Capable but aging SUV gets some much-needed TLC
Mercedes knows how to make full-size vehicles. The S-Class is the leader among large luxury sedans, and the same was once true for the GLS in the big SUV category. But an outdated interior and lackluster fuel economy have caused the GLS to lose some of its edge. Finally, at the 2019 New York auto show, the new 2020 GLS arrives with electrified powertrains, upgraded technologies, and more luxurious second and third rows.
It may take a few seconds to notice the design changes on the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS. The luxury SUV maintains the general look of its predecessor, including the two familiar bars that run across the grille. But if you look closely, you’ll notice the shape of the grille has changed slightly, and the lower vents are more angular. Mercedes also streamlined the design of the headlights and taillights. Exterior dimensions have also changed; it’s 3 inches longer than its predecessor with a wheelbase that’s more than 2 inches longer.
Mercedes has announced two electrified powertrains. On the GLS 450, you’ll find a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine making a familiar 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. But thanks to a new 48-volt onboard electrical system with an integrated starter generator, an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque can be doled out for short periods of time. On the GLS 580, a 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8 makes 483 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and the electrified bits add the same extra output as in the six-cylinder model. Both engines are paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy has yet to be announced, but Mercedes says the integrated electric motor system promotes fuel savings. This “EQ Boost” helps acceleration, making it possible to drive without the combustion engine turned on, and it supplies the battery with power.
Continuing the mechanical changes, the GLS comes with an Airmatic air suspension with adaptive damping. Revised wheel suspension mountings promise better ride comfort. Combined with this suspension, E-Active Body Control feature is available for an even more comfortable ride. Powered in part by the 48-volt battery, this feature can individually control spring and damping forces at each wheel, keeping body roll in check. It can even recuperate energy on poor road surfaces.
Mercedes has revamped the entire interior, so we’ll no longer complain about the outdated button number pad and awkward-looking infotainment screen. The 2020 GLS eliminates superfluous buttons and puts in two large 12.3-inch screens as standard. One screen is the digital instrument cluster; the other is the multimedia display.
Like other new models, the GLS boasts the Mercedes-Benz User Experience infotainment system, which can learn your individual preferences. For instance, the system may notice you tune in to a radio station at the same time every day, and a suggestion will pop up on the screen every day at this time. The system also recognizes hand gestures, and it can even tell whether a certain gesture was initiated by the driver or passenger to start functions like seat massage for the correct occupant. There’s even a new car wash button that makes all the necessary preparations for the vehicle to enter an automatic car wash.
The interior goodies seem endless, from 64-color ambient lighting, to heated and cooled cupholders and a cabin fragrance system. Mercedes also made a point to keep rear occupants comfortable. Thanks to the longer wheelbase, legroom in the second row has jumped 3.4 inches when the seats are pushed all the way back. We’ll have to test this for ourselves, but the automaker claims that the third row is suitable people up to 6-foot-4. There are two USB charging points back here, and the two seats are now heated. When equipped with five-zone automatic climate control, third-row passengers get their own electrically powered heat and air conditioning system.
For the first time, buyers can choose between six- and seven-seat configurations. The new six-seater has captain’s chairs in the second row. Either way you go, it won’t cost you any extra.
An Executive Rear Seat package allows passengers in the back rows to control the infotainment system via a 7.0-inch tablet. The package also brings along headrests with additional cushioning, among other upgrades. With the Plus version of this package, you get heated and ventilated multicontour seats in the rear.
At this time, Mercedes isn’t announcing information on a presumed AMG version and a Maybach version expected to cost around $200,000 USD.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS will go on sale in North America by the end of the year. Pricing has not yet been announced.