Mercedes-Benz chose a luxury and adventure resort on the border of Colorado and Utah as the base camp for the introduction of its upgraded 2017 GLS sport utility vehicle line. It was a perfect jumping-off point to drive the newest version of its upscale full-sized SUVs through the red rock canyons and outcroppings on the winding roads of western Colorado and take a day trip to Arches Canyon National Park in Utah.
Recently renamed as part of the Mercedes' brand's nomenclature change, the GLS is the only full-fledged seven-seater in the European premium SUV segment. Like the GL before it, the new GLS -- the "S-Class among SUVs" -- combines spaciousness and lavishness with impressive comfort, a cadre of high-performance engines, and best-in-class safety. It is available in four models: GLS350d 4MATIC ($67,050), GLS450 4MATIC ($68,700), GLS550 4MATIC ($93,850), and the top-of-the-line AMG GLS63 ($124,100). Pricing does not include a $925 delivery and destination charge.
With its 2017-model-year facelift, designers have adapted the full-size, three-row amenity-filled SUV to the current Mercedes-Benz styling approach with a redesigned front end, two special paint colors, new LED taillights, a refreshed selection of light-alloy wheels, and chrome highlights on the roof rails, underguard, shoulderline trim strips, luggage compartment handle, and side skirt trim. A power tailgate, rearview camera, power-folding mirrors, and remote start are standard.
Inside the elegant cabin, you'll find exclusive Nappa leather upholstery options, along with a newly designed "checkered flag" instrument panel with optional 8-inch color media display and center console with touchpad, and three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. For added convenience, power-folding third-row seats are standard.
Under the hood of the GLS is a great collection of engines: a 3.0-liter V-6 biturbo direct-injection engine produces 362-horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque powers the GLS450 4MATIC; the GLS550 4MATIC is powered by a V-8 biturbo direct-injection that delivers 516 lb.-ft. of torque and 449 horsepower, some 20 hp. more than the preceding model; and the top-of-the-range AMG GLS63 is motivated by a hand-built 5.5-liter biturbo V-8 engine that boasts 577 horsepower (27 horsepower more than its predecessor), 561 lb.-ft. of torque, acceleration to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 174 mph.
Alongside the gas engine offerings, the GLS350d 4MATIC offers a V-6 diesel engine rated at 255 hp. and 455 lb.-ft. of torque. Three of the GLS models benefit from an ECO start/stop function and are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, while the GLS63 is paired with an AMG Speedshift Plus seven-speed automatic transmission.
A retuned Airmatic air suspension system is standard, as is the Dynamic Select system; with the touch of a button, it allows the driver to adjust vehicle performance dynamics and ride quality for a variety of road conditions, including comfort, slippery, sport, off-road, and individual preferences. Choosing the optional Off-Road Engineering package adds an OFF-ROAD+ mode as well as a low-range gearbox and center differential lock.
Mercedes-Benz is known as a leader in safety technology and the GLS benefits from a wide array of standard safety features, including crosswind assist (which detects sudden strong gusts of wind and helps prevent the vehicle from drifting out of its lane), attention assist (which analyzes the driver's performance to identify when the driver is becoming tired and provides prompts to take a rest), collision prevention assist plus (which alerts the driver with visual and audible alerts to the risk of a collision with the vehicle ahead, and even brakes if necessary to mitigate impacts), Pre-Safe (which tightens seatbelts, closes windows, and adjusts seating to protect occupants in case of an accident), and brake assist (which helps ensure adequate braking performance when necessary to mitigate collisions).
We drove all the new GLS-Class models but concentrated our drive on the jewel-in-the-crown GLS63, tweaked by Mercedes' high-performance AMG division. It is a provocative blend of sumptuous styling, lavish comfort, and spirited performance. The exterior of all GLS versions has been emboldened; the top-of-the line model gets even bolder looks and more uplevel interior treatment as well as more standard features, such as heated and ventilated front seats with a massaging feature and second-row heated seats.
AMG's DYNAMIC SELECT transmission modes bring more driver choices for motoring preferences, plus a rear-biased AMG Performance all-wheel drive system. Our favorite takeaway? Engine tuning allows you to drive it quietly in an around-town fashion -- or, as the "wild-ride" expression encourages
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