Merc's facelifted go-anywhere GL
3l V6 CDI, 5.5l V8
165kW @ 3 800r/min, 285kW @ 6 000r/min
510Nm @ 1 600-2 800r/min, 530Nm @ 2 800-4 800r/min
Zero To Hundred
2 450-, 2 445kg
Yes, with ESP and trailer assist
When you think gargantuan premium 4x4 wagons, the mind happens upon
images of Range Rovers and Cruiser 200s.
Rarely does anybody introduce
Mercedes-Benz’s GL-series as a factor in the premium 4x4 equation.
the venerable military surplus Gelandenwagen enjoys a small - yet
fanatical - following locally, few people regard Merc’s passenger vehicle
product portfolio as a place to go browsing for anything of Range
Rover/Cruiser 200 challenging quality.
Since 2006 though, the company has sold 1 000 GL-series units locally.
Nearly imperceptible styling changes
ML’s larger sibling is very much an anonymous quantity in the premium
4x4 market, despite boasting advanced pneumatic suspension architecture
and both centre and rear-axle lockable differentials.
In an attempt to shore up market share, Mercedes-Benz has now garnished the GL-series with a few aesthetic upgrades.
you’re an absolute GL acolyte, the only changes you’ll notice off the
cuff are some of the new wheel options. Unpacking the styling changes
you can tally up a new front bumper design and a more pronounced grille
treatment, famed by optional LED daytime running lights.
GL’s characteristic chromed underbody protection strips have been
improved at the fore and aft bumper positions too. GL's rear lower
fascia treatment, with its parallelogram shaped exhaust ends, is
Cabin is sombre, yet very comfy, with neatly grouped controls and largely idiot proof Comand interface menus.
Inside the GL’s immense cabin very little has changed.
engine- and road-speed dials adorn the instrument binnacle (they’re of
the 3D graphic illuminated variety now), whilst front seats feature
Neck Pro comfort head restraints.
Probably the most noteworthy
change to GL’s cabin configuration is the standard fitment of Merc’s
Comand APS system.
This means you have an integrated six disc DVD
changer, 6.5-inch display illuminating the SatNav (which has a
surprisingly useful split screen) and voice control. Very neat, yet the
4 Gigabyte audio data memory capacity seems woefully inadequate…
in behind the helm and (if you’re an absolute stickler for detail) you’ll
notice the new steering wheel’s lower spokes join the rim at a wider
GL’s satellite controls have been regrouped into a circular
arrangement of four quarters under each thumb too, instead of the
square block controls of the previous generation car.
rest it’s still a massively capacious car, with clean surfacing,
intuitive ergonomics and a surprisingly useful third row of seats –
which fold away with merciful ease.
One disappointing feature,
especially considering the GL’s intimidating bulk (there is 5.2m of it
bumper-to-bumper), is the R6 900 optional nature of the reversing
Third row seats are probably bit much of a muchness. Drop easily out of view with the touch a button.
Blue Efficiency SUV?
Powering the GL range is an unchanged range of engines – a V8 petrol and Merc’s fabled 3l V6 turbodiesel.
You’ll notice a Blue Tec badge on the diesel models, which is in no way indicative of any change to GL’s 3l V6 CDI engine.
it refers to the aerodynamic changes ushered in by the styling package,
which are supported by low resistance tyres and a more economy
conscious 7G-Tronic self-shifter. Combined, these three design upgrades
allegedly whittle 5% off the GL’s appetite for fuel…
remains, the V6 still produces 165kW of power at 3 800 r/min, and 510Nm
peak rotational force between 1 600 and 2 800 r/min.
keep the turbo boosting above 2 500 r/min you'll surge forward on a
wave of torque; but power away from standstill and the laws of physics
and inertia are quite tangible.
The GL remains swift at cruising speeds though, with the transmission’s surfeit of ratios ensuring seamless overtaking.
you don’t mind more truncated range, which can be an issue when
venturing outside South Africa’s borders with your GL, the 5.5l V8
petrol engine offers hot hatch humbling acceleration (0-100km/h in 6.5
At a touch over 2.4t, these GL-series SUVs put significant
strain on their fully independent air-suspension systems.
adaptive damping is impeccably calibrated to deal with it though, even
when cruising at substantial speeds on sweeping rural roads – as we
found on our Eastern Free State test route.
GL's speed-sensitive power steering is beautifully weighted at speed (though a trifle heavy lock-to-lock in tight parking spaces), making Merc's maxi-sized SUV easy to place and manage on the road at speed, even when overtaking.
With two fully lockable differentials and reduction ratio gearing, GL is only hampered by road-biased standard tyres off-road.
the GL‘s Airmatic dampers can elevate ground clearance to an ample
307mm, with traction buoyed by the ability to lock the centre or rear
axle differential with a simple turn dial control.
the axle locker is engaged in additional to the centre diff lock-up, it
hampers manoeuvrability (as you’d expect), yet heralds very secure
Throttle response is unbelievably laggy on the
compression ignition GL off-road when not engage in low-range. It
simply waits until you’ve nearly floored the pedal before receiving
authorization from the ESP/TC system to distribute torque to any of the
In low-range though, with the axles locked, and
rolling proper off-road spec tyres in the wheelarches, GL has
infinitely more off-road capability than any of its owners are ever
likely to explore.
If you are keen on a trip to Namibia or
Botswana we would recommend the optional full-size sparewheel at R20
000. In a supreme sense of irony, due to the full-size sparewheel's
location on a swinging girdle across the loadbay door, it vanquishes
the reversing camera option.
Less regal than a Range Rover, not
quite as aesthetically challenging (both inside and out) as Toyota’s
Cruiser 200, the GL could perhaps be the thinking man’s low-range enabled
maxi-sized premium 4x4 wagon…
GL350 CDI 4MATIC R860 000
GL500 R990 000