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Driven: 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS350d 4Matic

First Drive: Benz’s Biggest Luxury Diesel Coddles Us in European Extravagance

Nov 2, 2016
Photographers: Manufacturer
Before we get too far, we must offer a caveat: As of press time, the Mercedes-Benz GLS350d has not received a certificate of compliance from the all-powerful U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Thanks to increased scrutiny of diesel-powered cars, trucks, and SUVs, the due-for-2017 GLS350d is not yet on sale at U.S. dealers. Nevertheless, when the company invited us to sample all its fullsize-SUV wares, we leapt at the opportunity. Nestled in a fleet of fire-spitting Mercedes-AMG GLS63 and G65 SUVs was the object of our oil-burning affection, the GLS350d.
Photo 2/14   |   Mercedes-Benz’s invitiation included opportunities to drive each version of the G and GLS SUV for a few days, including the mighty, twin-turbo 6.0L V-12–powered Mercedes-AMG G65. Although we were here for the diesel, it was still tough to give the 621hp SUV’s keys back.
Photo 3/14   |   2017 Mercedes Benz G And GLS Class Cars
Mercedes renamed its largest SUV (formerly known as the GL-Class) the GLS for the ’17 model year, adding the extra letter to denote its relation to the S-Class sedan. Furthermore, if/when the diesel engine gets certified by the Feds, it will no longer wear a “Bluetec” badge on its rear haunches, eschewing the trademark for a subtle “d” suffix on the model name.
In its metamorphosis from the GL350 Bluetec caterpillar to GLS350d butterfly, the big Benz also receives an impressive mechanical freshening, packing Mercedes’ new nine-speed automatic transmission behind the revised 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 engine that now produces 255 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque (up from 240 and 455). New front-end, rear-end, and interior styling; added luxury features; and new wheel designs round out the changes.
Photo 4/14   |   Updated front-end styling includes changes made to give the GLS a familial resemblance to other modern Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The rounded front grille, reshaped headlamps, and restyled LED light pipes look similar to those on the current C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class sedans.
Photo 5/14   |   Although the GLS350d features many modern design cues, its big, grille-mounted star badge and twin hood bulges recall such classic Benzes as the 300SL “Gullwing.”
Key exterior alterations include an updated front fascia with a new grille and headlamps that bring the GLS in line with its S-Class sibling. Around back, restyled LED taillights keep those behind you abreast of the goings-on, while new wheel designs update the rolling stock. Even with its updated appearance, bold the GLS is not, favoring handsome lines that should age better than the wild styling cues of its more trendy competition. Curiously, the standard wheels look petite under the GLS, and we were surprised to learn they’re 19-inchers. Those who are style conscious would be best served by the available Appearance Package’s 20-inch rollers, although the 19s rode noticeably better on rough pavement.
Photo 6/14   |   A new three-spoke steering wheel and instrument cluster display bring subtle changes to what was already a very user-friendly, luxurious place to spend time.
Photo 7/14   |   Each of the GLS350d’s seven passengers are all but guaranteed plenty of space. Even the third row can accommodate adults, as long as they’re of average size or smaller. However, the available massaging and fan-ventilated front bucket seats are the best places to spend time in the GLS. They’re all-day comfortable.
Photo 8/14   |   2017 Mercedes Benz GLS350d Middle Seat
Photo 9/14   |   2017 Mercedes Benz GLS350d Rear Seat
Inside, the GLS looks similar to the GL, but an all-new infotainment system, three-spoke steering wheel, and interior colorways betray it as a ’17 model. The center screen adopts the modern, mounted-tablet look, standing out from the dashboard rather than being integrated into it. It’s a change this author likes very much, but others on the trip criticized the iPad-inspired styling, and admittedly, we wonder how long such a trend will be in style. Will the dash tablet look as dated in 20 years as car phones do today? It’s possible.
Behind the wheel, the GLS feels very much like it did when it was called the GL, but that’s not intended as an insult. It retains its predecessor’s soothing freeway demeanor, surprisingly sporty handling, and impressive powertrain smoothness. The latter point is most commendable when considering the diesel V-6’s inherent imbalance and the 9GTRONIC transmission’s numerous gears, but driving the GLS confirms the engine and transmission operate imperceptibly in almost all driving conditions.
What’s more, the new automatic transmission’s extra cogs make keeping the engine-formerly-known-as-Bluetec within its broad powerband even easier. No matter what’s asked of it, the engine is responsive and entertaining, with good off-the-line power for freeway merges and left turns, while the gearbox’s adroit downshifts easily dispatch passing maneuvers.
Photo 10/14   |   The redesigned interior includes a new center screen mounted on top of the dash. The look is modern and trendy, but not everyone loved it. Controlling the screen through the standard COMAND system is easy, as it offers both a scrolling wheel and a touchpad for simple inputs. Also visible are the terrain setting controller and air suspension controls, and both are easy to use.
Photo 11/14   |   2017 Mercedes Benz GLS350d Center Touchpad
The newly standard Airmatic air suspension is well suited for a variety of driving tasks. Around town and over broken pavement, it soaks up bumps very nicely, with a firm and muted “thwomp” announcing the tires’ progress. On the highway, it settles into pleasant smoothness, and its composure befits a vehicle that might occasionally see 100 mph or more on the German Autobahn. Indeed, our freeway speed limits barely scratched the surface of the GLS350d’s dynamic range, and we enjoyed all-day comfort in each available interior, from base imitation-hide MB Tex to optional leather seating and top-spec designo leather.
The GLS350d also had no trouble with any of the impromptu off-roading to which we subjected it. The Airmatic suspension has a high-clearance mode that gives the SUV the appearance of an elephant on stilts, but the net result is easy forward progress in the sand and dirt, with no underbody scraping over some of the bigger bumps we saw. Obviously, no one buys a $70,000 SUV to do extreme off-roading, but rest assured: the GLS’ 4Matic all-wheel drive can easily handle your family vacation to Vail in February, then tow your UTVs to the sand dunes in July.
Photo 12/14   |   This European-market Mercedes-Benz GLS350d wears AMG-inspired styling that’s currently only available in the U.S. on the gas-powered GLS550. However, if Benz offers it on other versions of the GLS, it would cure a concern some have with the SUV: overly staid styling. That said, we think the GLS looks handsome without the body kit.
Photo 13/14   |   2017 Mercedes Benz GLS350d Rear Quarter Snow
Further recommending the GLS for family duty is its spacious interior. With the third row in place, there’s roomy seating for seven adults, and even those in the way back will find just enough legroom and headroom, provided they’re of average dimensions. Cargo space is compromised when the power-folding third row is deployed, but when the seat is hidden, there’s more than enough room for a family of five’s belongings. Bolstering its credentials is a long list of safety features, including standard Active Braking Assist to help prevent or mitigate crashes, seven standard airbags, and crosswind-compensating stability control. Optional Distronic cruise control, active lane-departure prevention, and speed-limit monitoring take some of the stress out of long freeway rides.
Although it’s yet to be certified or tested by the EPA, we expect fuel economy numbers to beat the ’16 GL350’s 19 city/26 highway mpg rating, and in our driving, we saw up to 28 mpg as indicated by the GLS’ trip computer. We surely hope the EPA signs off on the ’17 GLS soon, as we’re eager to learn if those estimates are accurate.
The ’17 Mercedes-Benz GLS350d 4Matic could be the most underrated SUV on the market, with loads of off-road capability and extremely composed driving manners making it at least as attractive as competitors from Land Rover, BMW, and Audi. While its understated, Teutonic styling may not wow the Kanye/Kardashian crowd, the GLS350d’s long list of standard features and impressive blend of performance and efficiency should put it on the shopping list of anyone who can afford its sub-70-grand list price. That is, if the EPA ever lets Benz release it to the public.
Photo 14/14   |   2017 Mercedes Benz GLS350d Badge

