Published on January 9th, 2022 | by Subhash Nair0
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATIC Review: My Benz Is Biggest
The Mercedes-Benz GLS is the company’s flagship SUV and it takes size seriously.
Premium brands are often defined, or at least, best represented by their flagship products. For Mercedes-Benz, the flagship has traditionally been the S-Class. While that is still true to this day, the S-Class has had to share the spotlight with other Benz models as the brand evolves to cater to new customers. For high-performance, it’s the Mercedes-AMG GT that’s at the helm. For breakthrough electrification tech, it’s the Mercedes-EQS that sits on top of the throne. And for the growing luxury SUV segment, the Mercedes-Benz GLS is doubtless the company’s crown jewel.
The GLS is actually a rather new product in the Benz stable for a company whose history goes as far back as the automobile itself. Only 3 generations old, it serves as an upmarket and upsized brother to the GLE, which has been around since the 1990s as the ML-Class. It also presents itself as a more high-tech and forward-looking SUV flagship alternative to the Mercedes G Wagon, which has been around since the late 1970s.
In Malaysia, this third generation GLS comes in as the GLS 450 4MATIC model, fully-imported from the USA. This model comes with the now familiar inline-6 3.0L twin turbocharged petrol motor with a 48V mild hybrid element sending power to all four wheels via a 9-speed automatic gearbox. This powertrain packs plenty of torque and power, and owners will have no issue overtaking at extremely high speeds even with the vehicle fully laden with passengers and cargo. This is partially thanks to the powertrain’s EQ Boost function, which has the electric motor step in to provide short bursts of power when the right foot demands it.
It’s also extremely efficient with its use of petrol. I covered close to 700km of highway driving at least 50km of in city driving before needing to refuel. The only running cost concern for this motor would be the road tax. However, in this price segment, buyers can certainly overlook such a trivial annual fee.
Being a flagship-grade product from Benz, comfort is second to none. The GLS is a heavy vehicle at over 2.4 tonnes. However, this weight is barely felt thanks to the electrified powertrain and Airmatic air suspension with Adaptive Damping System Plus. The GLS ends up feeling light-footed without rolling around at all when driven hard. It’s really amazing, especially when you consider the fact that this vehicle can do some serious off-roading when necessary too.
Passenger comfort is also taken care of. You can comfortably seat 5 full-grown adults and 2 additional children or smaller adults in the third row. Compared to the previous GLS, this one has 6 cm of additional wheelbase to offer, which accounts for increased legroom for all occupants. The third row of seats presents sufficient space and amenities, but they’re not great places to be. There are a couple of USB-C charging ports for occupants here and electronic controls to move the middle row seats away to disembark. In fact, every seat in the GLS features power adjustability, which is fitting for a high-spec, flagship Benz.
We took the GLS down to Johor Bahru for a weekend trip. Throughout the drive, torrential rain poured down. Despite the harsh conditions, the GLS’s size, tech and tuning lent a rare sense of confidence on the highway. We folded the rearmost seats down and found the available storage space was immense, larger than almost any vehicle we’ve encountered in the past at 2400L.
In terms of design, the GLS is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s undeniably gorgeous. Its proportions are perfect and Gorden Wagener’s confident blend of curves and straight lines gives this behemoth a distinctly Benz look.
We also have to praise the interior for being draped in a lovely mix of artificial and natural leathers, suedes for upholstery and wood and metal for trim pieces. You also get treated to dual 12.3″ displays, one for the driver’s instruments and another for MBUX infotainment.
Passengers in the middle row get another two 11.6″ displays capable of playing movies, music or carrying out some web browsing. Two wireless headsets are included with the GLS for these displays. Otherwise, the excellent Burmester sound system caters to all.
That being said, there are some aspects of this design that are starting to show their age. This design language was debuted some 6-7 years ago by Mercedes-Benz and as gorgeous as it is, the world has kind of moved on.
Yet the most they did for the all-new GLS and GLE was to include fake vents on the interior to flank the display and to throw in some Porsche-like grab handles. Most of the rest of this design… is just too familiar at this point.
At the very least, we would have like to have seen some distinction between the GLE and GLS interiors. They’re far too similar. Another layer to contend with is the existence of the Maybach GLS. The GLS’s exterior comes alive in that version, here it looks far too much like the rest of the Benz SUVs to really pop. Even the AMG Line exterior with its sporty appointments don’t quite give the GLS even to stand out over the current GLE.
What the GLS has that the GLE (sort of) lacks is size. The GLS is HUGE and this is part of its look and appeal. It has that ‘king of the road’ feel and its presence is felt whether in motion or when parked.
At just under RM900,000, the Mercedes-Benz GLS is an expensive vehicle, but it is not priced outside expectations. Its chief rival, the BMW X7 is locally-assembled and costs less but doesn’t quite have the appeal of the GLS, given the brand’s propensity for immature design elements, poor use of materials and a sporty image.
The new S-Class has a waiting list that stretches around the block. And even if it does end up costing about RM700,000, your still won’t have the kind of flexibility that the GLS can offer. 7-seats, loads of flexibility for cargo loading, an off-road capable 4MATIC system, a car that looks rugged instead of neglected when dirty – these are all Mercedes SUV perks absent on their sedan models.
*Conversation with my grandmother*
“Guess how much is this car”
“How much? RM300,000?”
“A MILLION RINGGIT”
“No lah, don’t be ridiculous”
“Then how much?”
*Gets slapped by grandmother*
Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATIC Specifications
Engine: Inline-6, 32-valve, DOHC, Twin-Turbo, 48V Electric Motor
Gearbox: 9G Tronic Automatic
Max power: 362 hp @ 5,500rpm – 6,100rpm (+21hp electric)
Max torque: 500Nm @ 1,600rpm – 4,500rpm (+250Nm electric)
Top Speed: 246km/h
0-100km/h: 6.2 seconds