The origin story of Mercedes-Benz‘s biggest SUV goes like this: Mercedes executives were tired of hearing about Americans whose Benzes shared garages with Chevy Suburbans. So Mercedes made a Suburban of its own and introduced it to the U.S. market for 2007 as the GL-class. Now called the GLS-class, this behemoth begins its third generation and remains in many ways a German Suburban, albeit a very, very nice one.
Even though Mercedes has been touting its new hybrid-assisted inline-six lately, Benz’s big three-row SUV has always offered a V-8, and a V-8 is what you really want in this or any Suburban. The twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 makes for a quicker GLS. Its 4.7-second 60-mph sprint beats the six’s by 0.8 second. But what’s more important than that small advantage is that the V-8 just feels right in terms of sound, character, and power delivery.
It comes at a price, though: The GLS580 guzzled a gallon every 13 miles during our two-week loan and managed only 18 mpg in our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test. The latter is a dismal result and a whopping 6 mpg behind the V-8-powered BMW X7xDrive50i and 5 mpg worse than an actual Chevy Suburban. We should also mention that the BMW is a few ticks quicker than the Benz to 60 mph and through the quarter-mile.
This GLS580 was equipped with the absurdly large 23-inch AMG five-spoke wheels, a $2750 option. The smaller sidewall used on these massive rollers may improve steering response, but these giants are primarily for looks. Remarkably, they don’t radically degrade ride quality. Other options included extra-plush second-row accommodations, a panoramic sunroof, nappa leather, and driver-assist features that pushed the as-tested price above $120,000.
Evaluating the GLS580’s ride and handling is tricky since there’s an insane range of adjustability afforded by the $6500 E-Active Body Control suspension system. It can drastically reduce body roll or help the GLS lean into corners or bounce the ute up and down like a pogo stick to get it unstuck from sand. The suspension magic yields a secure feel, but at 5973 pounds, the GLS will not be mistaken for anything other than a German Suburban.