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Rating 8 8

2010 Mercedes GL350 CDI

23rd Mar 2010 7:00 am

The badge says 350 but the engine actually displaces 2987cc and makes 224bhp and 52kgm of torque

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  • Make : Mercedes-Benz
  • Model : GL

The GL has all the visual appeal of a tarted-up MUV. The flat, square sides and its upright D-pillar are in sharp contrast to today’s dropping window lines and curves. It’s livened up by the generous appliqué of chrome – the roof rails look like two solid bars of polished steel, there’s a chrome brush-guard under the front and rear bumpers, on the door handles and on the load lip. Being over five metres long, nearly two metres wide and almost two metres tall, the GL looks like it could double up as a make-shift tank should war break out.

The GL is based on the R-class MPV, which in turn is based on the Mercedes-Benz ML, which means it’s a monocoque and has Merc’s 4-MATIC full-time four-wheel-drive system. The GL boasts air suspension, which can vary the car’s height through three stages and 110mm. At its highest, the GL’s fording depth is 600mm and ground clearance 307mm. It has 33- and 27deg approach and departure angles, and will tip over only after listing 35 degrees. There’s a full-length skid plate underneath, and our test car came with full off-road kit – lockable differentials, a hill descent system and a low-range set of gears. It also packs in a space saver rather than a full-size spare wheel. All this means our car tipped the scales at a tarmac-crumbling 2505kg.

The GL’s cabin is a typical Mercedes-Benz off-roader, which is a good thing. Build quality is excellent and the materials used are faultless. We did however, have an issue with the colour of the interiors – that chocolate brown might not suit all tastes. That aside, this is a hugely practical and spacious cabin. Once you climb up into the GLs high perch, you’ll find full electric adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. The seat itself is comfortable and the controls are pretty straightforward.

The 3075mm wheelbase means the GL’s middle row is hugely spacious. There’s plenty of legroom, headroom is good and the bench seat can seat three comfortably. There’s good thigh support and the high seats allow you to get a good view of the outside world. Move over to the third row and you’ll find a genuinely usable set of seats. There’s decent boot space with the seats up, and a cave as big as Batman’s with the seats down.

The GL is very well equipped. It’s got electric everything. The third row folds and pops up at the push of a button, the tailgate closes and opens electrically and even the butterfly third row windows are electrically operated. Then there’s the COMAND system, a reverse camera, twin sunroofs, DVD screens for the middle row with cordless headphones and heated/cooled front seats.

As expected, the GL’s size dictates everything it does. In town, it’s a bit nerve-wracking to drive it through tight traffic, but not much more than a Q7. It’s rather easy to reverse too, thanks to the reverse camera and the big glass area. As usual, this Merc has a tiny left rearview mirror. In ‘comfort’ mode, the ride is fantastic. It absorbs most bumps and traverses over broken patches with little or no complaint. Switch to ‘sport’ mode for a series of corners and the ride turns a touch lumpy.

Body movements are more tightly checked in sport mode and the electronic nannies cut in if they think you’re getting carried away. The steering is accurate and has sufficient weight, but doesn’t have the finesse of a BMW either. Its brakes inspire confidence and we’re really amazed by how it comes to a dead halt in 24 metres flat.

Take it off-road and the only thing that limits the GL is its size. But give it the space and it’ll act like a mountain goat. Axle articulation is first rate and even without the differentials locked the electronics distribute power so it can drive along rather easily.

2010 Mercedes GL350 CDI
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