I know some people cringe at the thought of reading instructions. If that’s you, skip ahead a little bit and prepare your angry comment.

This is what we call a long-term update, meaning that it might or might not include driving impressions. What it will have is information and impressions on what it’s like to live with this particular vehicle from real-life experiences our editors have had during the year we “own” the car. If you only want driving impressions, there are some in this update or you could look in our First Test or in our SUV of the Year piece.

If you are still interested in the ownership experience, please read on. I’ve recently experienced the proverbial thorn in the giant GL’s paw. Everything is going swimmingly except for the small button that closes the electrically operated tailgate. We’re on the second replacement, meaning the third unit if you count the one installed at the factory. A button seems like such a simple thing, but once it begins to stick, it requires a decent amount of fiddling to get the hatch closed. That still might not seem like a big deal, but try poking and prodding at the thing with the hand holding five bags of groceries while you hold a kid in your other arm. The replacement process is easy enough, but still, it’s a blip in my week. My local dealership, South Bay Mercedes, is always willing to supply a loaner car when I’m in for service, but it still is slightly inconvenient. I suppose if you consider the fact that besides the loaner, I get free coffee and donuts when I drop the GL off, I’m almost making money on the deal, since the replacement buttons have been under warranty.

Aside from the button, everything has been trouble-free. I had the second maintenance performed on the car, setting me back $585, and again I received a loaner. The service writer was shocked we didn’t have the prepaid maintenance program on our GL. Apparently they rarely see a customer turn down the program at the time of purchase. The price of the option is set by the individual dealership and added to the cost of the car, which in theory would be rolled into the financing, which means you would be paying interest on that, too. It sounds as if the service plan is a big part of the bargaining process when buying the car, so you might want to check into pricing and do the math before committing to it. You might even be able to haggle it down to “free.”

So far we have had very few complaints about our 2013 SUV of the Year, but there are some. For one, if the rear headrests were removable, it would make putting car seats in the second row far easier. Every editor that has a kid in a car seat has grappled with the issue of do you keep the headrest down, which pushes the top of the seat too far forward, or do you raise the headrest to the maximum height, which forces you to slip the top of the child seat between the bottom of the headrest and the top of the seat. Either way seems like a compromise that would be easily remedied by simply making the headrests removable.

My second minor gripe concerns the rear entertainment system. If is anything but intuitive to use, and the first time you play a DVD you end up with an impatient kid and a very frustrated parent. You would think it would be as easy as sliding the disc into the player and you’re off, but instead it requires a good 10 to 15 minutes of fumbling with the infotainment system through the control knob and the infrared remotes included with the system. I use the system at most once a month, so I still haven’t built the muscle memory to get a movie rolling in less than 10 minutes.

The miles are piling up quickly on our GL, as it’s one of the most frequently driven vehicles in our fleet. If we keep going at this pace, it will likely see 30,000 miles in a year of service. That will roughly equal what the average GL owner travels in three years of ownership. The Family Truckster is starting to gather its share of bumps and bruises, resulting in the odd squeak here and there. It is being used to its fullest on dirt roads, race tracks, and highways, so by the end of the year we expect to have nearly complete data on what it would be like at the end of a three-year lease with even the toughest owner.


Our Car
Service life 13 mo/ 28,441 mi
CO2 emissions 1.05 lb/mi
Energy consumption 160 kW-hrs/100 mi
Unresolved problems None
Maintenance cost $899.72 (2-oil change, AdBlue top-off; 1-change brake fluid)
Normal-wear cost $0