Checking in With a Former SUOTY Champ
In the 1960s Avis, the rental car company, ran a campaign advertising, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.” Its point? Because it was second fiddle to Hertz, Avis had to be better in order to succeed. It’s tough being on top with a target on your back. Do you stay the course and hope you can retain your dominance? Or are you better off continuously innovating, hoping that keeps you the king of the hill? Mercedes-Benz was faced with this conundrum pretty recently with the GL-Class. As it was our 2013 Sport/Utility of the Year, Mercedes could have left well enough alone, but instead it’s upgraded the bread-and-butter 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL450 to make it even stronger than before.
So what’s changed with the Mercedes GL-Class since it drove off with our Golden Calipers in 2013? The answer is found under the hood of the mid-level 2015 GL450. Back in 2013, the GL450 was powered by a big ol’ 4.7-liter, twin-turbo V-8 making 362 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The V-8 was stout, giving the 2013 GL450 the power to hit 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and finish the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 96.6 mph. That big V-8 acceleration performance also sadly meant big V-8 fuel economy figures. The very same 2013 GL450 4Matic achieved 14/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined on the EPA’s fuel economy tests.
The fix for the Mercedes-Benz GL450, then, was downsizing. Our 2015 GL450 4Matic puts the 4.7-liter V-8 on ice and replaces it with a more efficient and almost as powerful 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6. Paired with the same seven-speed automatic the old V-8 models got, the new GL450 makes the same 362 hp but only 369 lb-ft of torque, 37 lb-ft less than before. With slightly less power on tap, it’s no surprise that the updated GL450 is also slightly slower; accelerating from 0-60 mph took our 2015 GL450 6.2 seconds, and the quarter mile took 14.7 seconds at 94.6 mph. That said, fuel economy improved significantly. The V-6-powered GL450 nets 17/21/19 mpg on the EPA cycle and a respectable 16.7/20.7/18.3 Real MPG. As far as the other performance metrics go, the GL450 was able to come to a complete stop from 60 mph in just 126 feet, average 0.81 g on the skidpad, and lap the figure eight in 27.3 seconds at 0.68g average.
Outside the confines of the test track, the GL is still a pretty stellar vehicle, even if it’s starting to show its age a bit in certain aspects. The GL450 feels potent and plenty quick with a versatile engine that’s just as happy humming along on the freeway as it is being thrashed at its limit. The GL’s steering rack is quick and light, though I’d prefer a touch more heft. The GL’s brakes could also use more bite, as they don’t seem to truly engage until at least a quarter of the way through the pedal’s travel.
Inside, the interior that we deemed “Bentley grade” back in 2013 is visually more meh now than anything else. It’s not that the Mercedes’ interior is bad. It’s just that compared with the beautiful interior designs of the Cadillac Escalade and other competitors, the GL’s is a bit boring. Given that the GL-Class will be “replaced” by the GLS-Class within the next year or so, I’m not too concerned about how boring the interior is. The GL still has something the Cadillac doesn’t — killer packaging. All three rows on the GL offer up comfortable seats and plenty of leg- and headroom for this 6-foot-tall scribe — something the GM triplets can’t boast.
When it comes down to brass tacks, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL450 4Matic may seem extravagantly expensive, but it’s about par for the segment as far as pricing goes. The GL450’s base price is $66,125 but quickly gets expensive if you’re not careful with the options. Some of the pricier options our Benz had included the $4,410 Premium package (which includes Merc’s COMAND infotainment system and keyless entry, among other things), a $3,700 air suspension, the $2,800 Driver Assistance package (which includes a collision avoidance system), and black leather for $1,620. The end result is a three-row crossover stickering for $88,085.
So with the Golden Calipers in tow and the rest of the segment gunning for greatness, how does the top dog 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL450 4Matic compare? I know the answer, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out. On its own, though, the 2015 GL450 remains a remarkably capable, comfortable, and practical luxury crossover and a proud SUOTY alumnus.
|2015 Mercedes-Benz GL450 4Matic|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$88,085|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/362-hp/369-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,565 lb (50/50%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||201.6 x 76.1 x 72.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.7 sec @ 94.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.81 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.3 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/21/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||198/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.04 lb/mile|