Mercedes GLS (2013-2019) review
The Mercedes GLS is a huge off-roader with space for seven and an enormous boot. It’s very comfortable but feels a bit dated inside compared to more modern alternatives
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Mercedes GLS (2013-2019): what would you like to read next?
If you want a large, luxurious SUV with seven seats and a big boot the Mercedes GLS is well worth considering. It’s quite expensive and its interior doesn’t feel as modern as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 but it’s easy to drive and very comfortable.
The current GLS first went on sale in 2013 but was originally called the GL. The GLS name first appeared in 2015 when the car was given new bumpers, a revised infotainment system and modified air suspension.
Unfortunately, it’s interior didn’t receive any particularly modern upgrades. The centre console is plastered with old-fashioned buttons and the eight-inch infotainment screen isn’t a patch on the Q7’s slick digital driver’s display but you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
So it might not be particularly high tech, but at least the Mercedes’ cabin is fabulously roomy. There’s acres of head and leg room up front, plenty of space in the middle row for tall adults to stretch out and you even get a third row of reasonably spacious seats in the back.
Even with all three rows of seats in place there’s enough room in the GLS’ 295-litre boot for a baby buggy. Flip the rearmost seats down and you can squeeze in 680 litres of luggage or fold all but the front seats away and you’ll open up a van-like 2,300-litre load bay.
The GLS is so vast you could almost park a fighter jet on its bonnet – perhaps it should be called the HMS instead…
Unless you want sports-car performance from your huge SUV, there’s only one engine worth considering – the quiet 3.0-litre V6 diesel. The 5.5-litre petrol V8 in GLS 63 models is thirstier and much more expensive but helps the GLS accelerate from 0-62mph in less than five seconds – that’s sports-car pace from a mammoth, 3.2-tonne SUV.
Whichever model you pick, you’ll get a smooth automatic gearbox and light controls that make the GLS surprisingly easy to drive. There’s even a 360-degree camera to help make squeezing into tight parking spaces relatively painless.
The GLS hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP but its automatic emergency braking feature should help make it one of the safest large SUVs on sale and well worth considering if you’re looking for a comfortable and hugely spacious seven-seater.
The Mercedes GLS is a big car, so it’s no surprise that it has loads of room for passengers – even in the rearmost seats – and a big boot, but it’s a shame that rear seats don’t sit flat when you fold them down
This is the perfect car for people who want easy versatility. Naturally, you can fold down the rear seats to expand the boot space, but in this car, you do that electrically
The GLS comes with plenty of adjustment for the front seat and steering wheel so you’ll have no problem getting comfy – even if you’re very tall. The driver’s seat even comes with a handy memory feature so you can quickly find your ideal driving position after someone’s fiddled with the settings.
You get lumbar support as standard to help reduce back ache on long journeys and high-spec Designo Line and AMG GLS 63 models come with massage seats with a ventilation function – perfect for keeping your backside cool on hot days.
Space in the second row is almost as generous as is the front. There’s enough leg and headroom for six-foot-tall passengers to stretch out and the seats even come with a heating function. You can’t slide the seats forwards or backwards but you can recline them slightly to make travelling in the back even more relaxing.
The central seat isn’t quite as wide or as soft as the outer two but there’s still more than enough shoulder room to carry three adults side-by-side and loads of space for your middle passenger’s feet.
The middle seats come with an electric folding feature which, combined with the huge rear door openings, makes it easy to jump in the rearmost seats. At the press of a button the headrests and seats flip down and the whole middle row slides forward. You’ll have to flip the middle seats back up manually once your passengers are safely seated in the back, however.
The rearmost seats aren’t quite as comfortable as those in the front two rows and you can’t get them with heating features but there’s significantly more space for two adults than you’ll find in the back of the Audi Q7. The GLS’ huge windows and standard panoramic glass roof make its back seats feel a touch more spacious than in the Audi, too.
The GLS’ cabin might be absolutely massive, but it doesn’t come with any particularly clever cubby holes to keep it looking tidy. Sure, the glovebox is big enough to hold a 1.5-litre bottle and the front door bins are similarly spacious but it’s easy to lose small items in the awkwardly angled storage tray under the dashboard and there’s no wireless charging pad for your phone.
On the plus side, you get a pair of temperature-controlled cupholders in the front – to keep your cappuccino hot and iced frappe chilled – and a folding rear armrest with a second set of cupholders. There’s even a pair of armrests and cupholders for the rearmost seats.
