If you're in the market for an upscale, land-bound equivalent to your corporate jet, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a pretty good choice. It's conservative but contemporary and clearly a Mercedes-Benz, with a look of affluence even though it's a full-size 7-passenger SUV.
Behind the Doors
At all three trim levels -- GL350, GL450 and GL550 -- the materials, fit and finish, and amenities are first-rate. Plus, there's plenty of room for people and cargo. With second- and third-row seats folded down, the GL boasts an ample 93.8 cu ft of luggage space
On the technology front, we're big fans of the mbrace2 telematics system. It keeps us connected with our smartphones. But the Mercedes COMAND media interface that controls the audio, phone and navigation can be confusing. It's too complicated to be considered user-friendly.
On the Road
Engine choices for the GL-Class are based on the trim level. There's a 240 horsepower clean-diesel 3.0-liter turbo V6 in the GL350 and a 362 hp bi-turbo 4.6-liter V8 in the GL450. If that's not enough power for you, the same V8 in the GL550 makes 429 hp. At the top of the heap is a monstrous 5.5-liter V8 in the GL63 AMG, which cranks out a tremendous 550 hp. The four powerplants each mate to a 7-speed automatic transmission, sending power to all four wheels.
If fuel economy is a priority, the diesel V6 far outshines the other engines, with a rating of 19 miles per gallon city/26 mpg hwy. For comparison, ratings for the V8 GL450, V8 GL550 and V8 GL63 AMG are 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy, 13 mpg city/18 mpg hwy and 13 mpg city/17 mpg hwy, respectively.
The GL is a solid and powerful utility but not intended for hard-core off-roading.
The GL-Class is priced for the well-heeled. Base MSRP is $62,400, but at the top-end you can expect a sticker close to $100,000. Other SUVs worth comparing include the Infiniti Q56, Lexus LX 570 and Cadillac Escalade.
If you appreciate the finer things in life and would rather drive than fly, the GL is as luxurious as any SUV or jet out there. Sure, it comes at a price, but after test-driving the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, we say if you can get over its unusual styling and want the latest in technology, comfort and luxury, this is the utility for you.