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS350d 4Matic

Pros & Cons
Pros: Composed freeway ride, cushy seats and interior, responsive diesel powertrain, smooth shifts
Cons: Exterior styling too bland for some, U.S. market future unknown
Our Take: If the EPA ever gets around to certifying it, it could just be the perfect all-around SUV for the well-heeled.
Specifications
Vehicle: 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS350d
Vehicle Type: Midsize, all-wheel-drive seven-passenger SUV
Engine Displacement: 3.0L (2,987cc)
Configuration: V-6
Power: 255 hp at 3,400 rpm
Torque: 457 lb-ft at 1,600 to 2,400 rpm
Head material: Aluminum alloy
Block material: Aluminum alloy
Compression ratio: 15.5:1
Valvetrain: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Induction: Forced-induction, single turbocharger
Emissions equipment: Exhaust-gas recirculation, diesel exhaust fluid injection, diesel particulate filter, and selective catalytic reduction
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic transmission with automatic or manual gear selection
Drive type: Full-time all-wheel drive
Steering type: Electric rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 40.7 feet
Front suspension: Independent, multi-link suspension with air springs, single-tube shock absorbers with continuously adjustable damping, torsion bars
Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link suspension with air springs, single-tube shock absorbers with continuously adjustable damping, tubular torsion bars
Braking system: Four-wheel antilock disc brakes
Wheels: 19x8.5 inches
Tires: 275/55R19 all-season tires
Weights and Capacities
Fuel capacity: 26.4 gallons
Curb weight: 5,467 pounds
Exterior Dimensions
Overall length: 202.0 inches
Overall width: 76.1 inches
Overall height: 72.8 inches
Wheelbase: 121.1 inches
Front track: 65.2 inches
Rear track: 65.9 inches
Ground clearance: 8.5 inches
Interior Dimensions
Seating: 7
Headroom, first/second/third row: 41.2/40.0/38.9 inches
Legroom, first/second/third row: 40.3/38.5/35.0 inches
Shoulder room, first/second/third row: 58.5/58.3/50.5 inches
Luggage capacity behind first/second/third row: 16.0/49.4/93.8 cubic feet
Pricing
Estimated base price: $67,050
Major optional features:
-Appearance Package: $1,340
-Lighting Package: $1,390
-Premium 1 Package: $3,830
-Driver Assistance Package: $2,250
-Parking Assist Package: $1,290
-Off-road Package: $2,850
-Active Curve System Package: $3,700
-Panoramic sunroof: $1,090
-Designo interior leather: $4,900
-Heated steering wheel: $250
-Multicontour front seats with massage: $1,100
-Ventilated front seats: $570
Destination charge: $925
Our estimated fuel economy ratings, city/highway/combined: 20/28/23 mpg

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