sections – but if you’re looking for something sportier you must look at its other German counterparts.
The GLS is a very comfortable car featuring air suspension with adaptive dampers. It flows
down the road like a big SUV ought to, with a little heave, pitch and roll, but with reassuring stability. Its ride is relaxed and unstressed, and a truly superb car in which to do distance. With a Cd of 0.32 its quite slippery for a big SUV so wind-noise is kept to a minimum. The ride can feel stiff though over some harsh bumps and big potholes. But for the most part, it will transport you and your family in supreme comfort.
Ownership and Final Verdict
The new GLS 400 d 4MATIC is priced at Rs. 99.90 L ex-showroom, India and for that kind of money you get the largest Mercedes SUV with a great backseat experience, good off-road capability, a lot of features, a lot of road presence and your family will love it for its practicality. So, you do get a lot of luxury and a lot of SUV. And the fact remains that we are an SUV loving country, and if you’re looking for the perfect blend of luxury and off-road SUV credentials in XXXL size, one which costs less than the actual S-class – this could be the best option for you to consider today.