2012 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec Review and Test Drive

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DRIVING THE MERCEDES-BENZ GL350 BLUETEC

In my week with the GL350 BlueTec, I was able to drive it under a variety of conditions including winding roads, suburban streets, and midtown traffic.  The cavernous rear proved useful several times (with all seats folded down) and, while it took a bit of time to get to cruising speed, it was quite content when making its way down the highway at 70 mph (113 km/h).

My fuel economy exceeded the car’s EPA rating, both for city and highway driving.  Overall, after one week, I saw 23.1 mpg (10.2 l/100 km) after mixed city and highway driving.

Steering was responsive although I found very little feedback from the system.  Braking was excellent as were stopping distances.

Having just driven the R350 BlueTec the prior week, I was a bit concerned about ride comfort given how harsh the suspension felt over rough payment but I needn’t have worried.  All GL-Class vehicles come with four-wheel independent suspension and Airmatic, Mercedes’ height-adjustable suspension and I found it was smooth sailing with the GL350.

MERCEDES-BENZ GL350: THE ENGINE

The GL350 BlueTec shares Mercedes’ time-tested BlueTec 3.0-liter diesel engine with the R-Class and E-Class diesels sold in the U.S.  The new ML-Class has a more powerful version of this engine and we’ll probably see that in next year’s GL-Class as well.

The turbocharged V-6 produces 210 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque. By contrast, the petrol variant, a 4.6-liter V-8, produces 335 hp and 339 pound-feet of torque. The difference is in the fuel economy.

The oilburner is rated at 17 mpg (13.8 l/100 km) in the city and 21 mpg (11.2 l/100 km) on the highway, while the gasoline variant comes in at 13 mpg (18.1 l/100 km) and 18 mpg (13.1 l/100 km) respectively.  By contrast, the R350 BlueTec, a six-passenger crossover, got an EPA rating of 18 mpg (13 l/100 km) in city driving and 24 mpg (9.8 l/100 km) on the highway.

Both GLs come with Mercedes-Benz’ 4Matic four-wheel drive system and a seven-speed automatic transmission.  Steering-wheel paddles and the column-mounted shifter that is Mercedes standard fare are present here as well.

Rated at 0-60 mph (0-96 km) in 9.4 seconds, the GL350 BlueTec, weighing in at 5,512 pounds,  is the slowest vehicle sold by Mercedes-Benz in the U.S.  (It’s not the slowest diesel sold in the U.S., however; that honor goes to the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen at 9.5 seconds.)  In addition, its only competitor in the seven-passenger diesel segment, the Audi Q7, which weighs 5,192 pounds, goes from 0-60 in 8.3.

By contrast, the S350 BlueTec, which weighs in at 4784 pounds (2,170 kg), goes from 0-60 in 7 seconds, the R350 BlueTec (5203 pounds, 2,360 kg) does it in 8.6, the E-Class diesel does it in 6.7 (weighing 4,059 pounds or 1,841 kg), and the ML350 BlueTec is 7.3.  In the interest of fairness, only the E-Class and R-Class have the older and slower version of the V-6 diesel engine.

But 0-60 aside, once you are on the Autobahn, it won’t really matter.  The torque is more than sufficient for towing and overtaking and you’ll smile when you pass a filling station on the highway, knowing, unlike drivers of petrol-powered SUVs, you won’t have to stop.

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