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2019 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class Review

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class wears its old-school heart on its sleeve, proudly.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class once wore the GL badge. The name’s changed, but the big, boxy-but-beautiful family hauler hasn’t changed much at all.


It carries over for the 2019 model year, while a new edition waits for a public reveal.

The 2019 Benz GLS is a capable all-weather performer and has enough real utility to make it a solid choice for families or people needing plenty of cargo space. We rate it 6.6 out of 10 overall. 

Did we already say boxy? The point can’t be overstated. The GLS embraces the old-school SUV look gracefully, and pairs it with a lush interior with swaths of optional leather, wood, and metal.

The GLS450 is powered by a 362-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 and a 9-speed automatic. A little warmer is the GLS550 with a 449-hp V-8, paired to the same 9-speed auto. Smoking hot is the AMG GLS63 with a 577-hp twin-turbo V-8 and a 7-speed automatic. All versions come standard with all-wheel drive.

All models feel and handle much more confidently than their size indicates with air suspension that damps out all but the worst roads. As a result, the driving sensation isn’t far off from that of a much smaller car, with the difference being much more passenger space. All three rows are spacious enough, and feature plenty of options to spoil passengers like heating and cooling, or multi-way adjustments.

The 2019 GLS hasn’t been safety-tested yet (2018’s model hasn’t yet, either), but can be upgraded with blind-spot monitors, surround-view cameras, and active lane assist.

The list of available options, both packaged and stand-alone, is long. Buyers can opt into navigation, leather, upgraded audio, off-road packages, and more. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are optional on the base GLS450, standard on other models, and they’re recommended, since they help ease the COMAND infotainment system’s woes.

Styling
Old-school, no-nonsense looks suit the 2019 Benz GLS well.

The 2019 Mercedes GLS-Class is a delightfully retrograde piece in some ways. It’s big, boxy, and looks completely foreign among the curvy sleds that occupy the rest of Mercedes’ lineup. It’s a vibe we appreciate: we rate it 7 out of 10 for styling. 

The GLS has seen a facelift and some updates over time, but in many ways it’s the same vehicle we’ve seen for five years or more. Following a facelift in 2017, the GLS sports a wide grille, a large Mercedes-Benz logo, LED lighting and thick horizontal bars up front.

GLS 550 models get 21-inch wheels and flared wheel wells, and the GLS 63 AMG carries its own distinctive styling. Vehicles with sport trim are equipped with running boards, 21-inch wheels, and special air dams front and rear.

Inside, the cabin wears its luxury-SUV threads like finely tailored goods. A display is mounted on the dash, with the Mercedes-made COMAND infotainment system. Metal surrounds features like air vents and the display screen. Upholstery and interior features can be customized with carbon fiber, wood veneer, and can be swathed in a variety of stitching patterns.

Performance

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLS manages its size with grace and even feels nimble in some circumstances.

It’s easy to lose sight of the Benz GLS in the sea of large SUVs that are on sale today, but Mercedes has not ignored its performance. With AMG on board, the GLS is not slow, not lumbering, and not at all boring. We rate the 2019 GLS a 7 out of 10 for performance, with extra points for its strong powertrains, and capable off-road ability.

Three powertrains are on tap for the GLS this year. The GLS450 is powered by a twin-turbo V-6 with 362 horsepower. Turbo lag is readily apparent, and the 9-speed transmission shifts a bit more frequently than we’d like, making the powertrain feel overworked and busy at times.

A 4.7-liter V-8 with 449 hp resides in the GLS550. It pairs that power with a 9-speed automatic. It’s strong across the rev range, with a delightful V-8 bark.
The range-topping GLS 63 AMG gets a 5.5-liter V-8 with 577 hp with a stronger 7-speed auto to handle the extra power. That bark? It’s a bite here.

All-wheel drive is standard across the GLS line. Drive modes help with specific conditions, programming the suspension and drivetrain to match the needs of each situation. Off-Road+ raises the air springs to allow more ground clearance and Sport mode tightens up the GLS’ shifts and changes steering weights. Other modes like Slippery and Comfort change traction control and suspension settings to deal with those conditions.

