The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (X164) was launched in India in March 2010 with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine and was badged as the GL350CDI with the BlueEfficiency tag. The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class was designed for American car market to compete with the Audi Q7, the Volvo XC90 and the likes of Range Rover. The GL hasn’t been inspired by the boxy looks of the G-Class but Mercedes-Benz picked up the ML’s design for the GL-Class. After testing the ML350 CDI last year, we got out hands on the GL350 CDI Blue Efficiency. Read further, to see how the large SUV performed.
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class was designed by Steve Mattin before he moved out of the company to join Volvo. The front end of the this two box design looks more mature and muscular than the Mercedes-Benz ML with the bulged hood and the thick twin-horizontal chrome slats on the front grille that wears the large central star. The lower end below the front grille sports the black honeycomb-mesh and the LED fog lamps with cornering lamps that come as optional (the cornering lamps get chrome surrounds which our press demonstrator had).
The silhouette of the GL-Class makes it look large and muscular due to its long wheelbase, 19-inch tyres with five-spoke alloys and chrome roof rails. The chrome beltline and the haunch on its shoulder give an impression that the GL-Class is shorter than what it actually is. The high rear end of the Mercedes-Benz GL350 gets small tail-lamps which look out of place; and some chrome treatment as well. The reflectors are located on the bumper and not integrated with the tail-lamps.
With the GL being a large SUV, the challenge for the Mercedes-Benz engineers was to keep the weight of the vehicle as low as possible. So, to keep the weight on the lower side, about 54 percent of the GL is built out of high-strength steel and even the thermoformed ultra-high-strength steel is used in some areas. The unitised steel body is basically a protective cocoon for the occupants during an impact. The front and the rear ends are designed to absorb most of the energy during a collision which keeps the occupants safe as lesser (no energy) gets transferred to the cabin.
Get in inside the Mercedes-Benz GL350CDI and you will notice that the interior styling has been picked up straight from the ML-Class. The four-spoke steering wheel with aluminum outline on the lower spokes, the upper section of the dash trimmed in leather, the circular air-vents, the climate control buttons and knobs, the number pad on the centre console and Bluetooth connectivity system on the GL-Class are same as that on the ML-Class. The music system on the GL-Class has been upgraded and it even comes with a SD card slot.
The interiors of the GL have been designed ergonomically and this being a Mercedes-Benz product, the fit and finish and the quality of the materials used is top notch. The wood trim elements give the interiors add to the rich feel. The GL350 CDI gets a twin-dial instrument cluster with chrome surrounds and the gear-lever is mounted on the steering column like most of the new Mercedes-Benz cars except for the C-Class. The COMAND goes missing on the GL350 CDI and the slot is rather occupied by two large cup-holders. This SUV has a lot of practical storage space like the illuminated glove box, the huge stowage below the armrest between the front seats, and the earlier mentioned cupholders make up for some good usable storage space.
With the electric steering adjust, motorized seat adjustment and comfortable leather seats, comfort is never an issue. The front seats have four-way adjustable lumbar support. The first two rows are spacious; however the third row is a bit tight on space. The boot of the GL350CDI has a volume of 620 litres and the last row seats split 50:50 can be folded electrically increasing the volume to 2300 litres. The power tailgate is a great feature to have, wherein the tailgate closes with the press of a button.
Talk about the features, and the list goes long on the GL. The GL-Class has six-DVD changer with three LCD television screen (one in the centre console, and two for the middle row passengers). Being a large-size SUV, it gets a reverse camera which makes parking easier. The GL has a sunroof above the front row seats and a moonroof for the last row of seats. Another good feature to have is dual sun-blinds as shown in our pictures, this helps to cut sunlight.
The Mercedes-Benz GL350 comes loaded with various safety features that include airbags for the front row (dashboard and side), sidebags for the middle row occupants and window bags for all the three rows, NECK-PRO to avoid whiplash for the front row passengers comes as an option. The passive knee-protection system and ISOFIX child seat attachments are the other safety features.
The Mercedes-Benz GL350 CDI Blue Efficiency has a longitudinally mounted 2987cc engine with six-cylinder placed in a vee layout, to power all the four wheels through a seven-speed transmission. This is the same engine block that we saw on the Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI Blue Efficiency and even on the ML350CDI. In fact the motor on the GL350 has been detuned as it produces 221bhp, whereas the E350 CDI produces 228bhp and the ML350CDI powerplant produces 234bhp.
