2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec – Review and Road Test

By Dan Collins on 15 October 2012
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Mercedes introduced the GL-Class (GL is short for light Geländewagen, German for off-roader) in 2007, larger and wider than the M-Class and with true seating for seven, and tamer than the military-spec G-Class, first as the V8 powered GL450, then later adding a higher-performance V8 and the time-tested 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel. In the last five years, the GL has gained a few new competitors including the Audi Q7 and the Infiniti QX56, in addition to the large, American truck-based SUVs that created the segment decades ago.  Mercedes hopes that the increases in power, features and size will keep the GL at the top of its class, and then some.

The second-generation, X166 GL-Class was introduced earlier this year at the New York International Auto Show, and was launched in September with a choice of two gasoline V8s. The GL350 BlueTec, just making its way to dealerships now, comes with the upgraded, 240-horsepower V6 turbo diesel that is already in the ML350 BlueTec SUV and the S350 BlueTec sedan.  The absurdly powerful GL63 AMG will follow in 2013. I managed to get my hands on a Diamond White GL350 BlueTec a little bit early, and have some things to say about it.

MERCEDES-BENZ GL350 BLUETEC: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec is larger and wider than its predecessor, but it actually looked downright small next to the Cadillac Escalade that I had had the week before, which was, in fact quite a bit smaller than the Mercedes., The perceived difference in size is likely due to a combination of the adjustable AIRMATIC air suspension, the concept of aerodynamic design, and the low, EU pedestrian safety regulation compliant hood with the massive three-pointed star in the middle. Moving down the side, the 19” wheels looked like rollerblade wheels next to the absurd 22 inchers on the Cadillac, and in the back, you see an attractive rear fascia with taillights that I thought looked more like a BMW than recent Benzes, thanks to the tube-LED illumination and modified L-shape.

When I first got into the GL350, I was taken aback at how sporty it felt. The interior is spacious but intimate and not cavernous. Black alcantara gives way to a panorama moonroof that stretches all three rows of seats, and that is hidden under a semi-translucent sunshade at the touch of a button.  The driving position is authoritative but not like being on a lifeguard tower. After strapping myself into the Designo Auburn Brown leather seat and pressing the start button, the seatbelt gave me a squeeze, and I was off, sort of. I stopped in the parking lot to program the navi, which proved to be frustrating, and then paired my iPhone 5 to the car’s Bluetooth system, not only to use the telephone, but also for music, since the adaptor that would enable my iPhone 5’s proprietary Lightning adaptor to work with Mercedes’ proprietary Media Interface had not yet been released, and as I later learned already has a significant back order.

Finally, I got onto I-285 in Atlanta, and decided I needed to stop at the closest Mercedes dealer, to see what the symbol on the dashboard display showing my car tailgating an E-Class with an exclamation point meant; I figured that I had already broken the car as it shocked me on the onramp by making me smile like my 3 Series does. The navigation controls were mostly disabled while I was in motion, and so I asked Siri, who told me that there were 12 Mercedes dealerships near me, and that the closest one was Citgo, and it’s a half mile away. That notwithstanding, I pulled into RBM Mercedes of Atlanta 30 minutes later, where I got a quick go-around of the car, which was as new to them as it was to me. Cool.

The GL350 BlueTec is a formidable vehicle. Not only could it hold quite a bit more stuff than the smaller sports cars I prefer, but it made me smile as they do, while the seat at the same time was both massaging and cooling me as I headed further northeast towards Greenville, South Carolina. Since one of my biggest crises of the week was how it would look pulling up in a $99,840 car to buy a lottery ticket (with which to buy the same car, perhaps in Steel Gray with the AMG styling package), and I needed to whine about the seat massage being difficult to turn on, the “good, bad and ugly” system might not be the best to describe this car. The GL was very good, and Mercedes deserves a lot of credit for what it has accomplished with it, but there are still a few things that need to be ironed out, especially since it may be seeing more competition in the near future.

Click here to continue to Page 2Safety and Comfort, Infotainment and Tech, Driving the GL350 BlueTec 

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