The GLS does a good job at disguising its hefty proportions, though its steering can feel distant at times. The ride is smooth and under control with air suspension in most conditions. The Active Curve system works against body lean by applying counterforce  that keeps the vehicle more level, but that takes away natural vehicle feedback as a result. In all, the GLS does a remarkable job at driving like a smaller SUV. Keep in mind, we’ve found the standard 19-inch wheel and tire combination to be the most comfortable, which avoids the smaller (and less-padded) tire sidewalls of larger wheels.

Comfort & Quality

The GLS can shuttle seven adults without issue and is out-spaced by only the largest SUVs on the market.

The 2019 GLS offers flexible, spacious seating arrangements and extravagant finishes all around. There aren’t too many ways to improve on this formula, short of knocking a zero off the price tag. With that in mind, we rate the 2019 GLS a perfect 10 on our quality scale.
The front seats spoil passengers with heating and multiple adjustment options. Available cooling and massage features up the luxury quotient for the front passengers.

Second row access is aided by generous door-openings and seats can be optioned-up with heating and power controls. Two adults can ride in comfort, but three can fit fairly easily. The third row is more than usable, thanks to both the easy entry points in the GLS and the simple seat operation that allows the second row to slide or fold out of the way.

Cargo space in the GLS is humble, but functional at 16 cubic feet with all three rows folded up. With only two rows up, the GLS offers 93.8 cubic feet, which puts the GLS’ cargo space in the same league as all but the biggest SUVs.

Safety
No crash data doesn’t mean the GLS doesn’t sport the latest safety features.

The 2019 GLS hasn’t been crash-tested yet, so we’ll reserve our scores until it is. We’re still waiting on 2018’s model to be scored, so we aren’t holding our breath.

The GLS comes standard with a rearview camera, forward-collision warnings, and automatic emergency braking. The SUV also comes with a driver attention monitor that alerts the human inside that it’s a good idea to get caffeine or take a break from driving when it senses the pilot nodding off.

Optional safety equipment includes blind-spot monitors, active lane control, traffic-sign based speed warnings, adaptive cruise, and LED lighting.

Features
The Mercedes GLS-Class spoils buyers with features and choice, but the infotainment system is due for replacement.

The GLS-Class plays in the same arena as offerings from Land Rover and BMW, so Mercedes offers a number of customization and upgrade options to keep things interesting for the big SUV. That flexibility helps the GLS achieve an 6 out of 10 on our features scale, but a baffling infotainment unit and average warranty coverage hold it back from true greatness.

The 2019 GLS brings a new super-luxe Grand Edition to the GLS 450 and 550 that features exclusive badging, Porcelain and Espresso Brown interior themes with design nappa leather upholstery, and 20-inch 10-spoke wheels.

The standard GLS offering includes power features, a synthetic leather interior (more popular than it sounds), the COMAND infotainment system with an 8.4-inch display, a power driver seat, automatic climate control, remote start, and cruise control. The base GLS can be upgraded with a la carte options like surround-view cameras, cooled front seats, power second-row seats, panoramic sunroof, Bang & Olufsen audio, and a trailer hitch.

Mercedes offers a variety of packages that group popular options together, like an Off-Road group with locking center differential and a reduction gear. Others bring navigation, ambient lighting, blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control, and keyless ignition.

The COMAND system is due for an overhaul across the Mercedes lineup, especially in vehicles with price tags the size of the one on the GLS-Class. The interface is aging, unintuitive, and difficult to control without a touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are much better choices than the COMAND-equivalent features, but even then the knob/dial controller is a major hindrance and there are extra steps involved to connect a smartphone that other brands’ vehicles don’t require. CarPlay and Android aren’t standard on the base model, either.

Fuel Economy
Don't stray too far from a gas station in the GLS.

People buying large SUVs tend to understand the trade-off they’re making between size and efficiency, but the GLS may shock even those buyers. The GLS-Class no longer comes in diesel form, and we don’t expect to see a hybrid any time soon.

We rate it 5 out of ten for its middling fuel economy numbers, which we’ve carried over from 2018 until the EPA publishes its final figures. 

The base GLS450 comes with a twin-turbo V-6 and a 9-speed automatic that is good for 17 mpg city, 22 highway, and 19 combined. The GLS550’s V-8 is rated at a hungry 14/19/16 mpg.

Step all the way up to the AMG GLS63, and you should probably buy stock in your favorite oil or gas company: it’s only going to achieve 13/18/15 mpg.

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