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Review: Mercedes GL 350 CDI
Driven June 2013
The old Mercedes-Benz GL came to India at the very end of its life cycle. So if you are wondering why the replacement came so soon? Well… let’s just say it was long overdue in the international market and with our love for big SUVs, Mercedes didn’t waste anytime in getting the GL to India.
This then, is the all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL, the biggest SUV from the Mercedes stable. And it may just be the largest vehicle you can drive in India without a Heavy Motor Vehicle license.
It’s big and imposing, but it’s good looking too – or at least as good looking as a locomotive-sized SUV can be. The older GL’s boxy shape has been retained, but don’t mistake this for a facelift. This second-gen GL is a few centimetres larger and more refined than the GL it replaces.
The muscular look and proportions have been maintained but Merc has now added some flair to the overall styling. It has an even bigger grille than it did before, but taking the Hulk effect down a few notches are the stylish looking headlights. Lending a sense of agility to those heavy proportions are the optional AMG-trim bumpers.
On the sides, the flared wheel arches and 21-inch AMG alloys are the first thing to catch your attention. The horizontally placed two-piece tail-lights seem to be the most dramatic of all the changes, rounded off with a pair of brushed aluminium rear bumper lips.
Climbing inside the cabin, you’re greeted by an interior similar to the ML’s (the GL shares a platform with the smaller Merc), draped in high-quality leather and old finished wood. The cabin feels more like a big comfy ranch house.
The seats are wide and comfortable; there are super-size cup holders for your big milkshakes or coffee. What makes these cup holders so cool – or hot – is that, they can maintain the temperature of the beverage with a flick of a switch.
On the instrument cluster, the speedo and rpm meter look like two periscopes, cool looking in a retro way, and in between is a 4.8-inch multi information display. The centre of the dashboard is dominated by an infotainment colour screen operated by the COMAND system. The screen gives you a 360-degree outside view of the entire SUV when you’re trying to squeeze it into tight spaces.
The second row seats are comfortable for three passengers. Unfortunately, while there’s enough head and shoulder room in the third row, the GL’s legroom is fairly tight for adults, you’d notice that especially on longer drives. This lack of leg space in the third row can be attributed to the unchanged wheelbase, which is exactly the same as in the older GL’s.
The 3.0-litre V6 diesel – with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission – is the only engine available on the GL in India. This engine pumps 258bhp and 620Nm of torque.
But the spec sheet will only give you part of the story. How is the GL to drive in the real world? As you would expect from an SUV weighing over two tonnes, you feel invincible driving this thing. The engine, along with that seven-speed auto transmission, feels more than adequate for lugging all that weight. It touches triple-digit speeds easily and maxes out at 217kph.
And it’s just not highway performance we’re talking about here. Even in the city, the GL feels light on its feet as it briskly moves off from a red light. There are steering-mounted paddle shifts to choose the gear you wish to be in. Or you can simply downshift to listen to a growl from the usually quiet V6.
Though the steering doesn’t feel as lively as you would want it to be. You can pretty much operate it with one hand while driving down the road, or parking. It feels well weighed at higher speeds, not so much when speeds are down.
But on broken road, you get a lot of wiggle creeping in. Having said that, stopping this big boy is never a problem as the brakes work well with those grippy tyres. Wish the pedal had a bit more feel since the travel is long.
With the new GL, Mercedes has stuck to the winning formula while adding useful features like the 360-degree camera, making this SUV a much easier driving machine. The GL feels refined over the previous-generation car, but that refinement has watered down the driving experience a bit as well.
V6, 2987cc diesel, 258bhp, 619Nm, 7A, 4WD, 2175kg, 217kph (as tested), 0-100: 7.9sec (claimed), 6.2kpl
If you love the old GL, you’ll love this one even more. It’s got loads of tech that the older GL didn’t. And that lighter steering makes it easy to manoeuvre in the city.