2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Review

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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Strong acceleration from V8 engines, turbodiesel V6 gets gas mileage in the 20s, quiet and elegant interior, many available luxury amenities, comfortable seating, excellent craftsmanship.
  • Ride quality may be floaty for some, second row does not adjust fore and aft, GL550's full load of features jacks up the price.

Classier and more refined than other vehicles in its segment, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class further sets itself apart by driving much smaller than it is and costing much less than you'd expect.

Vehicle overview

Not all full-size luxury SUV shoppers are looking to show off their ride to the envious masses on some trendy, club-ridden strip of road. Many are, but plenty are just searching for a vehicle with a plush interior, room for seven, a powerful engine and prestigious image that doesn't require 22-inch rims and twin subwoofers the size of a Barcalounger. For these more rational shoppers, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is the best of the bunch.

Introduced last year, the GL450 and diesel-powered GL320 CDI took home Edmunds.com's Editors' Most Wanted award for SUVs priced above $45,000. With its attractive blend of passenger space, cargo capacity, capable on- and off-road performance and plenty of attractive features at a reasonable price, the GL set itself apart from full-sizers like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. We were also impressed by the GL450's powerful 4.6-liter V8, which delivered quick acceleration times that bettered the competition.

For 2008, a new trim level, the GL550, arrives. Powered by the same engine that resides in Mercedes' flagship S550 sedan, the new range-topping GL has the power to nip at the heels of more sporting luxury utes like the Range Rover Supercharged and BMW X5 4.8i while still seating six adults in comfort. Stuffed full of all the GL450's optional packages, the 550's price climbs to almost $80,000 -- a very exclusive club indeed. For that price, though, buyers at least get some visual distinction with fender flares, 21-inch AMG wheels and a revised front fascia with a bigger grille and a three-pointed star so large it practically screams, "Achtung! Ich bin ein Mercedes!"

The most intriguing model in the GL-Class line is the GL320 CDI. The letters refer to the turbocharged, 3.0-liter diesel engine under its hood, which like other diesel-powered vehicles, provides massive low-end response and superior fuel mileage versus its gasoline counterparts. The 320 isn't nearly as quick as the GL450, but it's strong around town and powerful enough for most families. Plus, it's $2,500 cheaper than the identically equipped 450 and its 26.4-gallon fuel tank results in a 700-mile range. Of course, bad thoughts linger from the clattering, smoky oil-burners from the 1970s and '80s, but today's diesels are quiet, not the least bit stinky and very clean. Not quite clean enough for the GL320 to meet the incredibly strict emissions standards of California and the Northeast, but 2009's GL-Class Bluetec diesel will be 50-state certified.

In the rarefied, often ostentatious, air of large luxury SUVs, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class manages to present itself with a touch of class. Its mechanical sophistication, unit-body construction and superior craftsmanship also set it apart from other seven-passenger full-sizers, while the 450 and 320 CDI ring in at a price that undercuts a similarly equipped Escalade and other models in the segment. Plus, with available 21-inch wheels, Logic7 sound system and Mercedes' street cred, the GL will still work out just fine for those who want to do plenty of club cruisin'.

2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class models

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a large luxury SUV available in three models that each seat seven passengers. The GL450 and GL320 CDI are equipped identically, save for their powertrains. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, "MB-Tex" cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats with heat, a power split-folding third-row seat, the COMAND electronics interface and an eight-speaker audio system with glovebox-mounted six-CD changer and auxiliary audio input.

The pricey Premium I Package includes front seat memory functions, a power steering column, a power liftgate, a sunroof, a navigation system with a rearview camera, parking sensors and a Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system with satellite radio. The Premium II Package includes all of the Premium I equipment, plus three-zone climate control (also available as a stand-alone option), rear air-conditioning and adaptive bi-xenon headlamps. The Heating Package adds a heated steering wheel and rear seats, while the Full-Leather Package upgrades the already well-crafted interior.

The GL550 includes all of the above equipment as standard and adds 21-inch wheels and unique exterior styling details. Stand-alone options on the GL450 and GL320 CDI include adaptive cruise control and keyless ignition, while all GL-Class models can be equipped with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and an iPod integration kit. The Enhanced Off-Road Package is available on the GL450 only.

