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Bigger, beefier, better: Mercedes unveils its new S-Class-based flagship SUV

By Paul Connolly

Mercedes has revealed its flagship SUV model – a £75k rival to the likes of Range Rover and the new BMW X7.

The updated GLS is bigger, better and more powerful than its predecessor, and also comes in six- and seven-seat models for the first time.

The GLS is not a direct S-Class derivative but contains many S-Class features and is marketed by Mercedes as the “S-Class of SUVs”.

The battle for the premium SUV market heated up with the launch of the BMW X7, which went on sale this spring, priced from £74,695.

This is the third generation of the GLS, with the first appearing in 2007 under the name GL (short for GL-Class).

In 2016, the second-generation model was renamed GLS to reflect new Mercedes naming conventions.

(At this point we should probably explain Mercedes SUV nomenclature. The ‘G’ is from ‘Gelandewagen’, German for off-road vehicle – first seen in the G-Class 4x4.

The L signifies SUV – so GL stands for ‘Off Road SUV’. And the S links it to the S-Class saloon; hence GLS. Simples!)

So, what’s new with the latest car? Well, at 5.2 metres by 2.0 metres it’s longer and wider than almost any other car on the market, with the wheelbase stretched by an extra 60mm over its predecessor.

This makes the inside roomier and opens up better possibilities for luggage (now a cavernous 2,400 with the rear seats folded flat) and the seven-seat experience.

Also new is that Mercedes is offering the seven-seat as standard but for the first time is also making a six-seat version – with two luxury individual seats in the middle, giving the car a better value proposition in the luxury taxi/small limo market.

As you’d expect for a car expected to carry a price tag of around £75k, the GLS has all the tech and new design from the latest GLE model, including two large touchscreens on the dashboard connected to the car’s electronics, media, sat-nav and mobile internet.

The new 4MATIC all-wheel drive ensures better agility on tarmac and improved off-road performance.

A new addition is a Carwash function, which enables the car to be prepared for entry into a carwash with a single press of a button.

When this function is selected, the suspension moves to the highest position, which reduces the track widths due to the axle geometry, making it easier to drive into a carwash as well as remove any dirt remaining in the wheel arches from the last off-road trip.

The Carwash function also:

  • Folds in the exterior mirrors
  • Closes the side windows and the sliding sunroof
  • Suppresses the rain-sensing windscreen wipers
  • Activates the 360° camera's front image to assist the driver when driving into the carwash
  • Deactivates these settings automatically when the driver drives off.

Pretty neat if you’re anxious about taking your £75k motor through a car wash.

Under the bonnet you’ll find a range of petrol and Euro 6-compliant diesel engines, including six- and eight-cylinder petrol power plants and a six-cylinder diesel unit offered in two power ratings.

"The GLS combines modern luxury with the character of an off-roader," says Gorden Wagener of Merc parent Daimler AG.  "Powerful highlights of the off-road design idiom combine with an elegance reminiscent of a classic luxury saloon.

“The interior is a synthesis of modern, luxurious aesthetics, hallmark SUV practicality, and digital high-tech. In our view, the new GLS therefore offers the best of all these worlds."

Mercedes launched its first standalone SUV – the M-Class – in 1997, and currently offers seven models in the SUV segment: GLA, GLC, GLC Coupé, GLE, GLE Coupé, GLS, G-Class.

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