Don’t let the 2016 rebranding fool you – the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class is a holdover from an older era. Boxy and unapologetic, it spoils you with leg room and burns fuel like it’s 2009. Luckily for us, Mercedes likes to stay abreast of technology, which means that the GLS is also a sophisticated and dynamic beast.

Best Value

The V8 powertrains are mighty indeed, but you’ll have to shell out at least an extra $25,000 if you want one. That means that value-wise, the base GLS 450 is the way to go. Don’t worry – you’re still getting a twin-turbocharged V6 with 362 horsepower, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel drive.

The interior of a stock GLS is relatively spartan, but a few options will spruce it up. Most of these are features we wish were standard: leather seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a package with basic tech compatibility. Still, there are some nice included touches, like heated front seats, power side mirrors, a sunroof, and a power liftgate.

  • Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450
  • Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6
  • Output: 362 hp / 369 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 17 City / 22 Hwy
  • Options: Leather seats ($1,620), Heated Steering Wheel ($250), Tri-zone Automatic Climate Control ($1,450), Premium 1 Package ($3,830, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power front passenger seat, ambient lighting, push-button start, illuminated front door sills, navigation, XM radio, CD/DVD player, voice control)
  • Base Price: $70,545 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $77,695

Performance

Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

The GLS-Class is a top performer by any metric. Above the base engine are a 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 for the GLS 550 and a fearsome 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 in the GLS 63 AMG, which also gets a beefier seven-speed transmission. The acceleration is impressive, but the GLS’s chassis may be the real star: Mercedes wizardry makes the GLS handle like a much smaller car. The standard air suspension irons out bumps, and the all-wheel-drive system is responsive and intelligent.

On the downside, using so many turbos means that lag is inevitable. The nine-speed transmission on the lower trims has to downshift through several ratios at times, which means that it can feel busy on highway ramps. While the suspension does a remarkable job controlling the car’s mass, the steering lacks real feel. Oh, and fuel economy is (by today’s standards) dismal – with the loss of the diesel option, none of the GLS models make it past the high teens in combined mileage.

Style

Though not quite as cubic as the flagship G-Class, the GLS still makes no bones about its SUV heritage. It’s refreshingly old school, and a big three-pointed star in a wide grille still speaks volumes. The interior is roomy, and the third row can seat real six-foot adults. Cargo space is plentiful, with more than 90 cubic feet available with the seats down. Seats are comfortable and supportive, and material finish is what you’d expect from Mercedes.

The biggest blemish on the interior is Mercedes’ outdated COMAND system. Occupying an 8.4-inch infotainment screen at the head of the cabin, the system is clunky and unintuitive. Inputs require a control knob to move around a non-touchscreen, and the smartphone connectivity apps require leaving the native system. Next to other brands’ smooth systems, it feels old.

The Best and Worst Things

A car this large has no right to be this drivable. We just need a new infotainment system. Oh, and we’d like a thriftier powertrain back.

Right For? Wrong For?

Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

The Mercedes GLS is its own breed of status symbol. Less brash American showmanship (looking at you, Cadillac Escalade) and more Germanic confidence. The GLS will look good when you pick up the kids from the country club, and it'll carry all their friends, too.

Buyers who don’t need a prestigious badge on their SUV may look elsewhere. Fresh designs like the Volvo XC90 and the Ford Expedition are strong choices at tens of thousands less than the Mercedes. For a luxury SUV with a diesel option (and true off-road credentials), the Range Rover Sport is another tempting competitor.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class brings drivability to traditional SUV brawn, and that’s a hard combination to pass up. In some ways, we wish the GLS were more modern, notably in its attitude toward connectivity and fuel economy. But any way you slice it, there aren’t many ways to travel in this much comfort and style.