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2008 Highlights

A range-topping GL550 is added to the Mercedes GL-Class line for 2008. In addition to its larger 382-horsepower V8, the GL550 is differentiated from the GL430 and GL320 CDI by its more in-your-face grille, fender flares and 21-inch wheels.

Performance & mpg

Each model within the GL-Class has its own engine, but all come with a seven-speed automatic and 4Matic all-wheel drive. The GL450 is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 that makes 335 hp and 339 pound-feet of torque. When fitted with the optional Enhanced Off-Road Package, the GL450 gains center and rear locking differentials, a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing, and underbody skid plates.

In performance testing, we found the GL450 capable of hitting 60 mph in a quick 6.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates for 2008 are 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway. The GL320 CDI is powered by a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. Like all diesels, horsepower is low and torque is high, with 215 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. Diesels also tend to get better fuel economy, and the GL320 gets an impressive 18/24 mpg rating. Because of their more stringent emissions standards, the GL320 CDI is not sold in several states, including California, New York and Vermont.

The GL550 is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque.


Standard safety features on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class include stability control, antilock brakes, whiplash-reducing front headrests, first- and second-row side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags with an integrated rollover sensor. Hill start assist, hill-descent control and TeleAid are also included. Buyers of the GL450 and GL320 CDI wanting a rearview camera, and front and rear parking sensors should note that they are only available as part of the Premium Package. These items are standard on the GL550.


Even with its 4.7-liter V8, the Mercedes-Benz GL450 was the muscle car of its class -- and the new GL550 raises the bar even higher. Either gasoline-V8-powered GL is quicker to 60 mph than any other large SUV we've tested, including the Audi Q7 4.2 and Cadillac Escalade. The large Benz is also quiet on the highway, with minimal wind and road noise. Although the diesel GL320 CDI isn't going to break any acceleration records, passing and merging maneuvers come easily, as the seven-speed automatic transmission does an exemplary job of keeping the engine in the meat of its power band. In addition, the GL320's V6 is so quiet and refined you're scarcely aware it's actually a diesel.

Some drivers might find the Mercedes GL's handling to be a bit wallowy -- this isn't a truck you toss around for the sheer joy of it. But the ride and handling compromise is acceptable, and the GL's steering, although a bit slow, is nicely weighted and never numb.


The GL's cabin is well-appointed and a comfortable place to be. Fit and finish is as it should be, seat comfort is exceptional, and headroom and legroom are ample for most positions. The second row could benefit from being able to move fore and aft, as it can get tight with taller occupants seated up front. Nice touches include a one-touch up and down function for all four windows and flush-folding rear headrests to improve the driver's rearward vision (an innovation missing on Benz's R-Class). Third-row access is also well thought out. With the second- and third-row seats lowered, 83 cubic feet of cargo volume is available, which is much smaller than full-size luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade but on par with vehicles like the Acura MDX.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

3.88 out of 5 stars
A Real Dog
GL320 CDI 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl Turbodiesel 7A)
Always thought I would have it made when I could afford to buy a MB. Well after 25 months and 9 repair trips not including 5 service trips, I traded the dog on a GMC. If this vehicle would have run well I would have kept it but it did not. Small things like senors, computer software and large things like new rack and pinion steering and power steering pump were just too much. Beware of your warranty's end. Repairs are very expensive and time consuming. In discussing the issues with the MB reps in USA and Germany, I found that they were more concerned about themselves than the problems I was having.
4.88 out of 5 stars
Mercedes GL 320 CDI
Ed Jette,07/20/2010
GL320 CDI 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl Turbodiesel 7A)
I bought the 2008 MB GL CDI used with 14K miles on it. I have 50K on it now. I bought 4 Blizzak snow tires for it and it makes it go through any conditions like a tank. I had the air suspension replaced under warranty by MB. No other problems. On a ski trip to Vermont one night got down to -10 degrees. Failed to start without putting in a bottle of 911 diesel fuel treatment. Started right up after that with no more problems. What a ride, 2 adults, 5 kids loaded to the hilt with a roof rack and still got 23 miles per gallon.
4.88 out of 5 stars
Need a Slush Fund to own this one!
GL320 Owner,08/21/2009
GL320 CDI 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl Turbodiesel 7A)
CONS: A MB service tech told me 18 months after I purchased my GL320 that you need a slush fund keep this car on the road, addition to the already known cost due to regular service maintenance. Oh...how he was right! I have had the air-suspension module replaced twice. Tires-they are only good for 20-30,000 miles and at $1200 for a set of four it gets expensive, and let me just add there are only two tires to pick from-the Continentals and the Pirelli’s. Windshield-twice now at $989.00. I love the Bluetooth while driving, however it disconnects when the car is turned off and the door is opened. Then you can’t use your phone for about another 5 mins while it’s still disconnecting.
2 out of 5 stars
So many problems!
GL450 4dr SUV AWD (4.7L 8cyl 7A)
Bought the car for $12000, spent over 10000 to fix it in just a year! There are way too many problems. I thought the part would be good quality, but nope, it breaks easily! I have spent way too much money into fixing this car! There are always problems! I had a misfire after 3 months of owning this car, and then struct, and then the coolant was leaking, and then oil leak, and then air suspension then the power steering.