This oilburner churns out 221bhp of power at 3800rpm and has a maximum torque of 510Nm packed in it. The engine is responsive; however, the SUV doesn’t feel very quick considering the fact that it weighs about two and a half tone (2505kgs). In our acceleration run, this large SUV sprinted to 100kph mark in 10.7 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 17.4seconds under damp conditions (the timing would have been better under normal dry conditions).
The GL350CDI Blue Efficiency is a permanent all-wheel drive utility vehicle that comes with seven-speed automatic transmission, which the Mercedes-Benz calls it as the 7G-TRONIC (which is now a transmission seen on most of the Mercedes-Benz cars). The GL350CDI can be driven in low and high all-wheel drive modes, depending on the conditions.
When both the wheels on the same differential rotate do not with the same speed, the 4ETS traction system takes care of it (the Mercedes-Benz calls its traction control system as the 4ETS). The GL350CDI is 4MATIC (which is a Mercedes-Benz term for its four-wheel drive system). This 4MATIC system in utility vehicles comes with off-road ABS, hill-start assist and downhill speed regulation (DSR). The OFF-ROAD PRO that comes as a standard fitment helps in negotiating most of the difficult terrains due to transfer case reduction gearing and multiple-disc locks.
The seven-speed transmission feels a bit lethargic, which can make overtaking on highways a bit of an issue, even though the engine has the juice to go quickly. The paddle-shifts does come-in handy, if you wish to manually control the 7G-box. In our in-gear test, the GL350CDI clocked the 30-50kph run in seconds and 50-70kph run in seconds.
Mercedes-Benz GL350CDI comes with a double wishbone, and the air spring suspension at its front and the rear gets the four-link suspension bolted on a sub-frame. The AIRMATIC provides for additional ride heights, this system has automatic leveling system or can be done manually by the driver to avoid the underbelly and the bumpers of the utility vehicle from being scraped by rocks or any other obstacles while off-roading. This is a speed-sensitive system and it lowers the body by 15mm at both the axles when the speedo crosses 140kph. If the speed drops below 40kph, the body is once again raised.
The ride of the Mercedes-Benz GL350 CDI is cushy like any other Mercedes-Benz cars. The GL350 absorbs most of the impact harshness over bumps rather than passing them into the cabin. The cabin is well insulated and most of the road noise is hushed. The GL comes with different suspension settings viz. Auto, Sport and Comfort. In the comfort mode, the suspension set-up is soft and this gives a supple ride which is usually preferred during normal driving conditions. It smoothly glides over bumps and through potholes. In the Sport mode, the ride is a bit stiff. Even in the sport mode, the SUV still feels a bit bobbly at about 120kph, until at 140kph when the suspension gets lowered.
If you think that Mercedes-Benz engineers have designed just a good off-roader then you need to re-think. The double wishbones upfront include anti-dive control and a stabilizer bar and so the GL350 can be driven almost flat out through most of the corners with some amount of body roll due to its height, which is easily controlled due to the various electronics and hardware it comes fitted with. This encourages the driver to dive into tight corners with aspiring confidence and an assurance that most of the driving mistakes will be taken care by the SUV. The light steering wheel at low speeds reduces driver fatigue whilst driving in city traffic and parking. The steering does weigh up with increase in speed, but due to usage of electronics, it feels artificial.
The brakes on the Mercedes-Benz GL feels and bites well, not forgetting that this SUV has a massive weight of about two and a half tonne. The GL350 sports PRE-SAFE which has sensors for controlling ABS, BAS (brake assist) and ESP. In our brake test, the GL came to a complete standstill from a speed of 80kph in 30.2m under damp conditions. Credit even goes to the Dunlop SP SPORT MAXX tyres on our press demonstrator which refused to lose grip on the road. The GL350CDI comes with 275/55/R19 which are low profile tyres which makes the ride in sport mode a bit too hard.
The Mercedes-Benz GL350CDI at Rs 71 lakhs (ex-showroom, Mumbai) isn’t a bad buy at all, considering the fact that this sports utility vehicle can pass most of the off-roading terrains, a good handler and the bells and whistles it comes loaded with. The GL350 when compared to its competitors has the prestige of being a three-pointed star, which is still one of the more value brand in the Indian consumers when compared to competition. To our dismay, the GL is currently being offered with just one engine option unlike competition, which might not work in the favour of Mercedes-Benz when consumers will be looking for bigger engine, they might end up buying an Audi and a Land Rover product. Probably the G420 CDI could have done the trick here.
Engine Specifications3.0-litre V6 diesel engine View specifications
Max in Gear
Performance Test Data
|Quarter Mile (402m)||17.4secs|
|30-50kph in 3rd||2.4secs|
|30-50kph in 4th|
|50-70kph in 5th||3.2secs|