Full-size 7-seater SUVs don’t come any finer than the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. It’s spacious, sumptuous, safe and surprisingly capable on tarmac and rough terrain alike.
The GLS is based on the S-Class platform, coming with the kind of luxurious and technological touches that make the S-Class such a phenomenal flagship sedan. These include a cabin air fragrance system and massaging front seats, plus the availability of several advanced safety features.
There are also many choices of exterior colors and interior materials and colors to make the GLS a truly personalized vehicle.
What’s New for 2018?
There’s a new design of 19-inch alloy wheel available. And that’s about it. But there was a major revamp the year before. See the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class models for sale near you
What We Like
Outstanding engines; sumptuous interior with all the toys; adult-friendly third row; excellent highway manners; real off-road capability with optional equipment
What We Don’t
Massive size isn’t for everyone; some expected luxuries (such as keyless entry/ignition) cost extra.
All GLS-Class models feature 4Matic all-wheel drive. The GLS 450 and GLS 550 have a 9-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles. The AMG GLS 63 has a 7-speed automatic transmission modified for quicker shifts.
The GLS 450 has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 making 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 17 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in combined driving.
The GLS 550 is propelled by a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 that makes 449 hp and 516 lb-ft. The sprint to 60 mph takes just 5.2 seconds (1.3 seconds quicker than the GLS 450), and the passing power feels even more fearsome than those numbers suggest. Unsurprisingly, fuel economy is not great: 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy/16 mpg combined.
The Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 enjoys a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that pumps out 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. It needs only 4.5 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill. Fuel consumption is 13 mpg city/18 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 7-seater 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class comes in three variants.
The GLS 450 4Matic ($70,545) has an air suspension, 19-in alloy wheels, a sunroof, LED running lights and taillights, aluminum roof rails, a powered lift gate, power-folding side mirrors, remote start, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, leatherette upholstery, powered/heated front seats with adjustable driver lumbar support and driver’s-side memory, power-folding third-row seats, a rearview camera, a 115-volt power outlet, a 4.5-in color driver information display, Bluetooth and the Comand infotainment system with an 8-in display, two USB ports and HD Radio.
The GLS 550 4Matic ($95,945) brings standard adaptive suspension dampers, adaptive LED headlights, 21-in AMG-design alloy wheels, power-closing doors, keyless entry/start, self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors, a wood/leather steering wheel, top-stitched dashboard trim, upgraded wood inlays, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery, multi-contour front seats with massage and ventilation functions plus memory settings for the front passenger, a power-adjustable steering column, navigation, voice controls, a self-parking function, parking sensors front and rear, a 360-degree camera system and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with digital music storage, Apple CarPlay, satellite radio and an SD card reader.
Most of the GLS 550’s extra standard features can be added to the GLS 450 as options.
The 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 ($126,295) goes all out with the 5.5-liter V8, plus an AMG body kit, a roll-resistant suspension system (called the Active Curve System), performance brakes, a sport exhaust, a panoramic sunroof, illuminated running boards, a sport steering wheel, sport front seats and various exclusive AMG interior flourishes.
The GLS 63’s panoramic sunroof and active suspension can be added to the other models. Optional across the range are a heated steering wheel, power second-row easy entry, Wi-Fi, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio and a rear-seat entertainment system with twin LCD monitors.
An optional Driver Assistance package brings adaptive cruise control with steering pilot, blind spot monitoring and active lane-keeping assist.
The GLS 450 and GLS 550 are eligible for an Off-Road Engineering package that includes a multi-mode driving program selector with an increased maximum ride height, a 2-speed transfer case with low-range gearing, a locking center differential and front underbody protection.
Behind the third row, cargo space is 16 cu ft.; behind the second row, that expands to 49.4 cu ft. Fold down both rows for a maximum of 93.8 cu ft.
The GLS-Class comes with standard stability control, crosswind assist, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and seven airbags (front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length side-curtain), as well as driver alertness monitoring and a rearview camera.
Available driver aids include a surround-view camera system, adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, a self-parking system, active blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist, lane-keeping assistance and active brake assist with a cross-traffic function.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash-tested the current GLS-Class, but it should fare extremely well in a collision.
Behind the Wheel
By all rights, the GLS-Class should drive like a short bus, because that’s approximately how large this SUV is, but Mercedes-Benz has worked some magic with the driving character, employing a light yet accurate steering system to great effect. Not that the GLS is nimble, but neither is it intimidating to drive, and that’s the important thing.
Cruising comfort is where the GLS really excels. The standard air suspension takes the bumps out of almost any surface, and the cabin remains library-quiet at speed. Off-road, the available dual-range transfer case makes the GLS a 7-seater Range Rover alternative for more adventurous families. Each seating row is legitimately adult-friendly, which is more than many 3-row crossovers can claim.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Cadillac Escalade — Relatively affordable and comes with a plush, well-appointed cabin.
2018 Infiniti QX80 — Based on the capable Nissan Patrol SUV produced for overseas markets, the QX80 is a legitimate off-roader with a luxurious interior and a distinctive (possibly controversial) exterior. Updated for 2018.
2018 Land Rover Range Rover — Not as large or as lumbering to drive. Gorgeous interior. No third-row seating, however.
2018 Lexus LX 570 — Old under the skin, but luxurious, spacious, capable and built to a lofty standard. Seats up to eight.
Used Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG Wagon — The GLS-Class sits at the top of the SUV pyramid, so anyone looking for a used alternative might be intrigued by a certified pre-owned (CPO) example of the world’s wildest station wagon. The E 63’s track-ready handling is a stark contrast to the GLS, and its practical interior offers much of an SUV’s functionality.
As glorious as the V8 versions are, the GLS 450’s turbocharged V6 has enough muscle for most people. Which leaves some money left over to stock up on more safety features.