I recently had the chance to drive the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS, a full-size luxury SUV designed for family use. The GLS is quite pricey for a family car: The base-level GLS450 starts around $76,000, and the more powerful GLS580 starts at just under $100,000.
That there’s a new Mercedes-Benz GLS shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows the car industry. Even though Mercedes-Benz recently redesigned the smaller GLE crossover, the GLS also needed attention, as full-size luxury SUVs are incredibly popular at the moment. Consider, for example, the new BMW X7, the new Lincoln Navigator and updated versions of the Land Rover Range Rover and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Once the gold standard in the 3-row full-size luxury SUV segment, the GLS had fallen behind its more modern rivals in recent years. A redesign only made sense. There are two versions of the redesigned GLS: the 6-cylinder GLS450 with 360 horsepower, and the V8-powered GLS580 with 480 hp. A powerful AMG model is almost surely also on the way.
I drove the GLS450, which will absolutely be the most popular version of the GLS. I’ve also driven the BMW X7 and the new Lincoln Navigator recently, and I was curious to see how the GLS stacks up. I think the GLS rivals the X7 and the Navigator, but it’s less a dazzling new vehicle than those models and more a traditional Mercedes-Benz.
The new X7 and the new Navigator each have some excellent trick features, like the X7’s third-row sunroof and the Navigator’s seemingly infinitely adjustable power seats. Each model is essentially new to the segment — the Navigator’s newness stems from a recent rebirth — so releasing a vehicle with some crazy new technology was necessary to grab the spotlight, however temporarily, given the speed of competition.
On the other hand, the GLS, which debuted in 2007, now enters its third generation. It’s a great luxury SUV, but the tricks aren’t present. The GLS doesn’t really have the wow factor items that you find in the X7 and the Navigator. There’s Mercedes’ new infotainment system, sure, and it’s a huge improvement over the outgoing system and one of the best in the industry. But many Mercedes models have it. The kind of features that set a vehicle apart from its rivals and get the press talking — those aren’t really there on the GLS.
Same deal with the driving experience. The GLS is great on the road, sure, but that’s no big surprise. You don’t get the king-of-the-road feeling you get sitting in the Navigator’s comfortable seats. You don’t get the surprising athleticism that you get from the X7. Instead, it’s typical Mercedes-Benz quality and capability, with good power and a comfortable ride — nothing unusually noteworthy.
For some shoppers, this is a good thing. If you’ve owned a GL or GLS before, you want more of the same, only refined and improved — and that’s precisely what you get with the 2020 GLS. If you’re looking for a family luxury SUV without any gimmicks, that, too, is what you get here. The 2020 GLS is a great luxury crossover with 3-row seating — so what if the headlights don’t do a little dance as you approach?
Indeed, the 2020 GLS is a great luxury crossover. It’s quiet on the road, with a nice, supple ride, and the 6-cylinder powertrain is unusually responsive considering the turbocharged design and the GLS’s heft. The infotainment system is really great, and the controls — infotainment and otherwise — are intuitive and nice enough to use. The GLS provokes no complaints.
Except maybe this one: It’s a highly competent car in a sea of more exciting ones. It’s the safe choice, where its rivals are a bit more daring. It’s highly recommended, sure, but it’s never going to surprise you.
Then again, when it comes to family transportation, that might be precisely the point. Find a Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class for sale
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