I recently had the opportunity to do some soft-roading in our long-term Truckster, and when I say soft-roading, I mean stuff that people might try to tackle in a car. A normal car's ride height would have sufficed, but I was on surfaces ranging from deep gravel to silt-covered compacted dirt. None of this should sound challenging, but throw in some hill climbs and tight turns and you have a recipe for a stuck vehicle.

The GL doesn't have locking differentials or a low range, but it does have brilliant computers that are essentially off-roading prosthetics. When wheels start to slip, the brakes intervene, sending torque to whichever wheel can utilize it. The power transfer is imperceptible and never feels like it's dragging a wheel down. When combined with the stability control, in even in the softest silt that would normally require sawing at the wheel the GL tracks straight and goes exactly where you point it. When muscled around, it will slide and drift and do all the things that make getting off the pavement fun. In gravel, it absolutely will not dig itself in. Stopping on a pebble-covered hill usually results in a shower of aggregate throw out the back of a vehicle, and that sort of thing is far to uncivilized for a Mercedes. Give it the boot and let the computer sort out a smooth ascent. Even with tires best suited for on highway use, off-road grip is impressive.

I never had the need the need for more ride height, but it was only a button push away if necessary.

While I couldn't bring myself to call any of this off-roading, it is still more than 90 percent of GLs will ever experience. In fairness, this is far less than we did at either the launch of the GL in New Mexico or at our SUV of The Year competition. With all we have done with our GL so far, we still haven't found anything that has really challenged it. It does commuting well, is great for road trips, and is fully capable off-road. I have noticed the odd creak or two in the interior, something I might have to bring up with the local dealership.


Our Car
Service life 11 mo/ 26,185 mi
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ 19/26/22 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.05 lb/mi
Energy consumption 160 kW-hr/100mi
Unresolved problems None
Maintenance cost $899.72 (2-oil change, AdBlue top-off; 1-change brake fluid)
Normal-wear cost $0