An All-Around Performer | 2013 Mercedes GL350

May 2013 View more


Thoroughly redesigned for 2013, the seven-seat Mercedes GL350 proves that luxury need not be a stranger to haul-anything utility. Built in Alabama, the all-wheel-drive GL350’s road manners favor comfort and its three-row interior turns it into the vehicle of choice when you need to go just about anywhere.

The GL350 is the diesel-powered member of Mercedes’ big-SUV family. It joins three gas-powered V8 models, the GL450, GL550, and hot-rod GL63. While the V6 engine’s 240-horsepower rating might seem insufficient for a 5,800-pound transporter, its 455 pound-feet of torque are where the action is. That’s 55 more than the 2012 model. The extra grunt will be useful for buyers who want to tow a boat or trailer, and a pleasant addition to everyday driving.

N2013_05_01_007ROADFor those who remember the noise, vibration, and harshness, not to mention the smell of older diesel engines, hear this: The GL350 is as smooth and quiet as the gas-powered GL models. Only the gas station attendants will know the difference and they won’t see you quite as often, thanks to the diesel engine’s superior fuel economy. Compared to the gas-powered engines, which top out at 14 city and 19 highway, the GL350 delivers an estimated 19/26. Its highway range, after topping off its gargantuan 26-gallon tank, is about 600 miles.

Mercedes’ optional Distronic radar-enhanced cruise control will keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, and will bring the SUV to a complete stop if necessary. This is not just for mindless interstate cruising, either. During a drive along a tree-lined two-lane road, with many car lengths’ of open space ahead and the Distronic set at the legal 50-mile-per-hour limit, a deer jumped across the road and into the side of the car in front of me. When that driver slammed on her brakes, the Mercedes instantly did the same—possibly averting a second collision that would surely have done more damage than the first. The deer, by the way, picked itself up and jumped back into the trees.

Open the door on a GL350 outfitted with one of Mercedes’ custom “design” interiors and you would be excused for thinking that you were stepping into an S-Class sedan or, perhaps, a club room. Among the possibilities are quilted leather seats, gleaming wood trim, and a suede headliner. Complete the package with natural lighting, compliments of the optional panorama glass roof, and you’ll have quite the rolling sunroom.
Do not shed a tear for those relegated to the rear seats, they also have it pretty good. Heated second-row seats are probably a better add-on than the integrated two-screen rear-seat entertainment package—although the docking stations that let your passengers mount their iPads on the front headrests are a thoroughly modern option. The third-row seats are easily accessible with the optional one-touch, power-folding second-row seats.

N2013_05_01_006ROADThe GL350’s parking assist system is, if not a must-have, a really smart addition. The SUV’s sight lines are good for a vehicle of its size, but the system’s visual and audible assistance is still safer. Plus, you can let the system identify a suitable space on the curb and parallel park for you.

A standard-edition GL350 BlueTEC 4MATIC rings in at $62,400, making it the lowest priced GL model. The GL450 starts at $63,900, while the GL550 takes a big leap to $86,900. As with virtually all luxury vehicles these days, the price is in the options. The GL350 that rolls out of your dealer’s garage might cost upward of $90,000 after you have spent some quality time with the order book.

Photos courtesy of ©2013 Mercedes-Benz USA