More about the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
More About This Model

You'd sooner expect to see a moose on the streets of McCall, Idaho, than a 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL550. Sure, this little town on Payette Lake in the Rocky Mountains has been suitably gentrified as a resort playland, but let's face facts. The nearest full-service car wash is more than a hundred miles away in Boise, and it's hard to believe that a Mercedes would stray so far from convenient cleanliness.

But maybe that's the point. Even as high-powered sport-utilities like the Mercedes GL look ever more out of place in the drive-thru lane at your local Starbucks, they're still exactly what you want out here in vacation America, even in places where you're likely to get a little dirt on the fenders.

So the 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 that's now doing business in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL550 might be just the right thing for America after all.

Get on Board the Vista Cruiser
All this comes to us as we're cruising along U.S. 95 next to the Payette River, whispering effortlessly down the two-lane blacktop at 85 mph in the GL550. It's morning, and you can look far off across the basin and see the cattle rousing in the little patches of fog still hovering over the wet grass. Beyond, there's a steep ridge of mountains covered in timber, just as there seems to be almost everywhere you go in Idaho.

This isn't the sort of landscape you see every day. And if you think your fellow Americans are packing themselves into some kind of stripped-down Camry with roll-up windows so they can drive all the way out here and see this, then you're sadly deranged.

The Mercedes GL is this generation's answer to the 1973 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, a vacation platform that will carry the whole darn family, which is likely to include three generations these days (so the demographers tell us).

Just-in-Time Production
The Mercedes-Benz GL550 is actually a little late to the party, as it's supposed to take its place next to ultrafast sport-utilities, vehicles like the BMW X5 4.8i, Cadillac Escalade and Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged.

Asked to deliver a strong message of style, the Mercedes designers have once again got themselves into a lather and the GL550 displays the overheated results — chrome flashing, running boards, fender flares, 21-inch AMG wheels and a three-bar grille with a graceless Mercedes star the size of a family-style pizza.

All the conventions of sport-utility style have been hyped here, but fortunately the GL still has a sense of understated elegance that can withstand this assault by the Mercedes stylists.

When in Doubt, Choose Horsepower
The centerpiece of the new GL550 is a 5.5-liter version of the same 4.6-liter V8 introduced for the all-new GL last year. The larger-displacement 32-valve DOHC V8, which is also used in the E550 and S550 sedans, produces 382 hp at 6,000 rpm, a 14 percent improvement in output. Torque climbs to 391 pound-feet at 2,800 rpm, a 15 percent improvement.

As before, the GL's powertrain does business through a seven-speed automatic that is more notable for its impeccably smooth-shifting performance than for its whizbang specifications. The GL550's fuel economy is EPA-rated at 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway, and compares nicely with the GL450's 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway.

Once you choose the GL550 over the GL450, there aren't many other choices to be made, as the uprated engine brings with it uprated feature content. The GL550 incorporates nearly all of the GL options as standard equipment, including leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, a DVD-based navigation system and a Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system.

As you'd expect, the exhaustive features list carries the GL550's price into some pretty rarefied air, as it climbs from the 2007 GL450's $55,675 all the way to $77,750.

The same thinking also has been applied to the new 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML550, which Mercedes says delivers a 5.6-second time to 60 mph. It comes loaded only and stickers for $53,175.

