2012 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec Review and Test Drive

By Jonathan Spira on 14 February 2012
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The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class made its debut at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in New York and was designed with the North American market in mind.  It is currently offered in three versions, the GL350 BlueTec, with a 3.0-liter V-6 turbo-charged diesel engine, the gasoline-powered GL450, with a 4.6-liter V-8, and the GL550, which comes with a 5.5-liter gasoline V-8.

The GL is manufactured alongside the M-Class and R-Class at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which opened in 1997 with the first-generation M-Class.

Compared to its somewhat boxy sibling, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class GL350 is downright sleek.  (It will probably get even sleeker when the second-generation completely redesigned GL-Class is introduced for 2013.  Based on spy photos, expect changes similar to the redesign of the M-Class, which was launched last year.)

As a seven-passenger diesel-powered SUV, it competes with one car, the Audi Q7 TDI.  It is one of the five Mercedes-Benz diesels available in the U.S. (the others are the Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec, the Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec, the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec, and the Mercedes-Benz R350 BlueTec), and is a nominee for the 2012 Diesel Car of the Year.

Similar to Mercedes’ other diesels, the GL350 uses the automaker’s BlueTec system, which has urea-based AdBlue to scrub nitrogen compound emissions.  Mercedes, of course, introduced the first production diesel passenger car in 1936, the 260 D LINK and, in 1997, introduced electronic fuel injection to diesel passenger car engines.  BlueTec technology has been available since 2006.


The GL’s design gives the impression of a somewhat smaller vehicle, despite its large dimensions.  Indeed, the third row of seats is somewhat unexpected when one opens the door and looks inside.

The front is nothing if not roomy and seat comfort was excellent.  The same goes for the second row although the middle position (it seats three) is a little tight.  The third row is suitable for two adults but this would be only for relatively short trips.

Standard features include heated power front seats, walnut trim, a glass sunroof plus a fixed glass panel over the third row of seats.  The third row seats, incidentally, can be folded down electrically, either separately or together.  When folded, the GL has a totally flat cargo floor with 43.8 cubic feet of space.  If one folds down the second row as well, there’s over 83 cubic feet of cargo room.

As with the R350 BlueTec, the GL lacks an armrest-mounted cockpit controller or pointing device for the Comand system.  While the car comes with the latest Comand software, the car’s equivalent of a mouse is the same one that was available in 2006 at the launch and was also found in the prior-generation M-Class.  Presumably, the redesigned 2013 model will have a more optimally-positioned controller.

The car’s (optional) harman/kardon Logic7 sound system was impressive and the (optional) rear entertainment package included two 8” displays that were mounted on the backs of the front seats.  These connect to wireless headsets and a DVD player, all controlled by a remote. There is no entertainment option for the third row but second-row passengers can watch different programs on each screen.   One area that needs improvement (and this, too, will probably happen in next year’s redesigned GL) is to integrate the displays into the interior so they don’t protrude as much.

Click here to continue to Page 2Driving the GL350 BlueTec, Safety Features, and the Engine

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