Pleasant exterior, divine interior. Not all SUVs can claim attractive looks inside and out, but the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class can. Mercedes took the usual two-box layout, rounded the edges, and found a useful balance between design and functionality.
You won’t find a garish grille as you do on some models (the BMW X7, for example) nor is the body overrun by nonsensical sculpting or wide flashes of chrome. The grille is sizable and it does push down into the front bumpers, but it's balanced and pleasant to behold. The rear fascia is sedate, featuring a clean and simple look.
Inside, the design is one of the best we’ve seen in any SUV. It offers an open, airy feel with high-end materials throughout. The standard power moonroof is a difference-maker here, as it brings in much natural light.
Three rows of luxury. The Mercedes GLS-Class seats seven across its three rows. The base model features synthetic leather, but the imitation feels as close to authentic as you’ll find anywhere. Various wood choices are on offer for customization, delivering a high-end, even decadent, look.
The front seats are comfortable, supportive, power-adjustable, and heated. Available cooling and massaging simply make these thrones the best you’ll find on the market.
The second-row bench seat is quite comfortable, but you can also swap it out for a pair of captain’s chairs that rival the front seats in comfort. The third-row seat holds a pair of adults in a pinch, but it's most useful for youngsters whose bodies don’t yet require a lot of leg room.
Lots of creature comforts. For the $76,945 starting price, you’d expect the GLS to deliver a boatload of amenities. It does.
The GLS 450 comes with a power moonroof, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone climate control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and a surround-view camera system.
A long list of optional features includes leather upholstery, the second-row captain’s chairs, ventilated front seats, and a head-up display. An enhanced suspension system improves handling and control.
In all, you get what you’d expect, while still having the opportunity to make whatever upgrades you like.
Robust power at the ready. Two powertrain choices grace the GLS-Class, but the base arrangement is more than sufficient. The GLS 450 comes with a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine with 369 horsepower.
Also present is a 48-volt battery system, which brings in an additional 21 hp. This system mitigates turbo lag and manages power-draining accessories.
The GLS 580 is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 483 hp. And that’s before the power enhancement of the 48-volt system kicks in. We think this engine is overkill and it's also not especially efficient.
An available E-Active Body Control upgrade does a stellar job cutting into corners. That said, we think it is unnecessary.
Final thoughts. Choose a Mercedes GLS 580 and your starting price near $100,000, or about $22,000 more than the Mercedes GLS 450. We can’t justify the added cost, which brings in the over-the-top powertrain. It doesn’t increase towing performance either, which remains steadfast at a competitive 7,700 pounds.
We expect AMG and Maybach versions will eventually follow, the latter bringing a level of decadence that’ll make a Range Rover seem naked in comparison.