Apart from the cosmetics, the only other change in GLS compared to the GL is the new nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. It has the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine, producing 258bhp and 620Nm of torque and carrying the ‘350 d’ badge of the boot lid. This isn’t the most refined engine, there is clatter but hardly any of it percolates into the cabin.
Despite the similar power figures, the car performs much better with the two additional ratios. It is a quick gearbox, immediately responding to a tap on the paddle shifters, however, it does act slightly confused in cities when left to choose on its own. In comfort mode, the gear shifts come at around 1,600rpm unless there is extra pressure on the accelerator pedal. The drivability for an SUV of this size is commendable, it builds momentum quickly, downing a gear or two if required.
There are a few other modes, most important being the Sport Mode, that makes the steering heavier, gear shifts sharper and the ride stiffer. It has airmatic suspension that can be tuned for comfort or sporty ride, plus it can raise the car height thereby offering better ground clearance for off-roads. The other modes are for snow / slippery conditions and off-road, which reduce the throttle response to offer better traction in harsh conditions. The individual mode allows you to separately adjust the engine response, steering and suspension set up.
For a car that weighs close to 2.5 tonnes and is mainly intended to be a luxurious people carrier with a diesel engine, the GLS 350d is decently quick to reach 100kmph from standstill in 8.3 seconds. It has decent drivability as well with ample of low end torque, getting to 80kmph from 20kmph in 4.8 seconds. The GLS is not intended to be pushed around the corners, but should the need arise, the GLS does better than expected from an SUV of its size. The steering has decent feedback and brakes that manage to bring it to a halt quick enough.
The ride of the GLS is comfortable for most parts. Of course, there is plenty of body roll and even in sportier setting the feel isn’t much different. But this soft set up means, this is one of the most comfortable SUVs for the passengers.