New names and faces for the GL

To those in the know, the GL reflects a vehicle of substantial capabilities, far beyond those expected of what is essentially a premium SUV. Ground clearance of 307mm, thanks to adjustable air-suspension, and the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive system give a good start, while an Off-Road-Pro engineering package is a standard feature and greatly improves manoeuvring in difficult terrain, thanks to low range and two diff-locks (centre and rear).

The driver’s task is further simplified by additional electronic handling systems, such as Off-road ABS, Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) and anti-stall assist. The off-road credentials, then, are impressive to say the least, and separate the GL-Class from most similarly-sized rivals.

On tar the GL is all that you’d expect a big Mercedes to be, comfortable and brisk and one of the great long-distance cruisers. And, again thanks to the adjustable suspension, it can offer a sporty ride, a comfortable ride, or a ride somewhere in between.

But so far we have mentioned nothing that is new to the GL. For that you have to look fairly closely, at the front end in particular. Here you will see new, modernised bumpers, redesigned chrome underbody protection (at the front and the rear), a new radiator grille, fog lights and optional day time driving lights. The front-end modifications also make the vehicles more aerodynamic, and therefore efficient.

Other new features include light-alloy wheels measuring either 19, 20 or 21 inches, and reworked chrome tailpipes. The range of colours is supplemented by two new metallic paint colours: “Tenorite Grey” and “Palladium Silver”. The tow bar is now hidden behind the rear apron and is swung out when needed.

The interior has also received minor changes, particularly to the seats and the instrument cluster. The redesigned seats now feature contrasting stitching for a little more style, while the GL 500 also comes with nappa leather seating.

A bit of confusion might be created by the new name of the diesel GL, now called the GL 350CDI 4MATIC BlueEFFICIENCY (formerly the GL 320CDI). Old Mercedes naming conventions would indicate that the engine has been made larger, but this is no longer the case, and the naming no longer follows the cubic capacity of the engine.

In fact, the GL 350CDI is powered by the same powerplant as previously, producing the same figures of 165 kW and 510 Nm. The name has changed to fit in with the international GL engine range, and to accommodate current and future engine derivatives, such as hybrids. It is NOT, I repeat NOT, merely to confuse us.

The GL 500 4MATIC is still powered by the naturally-aspirated 5,461-litre petrol V8 that produces 285 kW and 530 Nm, meaning acceleration from 0 – 100 km/h in just 6,5 seconds and a top speed of 240 km/h.

Seven-speed automatic gearboxes are used for both the GL 350CDI and the GL 500.

The GL 350CDI is priced at R860 000, and the GL 500 at R990 000.