Mercedes-Benz’s largest and most luxurious SUV to date has landed in South Africa, offering more space, more comfort and more luxury than ever before. The new Mercedes-Benz GLS is even larger than its predecessor, with a 60 mm longer wheelbase that provides increased interior spaciousness, and combines striking looks with outstanding comfort, agile handling and a high degree of off-road capability.
South African customers will be able to choose from the new Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d 4M and Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4M, which marks the world première of a new electrified V8 petrol engine with 48-volt on-board electrical system and integrated starter-generator.
“The new GLS is the S-Class of premium SUVs. It embodies luxury, confidence and intelligence like no other vehicle. In addition, it is the market leader in its segment – just like the S-Class Sedan,” says Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO for Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa.
Mercedes-Benz has been building premium SUVs since 1997, when the MClass (now GLE) was introduced. Since then, SUVs have become a major structural pillar in the Mercedes-Benz line-up, and greatly contribute to the growth of the brand.
The GL full-size variant offering space for seven people was launched in 2006, and in 2015, a facelift emphasised the luxury character of the large SUV’s second generation and heralded the changing of the name to GLS. At present, Mercedes-Benz offers several models in the SUV segment – GLA, GLB, GLC, GLC Coupé, GLE, GLE Coupé, GLS and G-Class, with the Mercedes-Maybach GLS being launched later this year.
“The GLS combines modern luxury with the character of an off-roader,” says Selvin Govender, Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa. “It combines powerful highlights of off-road design & capability with an elegance reminiscent of a classic luxury sedan. The interior is a synthesis of modern, luxurious aesthetics, hallmark SUV practicality, and digital high-tech. It’s the best of all worlds.”
The GLS 580 4MATIC’s new electrified V8 petrol engine has a displacement of four litres and produces an output of 360 kW and 700 Nm of torque, with another 250 Nm of torque and 16 kW of additional output temporarily on tap via EQ Boost. Combined fuel consumption is around 10.1-9.8 l/100 km. The GLS 400 d 4MATIC produces 243 kW and 700 Nm of torque, with combined fuel consumption of 7.9-7.6 l/100 km.
In both variants, power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. The broad ratio spread of gears one to nine allows a clearly perceptible reduction in engine speed and is a decisive factor behind the high level of energy efficiency and ride comfort.
A new standard feature is the Carwash function, which moves the suspension to the highest position, folds in the exterior mirrors, closes the side windows and the sliding sunroof and switches the climate control to air-recirculation mode. It deactivates automatically when the driver drives out of the carwash and accelerates to a speed above 20 km/h.
Exterior design: powerful presence
The front section of the new GLS exudes presence and power, with a striking appearance emphasised with an upright radiator grille and distinctive headlamp design. The GLS cuts an imposing figure from the rear, too, with a powerful shoulder muscle extending from the rear doors to the tail lights, which enables the GLS to strike an imperious pose on the road.
The excellent aerodynamics help to reduce fuel consumption and limit wind noise. The new GLS achieves cd figures as low as 0.32 – a clear improvement compared with its predecessor (cd 0.35) and an impressively low figure in the large luxury SUV segment.
Interior design: luxuriously elegant and powerfully progressive
One of the benefits of 60 mm more wheelbase is interior spaciousness, especially in the second row. The three fully electrically adjustable seat rows offer all passengers a generous amount of space and seating comfort. The seats in the third row can be lowered into the floor to increase the boot space (up to 2400 litres), while the seats in the second row fold flat. The seats in the third row are fully fledged seats that are suitable for people up to 1.94 m tall.
The interior combines the comfort of a Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan with the robustly progressive detailing of an SUV. The central element in the dashboard’s design is an impressively sized screen unit embedded in a distinctive dashboard support. The wide raised centre console creates a robust contrast with the free-floating appearance of the dashboard. The centre console also offers a wireless-charging compartment for smartphones (Standard in the GLS 580) and standard additional USB ports. Rear passengers are indulged further with the optional Rear Comfort Package plus which includes luxury head restraints with additional cushions and the rearward-extended centre console between the front seats with cup holders.
The Rear Comfort package Plus also includes removable 7-inch Android tablet in its own docking station in the second row’s larger luxury centre armrest, coupled with wireless charging in the rear. The tablet allows touch control of all the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) comfort and entertainment functions from the rear seat rows, such as access to radio, media, phone and web browser. It can also be used to control the Rear Seat Comfort package and the five-zone automatic climate control for the rear seats. The driver can assume control of all options and features from his or her seat at any time.
The optional MBUX Interior Assistant also allows intuitive operation of different comfort and MBUX functions by movement recognition. When a hand approaches the touchscreen or the touchpad on the centre console, the media display changes and individual elements are highlighted. In addition, there are functions that can be controlled by simple hand gestures: the reading lamp can be switched on and off by extending a hand towards the interior mirror, for example.
Driving assistance systems: even better support
The new GLS is equipped with the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems. Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adaptation allows the new GLS to recognise and respond to tailbacks or slow-moving traffic before the driver becomes aware of the hazard. When a traffic jam is detected on the highway (and if the driver does not choose a different response), DISTRONIC reduces the speed to around 100 km/h as a precaution. Once the tailback clears, the GLS accelerates back up to the preset speed.
Trailer Manoeuvring Assist is available as an option for drivers not familiar with towing trailers, or more experienced drivers towing longer trailers.
Suspension: AIRMATIC air suspension as standard
The GLS comes with the enhanced AIRMATIC air suspension system with Adaptive Damping System Plus fitted as standard. This setup adapts the damping characteristics to the road condition and driving situation in real time. All components have been enhanced compared with the previous generation, and the wheel suspension mountings have been optimised to maximise ride comfort. In addition to this, the air suspension keeps the car at the same level, regardless of the load on board.
The off-road functions include recovery mode when coupled with the optional Off Road Engineering package: if the GLS has become bogged down in a sand dune, for example, the suspension level is automatically raised and lowered several times, which changes the ground pressure of the tyres and therefore improves traction – the GLS rocks itself free. Individual wheel actuation allows the level at each wheel to be individually adjusted via the touchscreen of the media display, thus improving the vehicle’s alignment on rough terrain when one wheel is stuck in a ditch or a wheel spring is fully contracted, for instance. This also helps to increase traction and the torque at the wheel.