Full 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has been fully redesigned.
If you need to transport more than four people and their stuff, it's hard to think of a more desirable vehicle than the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. Its high price may give you pause, but if you can afford this versatile heavy hitter, you'll find it to be an all-season all-star.
In the summer, its legitimate space for seven adults will keep the guys happy when driving to that Las Vegas bachelor party. Come fall, the generous cargo space and the myriad optional entertainment and comfort features will be perfect for that family trip to the Grand Canyon. When snow starts falling in winter, the surprisingly adept handling will be useful while climbing mountain roads to hit the slopes. And in the spring, the rock-solid stability and plush ride will be especially appreciated when traveling through the potholes on rain-soaked roads.
Much of these virtues also applied to last year's GL, which looks similar to this 2013 model. However, this is in fact a virtually all-new and improved GL-Class. It's slightly bigger than before, providing even more space for all aboard, while a newly available power-folding second-row seat makes it easier to get back to the third row. All the engines are new, with the diesel-powered GL350 showcasing impressive fuel economy while the three V8 models boast stunning acceleration. Yes, there are three V8s, which is up one from last year. The culprit is the new GL63 AMG model, which gets beyond the expected eye-popping acceleration with sharper handling and stronger brakes.
Besides bringing the cabin up to the high standards of more recently redesigned Mercedes models, the GL also gets a boat load of new technologies. The latter range from those that are designed to coddle or entertain to those for keeping you awake or in your lane. In other words, the GL gives up little to the flagship S-Class.
Of course, adding those items can quickly make the price skyrocket, while sampling from the Mercedes "designo" catalog of special colors and leathers elevates it further. Meanwhile, there are other appealing choices for a large luxury crossover SUV, including the Infiniti QX, Land Rover Range Rover and Lexus GX 570. But for such a desirable all-season hauler, it's hard to think of a better choice than the new 2013 GL-Class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class seats seven people and consists of four models -- GL350 Bluetec, GL450, GL550 and GL63 AMG. Each is primarily differentiated by engine.
The GL350 Bluetec and GL450 feature different engines, but are otherwise identically equipped with 19-inch wheels, a self-leveling air suspension, automatic headlights, LED running lamps, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, a sunroof, a rearview camera, power rear quarter windows, rear privacy glass, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front seats (includes four-way lumbar adjustment), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a power-folding third-row seat, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery and a cargo cover. Electronic features include the COMAND interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Mercedes mbrace2 emergency communications and a premium sound system with a six-CD/DVD changer, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
The Premium 1 package adds power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, a power-adjustable steering wheel, a 10-way power driver seat with memory functions, multicolor ambient lighting, a navigation system, voice controls, satellite radio and an iPod interface. The Premium 2 package includes all of the above plus keyless ignition/entry, soft-close power doors, a lockable rear storage compartment and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. The Lighting package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washers and adaptive high beams. The Parking Assistance package includes a multi-view parking camera, front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parallel parking system. Stand-alone options include three-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, multicontour front seats (includes adjustable bolsters, massage and enhanced lumbar adjustment) and a wood-trimmed steering wheel.
All of the above options come standard on the GL550, which also gets 21-inch wheels and adaptive suspension dampers. The same goes for the GL63 AMG, which gets different 21-inch wheels, sport-tuned air suspension and steering, upgraded brakes, automatically variable stabilizer bars (the Active Curve System, optional on other models), AMG-specific styling elements and a microfiber-trimmed sport steering wheel.
The GL450 and 550 can be equipped with an On-/Off-Road package that includes the adaptive suspension dampers, a six-mode terrain selector and front underbody protection.
There are other options available on all GL models. The Driver Assistance package adds enhanced adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and lane-departure warning systems. Stand-alone items includes a multi-view parking camera, a panoramic sunroof, illuminated running boards, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a power "easy-entry" second-row seat and a dual-screen rear entertainment system.
There are a number of special order options, including a night vision pedestrian warning camera, a heated windshield washer reservoir, rear sunshades, a second row pass-through, an MB-Tex-wrapped lower dashboard, a Bang & Olufsen high-end sound system and numerous special Mercedes "designo" exterior and interior colors.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec features a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 that produces 240 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. Like every GL-Class model, it features a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. In Edmunds performance testing, it went from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, which is on the slow side for a full-size luxury SUV. Importantly, though, EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, which is far superior to other large three-row luxury SUVs.
All other GL-Class models are powered by gasoline engines. The 2013 GL450 gets a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 that produces 362 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates from zero to 60 in 6.2 seconds, which is a second quicker than average. Its fuel economy estimates are 14/19/16.
The GL550 gets a more powerful version of the same engine good for 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. It hits 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and returns an estimated 13/18/15.
The GL63 AMG features a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 good for 550 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. According to Mercedes, it'll go from zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds.
Properly equipped, the GL-Class can tow a maximum of 7,500 pounds.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control and traction control, active front head restraints, front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a driver attention/drowsiness monitor. The mbrace2 emergency communications system provides automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance and a system that alerts the owner when a pre-selected speed or boundary is exceeded by another driver (say, a teen or valet). Blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems are optional, and actually take preventive action should the driver fail to heed the car's warnings.
In Edmunds brake testing, all non-AMG GL-Class models came to a stop from 60 mph in around 115 feet. This is superb for such a large, heavy vehicle with all-season tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
There are few cars that would be better suited to taking a long family road trip than the Mercedes GL-Class. Even the third-row seats are spacious enough to accommodate adults, while the available power easy-entry second-row seats make it incredibly easy to get back there. There's even a decent amount of cargo room left over with all seats in place. To keep everyone happy back there, there are a huge number of comfort and convenience features, like heated seats, dual-screen entertainment and a panoramic sunroof. As for mom and dad up front, they will enjoy comfortable, supportive seats that only get better when you check the option boxes for ventilation and massage.
In terms of build and materials quality, the GL lives up to the lofty Mercedes standard of excellence. Even the base car's MB-Tex vinyl upholstery looks and feels like real leather, while actually breathing better and being easier to clean. The actual leather is beautifully supple, though, and available in a wide variety of hues thanks to Mercedes' designo customization program. Very little separates the GL-Class from the flagship S-Class in terms of available opulence.
The same could be said for its myriad electronics systems. Controlling most of them is Mercedes' excellent COMAND system that consists of a central color screen, dashboard buttons, steering wheel controls and the multifunction COMAND knob. Like all such electronics interfaces, it can be a little complicated at first, but it works very well at accomplishing both simple and more complex tasks.
With both the second- and third-row seats lowered, the GL can carry up to 93.8 cubic feet of cargo, a fairly generous amount for this class of SUV.
Chances are you've never driven a freight train, but with the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, you'll certainly feel like you've come close. It cruises down the freeway with road-crushing assuredness and stability as you look down upon all the other cars around you. If you're looking for that commanding view of the road, this definitely has it, and it can get even more commanding when you raise the adjustable air suspension.
Surprisingly, the GL is not hopeless around corners. An athlete it's not, but you'll be surprised with the composure and communication it displays should you find yourself on a winding coastal or ski resort road. This goes double for the wild GL63 AMG.
If speed is not of paramount importance, the GL350 Bluetec is without question the model to get. Its torque-rich diesel power plant feels quicker around town than the actual acceleration numbers suggest, while its fuel economy and range are substantially superior to its gasoline-powered siblings. However, if it's power you want, those V8s deliver shocking acceleration considering how huge and heavy they are.