The Driving Vacation
Along the upper reaches of the Salmon River, U.S. 95 winds back and forth along the riverbank in a canyon so narrow the sky is little more than a lightning bolt of blue. It's the kind of road that can bring out the worst in a big sport-utility, especially one that weighs 5,434 pounds and measures 200.6 inches from bumper to bumper.

But there's not a hint of the bounding body motions that can make fast driving in a big sport-ute as turbulent as a bad landing in a jetliner. The GL's unit-body chassis rides on independent suspension both front and rear, so it's like some great big crossover, and it combines good body rigidity and controlled ride motions.

Even when we found ourselves dicing with logging trucks on narrow roads alongside trout-fishing streams, the GL550 made us believe it was a far smaller vehicle. It's even profoundly quiet, and you frequently look down at the speedometer to discover that you're driving 20 mph faster than you thought.

A lot of the GL's poise comes from the 295/40R21 Continental ContiCrossContact VHP tires, which combine plenty of cornering grip with plenty of steering precision. We're not sure such a low-profile tire will deliver a comfortable ride on a metropolitan freeway, but that said, the three-position damping control for the GL's air-spring suspension does a fine job of controlling body motions.

Looking Out the Windows
There's nothing like big windows when you're gawking at the landscape, and the GL lives up to its VistaCruiser heritage as we emerge from the mountains into the wide-open Camas Prairie, once the homeland of the Nez Perce and now an immense ocean of golden grain.

As you'd expect, the GL promotes a luxury experience, yet the interior materials are tough enough to stand up to the dirt and debris a sport-utility should be expected to encounter in America. The center console even incorporates two huge wells for 32-ounce, Big Gulp-style refreshment (or even one 44-ounce container), long-overdue acknowledgement by the Germans that cups actually exist.

The GL550's practicality also encompasses three rows of seats (actual adult humans can fit in every row), with three zones of air-conditioning. The third seat folds flat into the floor electrically with the push of a button, leaving 43.8 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second-row seat; and when both rear-seat rows are folded flat, there are 83.3 cubic feet of cargo space.

Safety is also part of a passenger-friendly vacation experience. There's a typically Mercedes-like selection of effective but unobtrusive dynamic safety measures, and it includes not only the usual front and side airbags for the front-seat passengers, but also side airbags for the second-row passengers, not to mention third-row side curtain airbags.

Practical Luxury
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL550 takes its place next to all the specialty luxury sport-utilities that have appeared just as the supply of cheap gasoline has finally dried up. Yet because of its fundamental practicality as a passenger package, the GL550 might have a more secure future than the SUV-style sports cars. The GL doesn't sacrifice the very things that make sport-utilities uniquely useful — passenger comfort and capacity, cargo volume, recreational utility and all-weather mobility.

There's plenty of cost built into this equation, of course, but think about the price of airplane tickets for summer and winter vacations, plus the GL's ability to take you places where no airplane can fit.

This Mercedes invites you to take a driving vacation out there in America. Like an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, it even makes you want to stop at the Gas 'N Go in Grangeville, Idaho, and buy some wacky tourist decals to stick in the rear window. Heart of the Camas Prairie! Home of Idaho's Oldest Rodeo!

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Overview

The Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is offered in the following submodels: GL-Class SUV, GL-Class Diesel. Available styles include GL450 4dr SUV AWD (4.7L 8cyl 7A), GL550 4dr SUV AWD (5.5L 8cyl 7A), and GL320 CDI 4dr SUV AWD (3.0L 6cyl Turbodiesel 7A). Pre-owned Mercedes-Benz GL-Class models are available with a 4.7 L-liter gas engine or a 5.5 L-liter gas engine or a 3.0 L-liter diesel engine, with output up to 382 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 7-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a unlimited yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class?

Price comparisons for Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class trim styles:

  • The Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class GL450 is priced between $8,900 and$9,900 with odometer readings between 169170 and180382 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Classes are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class for sale near. There are currently 2 used and CPO 2008 GL-Classes listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $8,900 and mileage as low as 169170 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

Can't find a used 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Classs you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz GL-Class for sale - 2 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $23,143.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz for sale - 9 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $17,979.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz GL-Class for sale - 7 great deals out of 8 listings starting at $19,701.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz for sale - 7 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $15,039.

Should I lease or buy a 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Mercedes-Benz lease specials
Check out Mercedes-Benz GL-Class lease specials