It distinguishes itself as the head honcho of the brand’s SUV portfolio.
Mercedes-Benz’s largest luxury SUV offering, the GLS-class (formerly known as GL-class), has quietly been around since 2006. It offers buyers up to seven seating capability, and is perfect for those who simply want the biggest and most luxurious SUV experience, a solid option backed by the world’s most recognizable luxury nameplate. For 2020, to counter the brand-new BMW X7 (reviewed here), Mercedes-Benz unveiled their redesigned third-generation GLS-class. We tested a 2020 Mercedes Benz GLS 580 4MATIC to see how the long-standing segment leader manages to stay atop the food chain.
With an as-tested MRSP of $133,500 and a total power output of 516-horsepower, the GLS 580 4MATIC is actually not near the top of its model lineup. It is slotted below two polarizing models, the all-new Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC for buyers seeking the ultimate comfort and luxury, or the fire breathing Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC for the hurried one-percent. For people who do not necessarily seek the ultimate experience, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC is here to offer a good balance and it is by no means a compromise.
The styling of the new GLS is modern and attractive, and a bit understated when compared to the in-your-face design of the BMW X7. The Mercedes-Benz family design language is evident, and it distinguishes itself as the head honcho of the brand’s SUV portfolio using distinctive three-LED band daytime running lights, and intense MULTIBEAM LED headlights, much like the S-Class (reviewed here). The curvy design of the GLS 580 is functional as it manages a drag coefficient figure of 0.35, a remarkable figure for a vehicle of its footprint, which in turns aids fuel economy and minimizes wind noise. Our tester was also equipped with optional 22-inch AMG wheels that add sportiness to the elegant design.
Powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine that produces 483 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 517 lb-ft. of torque from 2,000 to 4,000 RPM, the GLS 580 4MATIC is no slouch. To help with its power output as well as efficiency, Mercedes-Benz added a 48-volt motor in between the engine and the transmission that provides a seamless power supplement. The electrified components’ additional 21-horsepower, and more importantly, 184 lb-ft. of torque eliminates nearly all turbo lag and makes acceleration feel effortless. A zero to 100 km/h sprint clocks in at 5.3 seconds, a phenomenal achievement for the size, in large part due to the electrification as well as the silky smooth nine-speed automatic transmission.
Much like the way it accelerates, the Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC handles a weight class below its own. Steering is light which makes for an easy driving experience. In the corners, the GLS 580 4MATIC maintains its composure far better than expected, thanks to its responsive Adaptive Damping System (ADS PLUS) incorporated into the standard AIRMATIC air suspension. Drivers seeking the most optimized driving experience should opt for the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension, which uses its road surface scanning technology to individually control spring and damping forces at each wheel, thus allowing the vehicle to prepare for the road ahead before its tires reach it.
Fuel consumption ratings have yet to be posted at the time of writing, and our observed fuel economy average came in at 13.0L/100km, on par with the BMW X7 and beats what we achieved in the 2019 Cadillac Escalade (reviewed here) by about 1L/100km. As expected with every vehicle in this class, premium fuel is a requirement, and the tank has a capacity of 90 litres. Towing capacity is rated at 3,500 kilograms for buyers that plan to bring a watercraft or trailer along for the journey.
For most buyers in this segment, the interior is where it counts and Mercedes-Benz certainly did not disappoint with their class leading design. The GLS 580’s interior is made using top-notch craftsmanship and materials, with a layout that is almost identical to the all-new GLE-class (reviewed here) to maintain a cohesive brand image. There is no shortage of high-quality leather and wood throughout the cabin, and the massaging front and second row seats are great to relax in after a long day.
Needless to say, the cabin is whisper quiet, with minimal noise or vibrations transmitted in. There is excellent head and legroom for all three rows of passengers, and the suspension soaks up every bit of imperfection from the roads. We noticed the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC is so pillowlike during our test drives, that it can feel a bit too floaty at times, and switching to the Sport suspension setting gives it better balance. The power folding third row seats are easy to use, with switches conveniently located in the cargo area to quickly expand the space required. The GLS 580 4MATIC has a cargo capacity ranging from 355 litres behind the third-row seat, to a maximum of 2,400 litres with seats folded down.
Two prominent, connecting, 12.3-inch digital displays located on the dashboard set the tone for cabin and lets users know they are entering a futuristic experience. The left screen is home to the digital instrument cluster, where it is highly customizable to display a host of useful information to its commander-in-chief. The screen located atop the centre console houses the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system.
Drivers can control the system using either the touchpad controller or the touch control buttons on the steering wheel, and while the MBUX system carries a steep learning curve to get acclimated with its navigation, the actual user experience is quite simple once you are used to it. Screen resolution is vivid, some of the best in class, and the standard augmented reality display for the navigation system continues to wow every guest on board. Our tester came equipped with the optional Head-Up Display, whereby its 45 x 15-cm virtual display is one of the largest and most informational around.
Audiophiles will be delighted to find the option for a Burmester surround sound system that comes with crystal clear sound quality from a whopping total of 26 speakers including a subwoofer, ceiling-mounted speakers, and LED-illuminated tweeters. The GLS 580 4MATIC can also be optioned with a premium rear seating package that includes heated, cooled, and massaging second row seats with soft micro suede pillows, and a dedicated seven-inch Android tablet for rear passengers to control various comfort and entertainment features.
Safety is an important factor when designing any new Mercedes-Benz, and the full suite of safety and drivers assist feature is on display in the GLS 580 4MATIC. On top blind spot detection, lane keeping assist, radar cruise control systems that many luxury vehicles are equipped with, the GLS 580 also comes standard with the company’s latest Adaptive Braking technology, where the system would automatically prime the braking system when it detects an aggressive removal of the driver’s foot from the gas pedal to get it ready to stop quicker, as well as applying regular and brief braking to remove the moisture from the discs when it detects wet road conditions. We also commend the Mercedes-Benz Magic Vision Control system where the vehicle can windshield fluids in front the moving wiper directly using a line of laser cut holes on the wiper blades, as it works very well in reducing any vision obstruction typically experienced in traditional systems.
At $133,500 as-tested, which includes the $3,000 Intelligent Drive, $6,500 Premium Rear Seating, and $1,800 Technology Packages, as well as some aesthetic pieces like 22-inch AMG wheels and the Anthracite open-pore oak wood trim, the GLS 580 4MATIC is nearly identical in its pricing as the 2020 BMW X7 M50i xDrive we tested earlier this year.
While the BMW is the better driver’s car of the two, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC is a better execution as a full-size luxury SUV for the family. It is loaded with comfort features that pamper everyone on board, and equipped with state-of-the-art technology that pushes the envelope on ensuring passenger safety. We expect this to be a popular choice amongst those who are shopping for an all-weather, seven-passenger alternative to the ever-popular S-Class flagship.