The GLS can carry 295 litres of luggage with all seven seats in place – that’s as much as a small family car can manage and exactly the same as the Audi Q7. It’s just big enough for a baby stroller and a few small soft bags but a set of golf clubs will be a tight squeeze.
Need to carry fewer passengers and more luggage? The third row flips down electrically in a two-way (50:50) split to reveal a flat load area with enough room for 680 litres of luggage. It’s not quite as spacious as the 770-litre Q7 or 909-litre Range Rover but it’s easily big enough for two sets of golf clubs or enough camping gear for a family week away.
If that’s still not enough, don’t worry. The middle row also flips down – electrically, of course – in a two-way split so you can carry some very long luggage and a passenger in the back at once.
With all its rear seats folded down the GLS’ boot capacity grows to a whopping 2,300 litres – that’s easily big enough to carry a few bikes with their wheels attached. There’s 270 litres more space than the Range Rover and a colossal 432 litres more than in the Volvo XC90.
Unfortunately, the middle seats don’t fold completely flat and the ramped floor can make it tricky to push heavy boxes right up behind the front seats. There isn’t any handy underfloor storage – thanks to the standard-fit space-saver spare wheel – but you do get some sturdy tether points and a few shopping hooks to stop your groceries rolling around.
The GLS’ sheer size might be a little daunting but its light controls make it surprisingly easy to drive around town – just don’t expect it to be cheap to run
It’s no S-Class but the GLS is impressively comfortable over rough roads and it can accelerate faster than most sports cars – well, in GLS 63 guise at least
The standard GLS comes with just one engine – a 3.0-litre diesel V6 that produces 258hp. Mercedes claims it’ll return 37.2mpg but, even with a light touch on the accelerator, you can expect to see a figure in the high twenties.
Unlike some diesel engines, it’s very smooth – even when you accelerate hard – and powerful enough to push the vast GLS from 0-62mph in a very respectable 7.8 seconds. The standard-fit nine-speed automatic gearbox is responsive and smooth – slushing gears together nicely when you’re cruising around town but it does occasionally pause before changing down, so you have to wait a second to get full acceleration.
All GLS models come with four-wheel drive as standard which helps make it an excellent tow car. It can pull trailers weighing up to 3,500kg, putting it on a level pegging with the Land Rover Discovery and an impressive 700kg ahead of the 3.0-litre diesel Audi Q7.
If you’re after sports-car performance in a seven-seater SUV package, the AMG-tuned GLS 63 is the only way to go. It’ll set you back more than £104,000 but its twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 produces a colossal 585hp – enough to sprint this 3.2-ton SUV from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds. To put that into perspective, that’s as fast as a Porsche 911 Carrera sports car.
The GLS’ sheer size might be a little intimidating at first but its light controls and excellent visibility mean it isn’t too difficult to drive on country roads. The pillars between the front doors and the windscreen can create some slightly awkward blind spots at junctions but the GLS’ huge side windows and wide rear windscreen give you excellent rear visibility.
It’s a little nerve-wracking to drive in town but all models come with parking sensors as standard to help you avoid low-speed scrapes. You even get a 360-degree camera system that displays a bird’s-eye view of the car and your surroundings on the infotainment screen. This is especially useful when you’re faced with some particularly tight width restrictors.
All models come with a clever air suspension system that separates you from the road with a cushion of pressurised air. It helps the GLS soften the blow of monster potholes around town impressively well. Pick the optional 22-inch alloy wheels and you’ll feel a few more thuds through your seat on bumpy roads but the GLS is still one of the most comfortable seven-seat SUVs on sale.
Its soft air suspension and light controls mean it doesn’t feel quite as at home on a twisty country road as the Audi Q7 but the Mercedes is a better bet if you do lots of motorway miles. You’ll barely hear any wind noise or tyre roar in the GLS and it comes with cruise control, lane keeping assist and blind spot warning as standard.
You also get Steer Control that’ll apply the brakes to keep the car stable if the tyres start to slip and automatic emergency braking that helps stop the car quickly if it detects an obstacle ahead. Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the GLS but these features – and its sheer size – help make it a very safe seven-seater SUV.
For even greater peace of mind, you’ll want to pick the Driving Assistance pack. It’ll set you back £1,695 but it comes with cross-traffic assist to help prevent you pulling out of perpendicular parking spaces into oncoming traffic and adaptive cruise control to maintain a safe distance to cars ahead before returning to a preset speed when the road’s clear.
The interior is let down by an old-fashioned design and a rather dated infotainment system, but everything you touch on a regular basis feels high-quality