This week I am behind the wheel of one of the most luxurious large SUVs on the road, the 2017 Mercedes Benz GLS550. You might remember this SUV in the past as the GL, but with the new Mercedes naming scheme, it became the GLS, but that’s just a minor part of many changes for this flagship SUV.
For 2017, you start with the GLS450, which has a smaller engine than the GLS550 I am reviewing, and you can opt to go up to the AMG GLS 63.
My tester has a 4.7-liter Bi-turbo V8 under the hood and it is putting out 449-horses, but more importantly, 516 pound-feet of torque. This one is all-wheel drive and it comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted from the steering wheel paddles.
The exterior of the GLS is very attractive, with LED lights all around, 21” wheels, a rear spoiler, dual exhaust, and the unmistakable Mercedes star on the grill. It also has very usable running boards that unlike some don’t stick out too far.
The big story with this SUV is the interior and technology.
You notice immediately how luxurious the interior is, from the quilted Nappa leather seats, to the stitching all around, and the natural-grain wood trim, it just oozes comfort. The front seats will even massage you, and power headrests are a nice touch too.
As you sit behind the steering wheel, the tachometer and speedometer are easy to read, and there is a driver info center that is controlled from the steering wheel and gives you a ton of information. Above that is a fixed readout that constantly gives you the time and the outdoor temperature. The transmission is shifted from a stalk on the right side of the steering wheel.
There is a nice center console with USB ports, and that sits behind controls for your drive modes. You can choose from individual,sport, comfort, slippery, or off-road. There are other buttons to raise the ride height, and also a button for going into manual shift mode.
Also on the console are the controls for the Mercedes Comand system, which you view on a fixed 8” color screen. The round control allows you to scroll through the different screens to control the radio, Bluetooth, navigation, your phone, and the vehicle settings. It will take some time to learn the Comand system to get through all the pages to get the real-time traffic, turn on the WiFi hotspot and Apple CarPlay, but once you get used to it, it is a wealth of information.
I like the dials to control the inside temperature and as always, I like a knob for the radio volume, although it is easily changed on the steering wheel.
I don’t even know where to start on the features of this SUV.
As you might guess, an SUV north of a hundred grand has virtually everything you can imagine.
Standard major features include a Harmon Kardon surround sound stereo, heated and cooled front seats, power tilt wheel, keyless entry, navigation system, a 360-degree rearview camera, and soft closing doors. It has the start/stop system, but you can turn it off. It also has a brake hold, which means you can take your foot off the brake whenever you stop.
My review vehicle has almost $10,000 in optional equipment and packages. There is a $795 charge for the Diamond White paint. This one has the Night Package, which is essentially the 21” wheels. It has second row manual sunshades, a panoramic power sunroof, a trailer hitch, and easy entry which allows you to open any door as long as the key is in the proximity.
It is pre-wired for rear seat entertainment and there is a small charge for that, and it has Magic Vision Control, which is pretty cool. It’s only $170 and instead of hood sprayers to clean the windshield, the water comes out of the actual wipers and the water is heated for those frosty mornings. This system gives you an immediate windshield cleaning with no smears, just when you need it.
On the safety front, this GLS has the Driver Assistance Package which is $1375, but you get adaptive cruise control, brake assist, pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, and lane keeping assistance.
My favorite option…wait for it…the $180 heated and cooled cup holders, now there’s something you can really use!
People who generally buy this size SUV are very interested in the third row seat, which in this vehicle is roomy and the third row seats fold down flat at the push of a button. I’ve seen better systems to fold the second row seat down for access to the third row, but it is OK. It has a power lift gate for ease of loading and unloading cargo.
The new GLS 550 is a joy to drive, it feels super solid and the ride and handling is exceptional thanks to the Mercedes active damping system and air suspension.
Acceleration is amazing for a 5400-pound SUV, and it is one of the quietest I have ever driven, but all that comes at a price, of course.
Gas mileage is not great, but that is no surprise, it’s rated at 14 in town, 18 on the highway.
If you are looking for a top-of-the-line large SUV with all-wheel drive and a ton of power under the hood, put this one on your shopping list.