Biggest Benz smartens up for '16

An extensive mid-life update has left Mercedes’ largest land yacht looking more shipshape for its remaining years of service.


FAMILIAR looks but a new name and a host of technology improvements, including the adoption of a nine-speed gearbox for all but the AMG variant, are the major temptations that are expected to keep the largest but now second-oldest offer in Mercedes’ extensive sports utility range looking fresh.

Even though the updated upper-large GLS – the new name for the product that has been known as the GL-Class – is not set to touch down until April, Mercedes Benz has already provided pricing, model span and specification details for this big seven-seater wagon and says it is now set to take orders.

The line maintains four editions starting with two diesels - the 350d at $139,000 and the 350d Sport at $160,000, then ramping up the a pair of petrols, the $198,000 500 and the range-topping $238,000 AMG 63. The prices are slightly increased over those attached to equivalent outgoing models and, overall, there’s not a lot of styling difference, either.

However Benz is confident that customers for a vehicle that in 2014 accomplished 70 registrations will find the adoption of extra luxuries, many from the S-Class limo, is enough to keep them in the club.

The base GLS350d offers an unchanged 3.0-litre diesel, producing 190kW and 620Nm, but this V6 is now coupled to the company's nine-speed automatic transmission, as fitted to all non-AMG Mercedes models.

Information and entertainment systems also update, with Command online navigation and Apple CarPlay now standard. Driver preference options are extended with five Dynamic Select driving modes, while exterior enhancements include a facelift with LED headlights and 20-inch wheels.

The 350d Sport retains the base drivetrain but adds 21-inch AMG wheels, body-stabilising Active Curve System, tyre-pressure monitoring and metallic paint. Sport variant cabins also have Nappa leather upholstery and AMG Line enhancements.

The 500-badged turbocharged 4.7-litre V8 has 15kW more power in 2016 format, with 335kW, while torque remains the same at 700Nm. It too gets the new nine-speed 9G-Tronic auto.

An increase in price is accounted for by a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row seats, a TV and an anti-theft pack.

The GLS63 AMG’s twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 bangs out 430kW – that’s a 20Kw lift – and 760Nm and 0-100kmh drops by 0.3 seconds to 4.6s. The top speed of 270kmh is unchanged. This model runs on 22-inch wheels and has sports suspension, high-performance brakes, Dynamic Select with an additional Sport-Plus setting, power closing doors and Mercedes' Air-Balance package, which adds a selection of fragrances to the air as well as an air ioniser.

Unlike the rest of the range, the AMG manages with a seven-speed automatic transmission in place of the nine-ratio box, because of its huge torque output.

All versions get seven seats with “S-Class standard” comfort and flexible adjustment options, a load space that expands from 680 litres to 2300 litres or objects up to 2124mm long.

Safety systems are comprehensive, with collision prevention assistance, crosswind assistance, driver drowsiness detection, adaptive cruise control which works down to stop and start traffic, cross-traffic and blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assistance and autonomous braking.

If all that is not enough to prevent a collision, nine airbags and “electronic crumple zones” maximise occupant protection in a crash.

All GLS variants have the Mercedes 4Matic four-wheel drive system, but an Off-Road Engineering package is offered for more ambitious and adventurous owners, which adds Off-Road-Plus setting to the Dynamic Select system, low-range gearbox, locking centre differential and ride-height booster.