Mercedes GLS SUV aims for better efficiency, handling over GL-Class predecessors

Mercedes is giving its full-size SUV a facelift, along with a new name, for 2017. The automaker describes the GLS as the  'S-Class among SUVs.'

Mercedes-Benz USA/PrNewsFoto/File
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV. Mercedes is updating its line of full-size SUVs with a new name and a new look for the 2017 model year.

Just as the mid-size M-Class was rebadged a GLE as part of Mercedes-Benz’s new naming strategy announced late last year, the full-size GL-Class has now been rebadged a GLS. The name change coincides with a mid-cycle update being introduced for the 2017 model year and signifies that the vehicle is now positioned alongside the S-Class range of vehicles in the Mercedes lineup. In fact, the automaker describes the GLS as the “S-Class among SUVs.”

The changes implemented in the GL’s transformation into the GLS have focused on improving efficiency as well as the handling and dynamics. 4Matic all-wheel drive remains standard but the engineers have also fitted the latest 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission across most of the lineup (the high-performance GLS63 from Mercedes-AMG sticks with a uniquely-calibrated AMG Speedshift seven-speed automatic). There are also more settings for the Dynamic Select vehicle dynamics system as well as improved Airmatic air suspension and additional electronic driving aids.

Powertrain options carry over largely unchanged, though there have been subtle tweaks made to extract a few extra horsepower. The range kicks off with the GLS350d, which comes powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine good for 255 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. Next up the line is a GLS450, which comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 delivering 362 hp and 369 lb-ft. Further up is the GLS550, which comes with a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8 and a generous 449 hp and 516 lb-ft. And at the top of the range is the GLS63, whose twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 generous a heady 577 hp and 561 lb-ft.

On the outside, the GLS sports the smoother, more elegant lines that currently dominate the Mercedes lineup. The biggest changes to the design have been the headlights, grille and bumpers. For a more athletic look, Mercedes offers a sportpackage that adds more aggressive bumpers with larger intakes. The package also includes 21-inch light alloys, chunky side sills and side flaps matching the body color.

Inside, there are seven plush seats split over three rows. The general layout of the dash hasn’t changed but there is a new instrument cluster, new multifunction steering wheel and new touchpad-based interface. There is also a host of electric driver aids, either standard or available. These include Collision Prevention Assist Plus, Attention Assist, Brake Assist, Lane Keep Assist, blind spot and cross traffic warning systems, and the Distronic Plus cruise control system with Steering Assist semi-autonomous mode.

Pricing is yet to be announced but we can confirm the order books open up next month and deliveries are to commence by March of next year. Key rivals include theCadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570 and Lincoln Navigator, and soon BMW will enter the full-size SUV fray with a new X7.

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