Meet GLS – the S class equivalent of 4-wheel drive SUVs when you need to go off the road and at the same time, would like to enjoy the very best of luxury that can be offered only by Mercedes. The largest SUV from Mercedes stable, the GLS can seat 7 able bodied adults in absolute comfort and can glide over broken rocks and streams on the way to your farmhouse, or on the trail to that elusive camping ground. Or, if you decide so, can haul in excess of 2600-liter of cargo if you tumble down the seats.
GLS-Class, or the facelifted GL-Class, was born when Mercedes decided to change the name of its current GL range of SUVs to GLS along with the mild facelift, so that the naming now aligns with the rest of the family. The current nomenclature makes it easier for the layman to identify each SUV model and the role it plays in the family portfolio by tightly aligning the SUVs against their sedan counterparts. So, the GLA is the SUV counterpart of A-class, GLC (old GLK) is the alter ego of C-class, GLE (renamed ML-Class) is the partner of E-class and GLS (erstwhile GL-Class) is the brawny sibling of the suave S-class.
Since this is a midlife facelift, the changes are not really apparent in a casual glance and subtle in nature. The front end is slightly redesigned and gets a new headlight cluster and a new grill with twin slats, dominated by the big three pointed star. The hood too has seen mild rework and spots power bulges. The changes at the rear are limited to the new LED tail lights and restyled bumper.
The designers have added few CHROME accents to make the boxy structure more elegant, and there is a new alloy wheel design to complete the new looks. A sports package with re-designed bumpers featuring three mesh air dams, side skirts, spoiler and 21-inch alloy wheels are also available, though is not standard across the range.
These changes are much more pronounced inside the cabin – the 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, the redesigned instrument cluster, the configurable HIGH DEFINITION TFT screen et al – the change list is huge. The SUV gains the huge HD 8-inch touchpad enabled COMAND module that can be used by both, the driver and the front passengers, to navigate through the infotainment system. The redesigned interior is more cohesive and brings the interior more in-line with the current family look, though the flowing look of the new S class is still lacking. The interior is dominated by acres of top class leather and wood, as expected, and you can CUSTOMIZE the leather options. The front seats are ventilated and come with massage function and the middle and the third come with power assist fold function that makes it easier to fold and stow the seats away to make way for your precious cargo.
The engine lineup includes three non-AMG spec models and a top of the line Mercedes AMG GLS63 model. There are two gasoline engine options among the non AMG models – the twin turbo 3.0-liter V6 churning out a maximum of 362hp and 369 lb-ft of power and torque, respectively, and the big brother, the 4.7-liter bi-turbo V8 with 449hp of power and 516lb-ft of torque at peak. The range also has an oil burner, the ever dependable 3.0 liter V6 turbo diesel, rated to a maximum of 255hp and 455lb-ft of torque. The boffins at AMG have placed the massive twin turbo 5.5-liter V8 unit, developing a maximum power of 577hp and 561lb-ft torque, to equip this massive SUV with equally massive power, under the hood.
The changes in the facelift are not limited to the interiors or the powertrain – even the mechanicals have been refreshed and seen more changes than the exteriors or the interiors. The non AMG models are now mated with a new 9-speed automatic with a ratio of 9.17:1. According to the equipment level and options ticked, the SUV comes either with 5 or 6 different driving modes and unless you engage the sports mode, the SUV will start from second gear to ensure a smooth, vibration free start up experience. The new gearbox has been in development for five years and has been optimized for performance and efficiency that uses two pumps (one always on mechanical and one on demand electronic pump) that generate the required HYDRAULIC PRESSURE for smooth operation, and aids quick re-ignition during the engine start-stop operation. The AMG model, GLS63, will continue to come with the tried and tested 7-speed automatic unit.
Another area that has gone under the knife and has been upgraded is the ADJUSTABLE modes for GLS's chassis. The non AMG models come with Comfort, Sport, Individual and Off Road modes and can opt for the Off-Road engineering package that improves the ground clearance by around 3 inches, comes with a low range transfer case and locking central differential, and adds an Off-Road+ mode to the driving modes. In addition to this, the AMG model will have a Sport+ setting to harness all that massive power churned out. And oh, all the models come fitted with the 4MATIC four-wheel drive system.
As expected from Mercedes, the GLS comes kitted with an impressive array of safety and assist features. They include multiple airbags, blind spot monitoring, active lane keep assist, attention assist, PRE-Safe, pedestrian detect with automatic braking assist, crosswind assist, collision prevention assist plus, Distronic plus – the list is nearly endless. Also, the car can be kitted with adaptive damping on top of the AIRMATIC suspension and an adaptive windscreen wiper system, for those cold wintery days. The car also gets remote start, powered tailgate, and driver's seat with multiple memory settings, in addition to the huge list of standard features.
This behemoth of the SUV can only be surpassed by a Maybach level SUV and though there are faint indicators from Mercedes that the company may actually bring one – to compete with the Bentley Bentayga and the upcoming Rolls-Royce SUV, there is no indication of the timeline for the launch. If and when it happens, we may not see a SUV bigger than GLS, but will see an SUV that is dimensionally similar, but with a lot more kit and caboodle to pamper the occupants.
Mercedes has recently imported the GLS350D 4MATIC model to India for homologation purpose, indicating that the launch is indeed near – we can be assured that this is one of the promised launches for the year 2016.