2019 Mercedes-Benz GLS: finally, the S-Class of SUVs

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The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLS is built from the ground up to take genuine S-Class luxury into the SUV sector. It has debuted at the 2019 New York Auto Show

The most luxurious Mercedes-Benz SUV ever

02 Mercedes-Benz GLS NYIAS

The clue is in the name: the new Mercedes-Benz GLS, revealed at the 2019 New York Auto Show, aims to take S-Class luxury and refinement into the large SUV segment. It’s a market currently defined by the Range Rover, and challenged by the new BMW X7.

Range Rover rival

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One thing is for certain: the GLS is a damn sight prettier than the brutish BMW. Whether it is as luxurious as the Range Rover remains to be seen. But Mercedes-Benz has been nothing if not exhaustive in its efforts to justify that ‘S-Class of SUVs’ tag.

Bigger than ever

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It replaces a car derived from a model belonging to the class below – and that showed. This one also shares parts with other Mercedes, but it’s far less obvious. The fact it’s even larger than before – 77mm (3 inches) longer, 22mm (0.9 inches) wider and with a 60mm (2.4 inch) longer wheelbase – aims to underline its status as the firm’s topmost SUV. The old one was hardly small. This one is now 17 feet long and 6 feet 4 inches wide…

Impersonating a van

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There is more space for those in the middle row of seats, comfier accommodation in the third row and, if you fold all the seats down (at the press of a single button), a 2,400-litre luggage compartment. That’s on par with vans, and way in excess of any estate car. Mercedes-Benz is even offering a six-seat version alongside the regular seven-seater, with middle-row chairs almost as decadent as those in the front.

A tall story

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Every seat is electric, seat-heaters extend to the third row and the sixth and seventh seats are ‘fully fledged’ chairs good for people over 6 feet 3 inches tall. Third-row passengers also get USB charging ports and Mercedes-Benz is offering five-zone climate control. So there need never be any argument that it’s too hot or cold, no matter how many people are on board.  

An aero SUV

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The design follows the Mercedes-Benz ‘Sensual Purity’ idiom: sculpted surfaces replace individual edges and beading. The aerodynamic drag factor bears this out: a Cd of 0.32 is superb for this segment, despite the upright radiator grille and chrome-plated front underguard. Being so slippery also helps reduce wind noise at speed.

112 LEDs per headlight

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The GLS’ lights are its jewellery. Multibeam LED headlights are standard; each side packs a staggering 112 LEDs and is as bright as legally permissible. Only beyond 0.4 miles’ distance does the brightness dip below the 1 lux reference value. By day, three LED running light segments mimic the S-Class sedan.


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Mercedes-Benz is pleased with the muscular shoulder line on the GLS, which extends from the rear doors into the tail lights. These are two-piece LED units with a 3D look. The mandatory reflectors are located lower down, so the tail lamps can be flatter and more sculptural. Like an expensive piece of jewellery, they are surrounded by a thin chrome strip.

S-Class on steroids

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Inside, it’s amazing. Leather-lined and tech-packed, the GLS is like an S-Class on steroids, with a similarly breathtaking appearance (and, at night, ambient light show). Up front, it’s all built around the MBUX infotainment system, with twin 12.3-inch high-res screens, but the detailing is just as noteworthy – from the raised centre console to the chunky SUV-style grab handles.

High-tech rear

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It’s high-tech in the rear, too. Order the Rear Comfort Plus Package and a 7-inch Android tablet linked to MBUX is included, with its own docking station in the middle-row armrest. Use it to control radio, TV, media, telephone and a web browser, and also the rear seats themselves and every zone of the climate control system. You’ll also find second-row wireless smartphone charging and a plethora of USB ports.

Club-class entertainment

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Want to spoil those in the back? They already have ‘luxury’ head restraints with additional cushions, but they can also have lumbar massage, climate-controlled seats and a further-upgraded MBUX Rear Seat Entertainment System. This has dual 11.6-inch touchscreens that link to the smartphones of each person in the back.

Yes, there are diesel engines

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Diesel engines comprise the six-cylinder 286 horsepower GLS 350d 4Matic and the 330 horsepower GLS 400d 4Matic. Markets outside of the EU will get a GLS 450 4Matic, with a 367 horsepower six-cylinder gasoline engine boosted by 48V mild hybrid tech.

Gasoline great

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The most interesting model is the GLS 580 4Matic. This arrives shortly after market launch. Another gasoline motor, it produces 489 horsepower from a beefy V8, again boosted by a 48V system. All GLS have a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, and off-road fans can option a transfer case for a low-range gearset.

Intelligent suspension

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Airmatic air suspension is standard. E-Active Body Control, a 48-volt active anti-roll system is optional to help keep passengers settled and comfortable. It’s the world’s only tech that individually controls springs and dampers at each corner. ‘The world’s most intelligent SUV suspension’ scans the road for bumps and even ‘leans into corners’, like a motorcycle, to counteract roll. It has a similarly extensive repertoire of tricks off-road, too.

Engage Carwash mode

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Oh, and check this: there is an official ‘Carwash function’. Select this and the suspension jacks up to the highest position, which means the carwash can blast out any dirt underneath the wheelarches from off-roading. It also folds in the door mirrors, deactivates the rain sensor, switches the climate control to air recirculation and turns on the 360-degree front camera to help the driver guide the GLS in and out. It’s all automatically deactivated when your speed rises above 12 mph.

From GLA to GLS

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The Mercedes-Benz SUV range now comprises, wait for it: GLA, GLC, GLC Coupe, GLE, GLE Coupe, GLS and G-Class. More than five million have been sold since the first Merc SUV, the M-Class, was introduced in 1997.

‘S-Class of SUVs’

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“The new GLS is the S-Class of premium SUVs,” stated Daimler AG board member and Mercedes-Benz development boss Ola Kallenius. “It embodies luxury, confidence and intelligence like almost no other vehicle.”

Tough and elegant

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Board member for design, Gorden Wagener, reckons it combines the toughness of an SUV with the elegance of a luxury saloon. “The interior is a synthesis of modern, luxurious aesthetics, hallmark SUV practicality, and digital high-tech. In our view, the new GLS, therefore, offers the best of all these worlds.”

New Mercedes-Benz GLS: on sale July

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The new Mercedes-Benz GLS, which is built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, goes on sale in the USA from July 2019, then from Q3 2019 in Europe. Prices will be announced nearer to its market launch.

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