What's New for 2012
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class gets standard LED running lamps.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class means to provide family transportation for up to seven people and do so while showcasing the engineering and craftsmanship one expects from a vehicle wearing the three-pointed star. While there are plenty of family-friendly SUVs and plenty more luxury SUVs, the Mercedes GL is one of the few that can be both.
Unlike many other large luxury SUVs, the GL-Class is not based on a truck chassis, so it boasts better road manners and interior packaging than a truck-based SUV. Its comfortable and composed ride is worthy of a Mercedes luxury sedan, and while it can be cumbersome to maneuver in tight quarters, the GL boasts superior handling compared to similarly sized rivals. And, of course, like any true Mercedes, the interior boasts excellent quality and construction.
There are three different members of the GL-Class: the diesel-powered GL350 Bluetec and the V8-powered GL450 and GL550. Choosing one can be accomplished by determining whether your priority is thriftiness or speed. The diesel achieves high fuel economy but pokey acceleration. The V8 models are pigs on gas and rabbits in a straight line.
As solidly built and impressive as the 2012 Mercedes GL-Class is, however, it's hard to justify its sky-high price. Competitors like the Audi Q7 and Land Rover LR4 are upwards of $15,000 cheaper; the Infiniti QX is about $3,000 less but has vastly more standard features. If it's road-tripping cargo capacity you want, the Cadillac Escalade EXT will carry considerably more. Considering this, you'll probably want to do some comparison shopping, but overall the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL is hard to beat for the way it combines both the family and luxury roles.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a seven-passenger large luxury SUV available in three trim levels that correspond to engine: GL350 Bluetec, GL450 and GL550.
The GL350 Bluetec and GL450 both come standard with a self-leveling air suspension, automatic headlights, LED running lamps, automatic wipers, power third-row quarter-windows, a sunroof, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air-conditioning controls, heated 10-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), MB Tex premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, the Mercedes COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth, Mercedes mbrace emergency communications system and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack. The GL350 Bluetec has 20-inch wheels while the GL450 has 19s.
The Premium 1 package adds a rearview camera, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, a power liftgate, a power passenger seat, front seat memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a navigation system, an iPod/USB audio interface, satellite radio and HD radio. The Premium 2 package includes all the above equipment and adds keyless ignition/entry (available separately) and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. The Full Leather package adds leather upholstery, upgraded head restraints and interior ambient lighting. The Lighting package adds self-cleaning and adaptive bi-xenon headlamps.
Stand-alone options on the GL350 and GL450 include parking sensors, a blind-spot warning system, running boards, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and three-zone automatic climate control.
The GL550 includes all of the above optional items as standard equipment.
Options available on all GL-Class models include a trailer hitch, a heated steering wheel and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel that produces 210 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. As with every GL-Class, a seven-speed automatic transmission and "4Matic" all-wheel drive are standard. Mercedes estimates the GL350 will go from zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds. That's pretty slow, but at least the Bluetec gets pretty good fuel economy with an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
The GL450 gets a gasoline-powered 4.7-liter V8 good for 335 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, the GL450 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Fuel economy suffers, however, with an EPA-estimated 13/18/15.
The GL550 gets a 5.5-liter V8 good for 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, it needed 6.5 seconds to hit 60 mph. Fuel economy stands at 12/17/14.
Every 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class comes with stability control, antilock brakes, a driver knee airbag, first- and second-row side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and whiplash-reducing head restraints fitted to all seven seats. Hill start assist, hill descent control and the Mercedes mbrace emergency communications system are also standard. A blind-spot warning system and a rearview camera are standard on the GL550 and optional on the others.
In Edmunds brake testing, we measured braking distances from 60 mph to zero in the low 120-foot range -- excellent for a large SUV.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL's cabin is comfortable and luxuriously appointed. Fit and finish is superb, the seats are exceptionally supportive and headroom and legroom are ample in nearly every position. Its third row is even big enough to seat two average-sized adults in comfort, which is something the Audi Q7 can't do. On the other hand, if the second-row seats could slide fore and aft there would be more legroom in both the second and third rows. The GL provides 83 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume, which falls below competing SUVs like the Infiniti QX56 and Land Rover LR4, not to mention the Cadillac Escalade.
While the amount of available in-car electronics is plentiful, the COMAND electronics interface that controls most of them is outdated and can be frustrating to use. It relies on a less convenient four-way directional button pad (like an old video game controller) rather than the new multipurpose knob found in the ML-Class and other more recently introduced Mercedes models.
There's no lack of power with either of the two V8s, and both are capable of smoking the competition. If getting off the line doesn't mean all that much to your driving pleasure, the GL350's V6 diesel is more economical but delivers plenty of low-speed punch around town and is so quiet, only the badging gives it away. Quietness, in fact, is the 2012 Mercedes GL's most endearing trait.
The steering is nicely weighted and provides excellent straight-line tracking. Handling in general is better than that of similarly large luxury SUVs, but is quite cumbersome compared to smaller luxury crossovers from BMW and Porsche.