The GLS retains boxy proportions but looks and goes better than ever

The biggest SUV in the Mercedes-Benz lineup is back and it’s now bigger than ever. The wheelbase is longer so all three rows get more room, thus making a six-seater version possible, and if it’s cargo space you’re after, the 2020 GLS delivers up to 95.3 cubic-feet of storage area. Another first is the introduction of the GLS 580 4Matic that features an electrified and twin-turbocharged V-8 with 489 horsepower on tap and the EQ Boost starter-generator.

European manufacturers are again trying to beat Americans at their own game. This time, the name of the game isn’t pick-up trucks, but full-size SUVs. When you think of such elevated land yachts, you’re probably picturing a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Navigator in your head but BMW and, now, Mercedes-Benz are vying to change that image in your head. If BMW is trying to tempt you with the vehicle with the single largest twin kidney grilles in the history of mankind, Mercedes is a little bit more subtle with the 2020 GLS, a car built in Alabama that packs all the luxury features that America likes and then some. Also, it looks less like a bus in comparison to the Navigator.

There are still options for you if you still want an SUV with a straight roofline

The 2020 Mercedes GLS Arrives With a Twin-Turbo V-8 and Seating for Seven
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If you thought the streets were crowded in your area before, wait until the new wave of road behemoths arrives in the form of the new full-size crossover SUVs from the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Today, we’re talking about the former as a new vehicle with the three-pointed star on its fascia made its world debut at the 2019 New York Auto Show.

The said vehicle is big, bold, tall, and wide and it's not only on the outside where it impresses with its proportions.

Inside, the third-generation GLS (formerly known as the GL Class, now renamed GLS to further embed in your mind that this is the biggest SUV that shares some DNA with the ministerial S-Class sedan) is as spacious as an RV and, if your pocket is deep enough, you can option it with just about anything minus the defensive and offensive weaponry often found on James Bond’s Aston Martins.

2020 Mercedes GLS exterior dimensions
Wheelbase 123.4 inches
Length 205.2 inches
Width 77.0 inches
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The new GLS matters not only because there’s no blind spot big enough to hide it but because it’s, actually, the first new GLS. You see, the move from the GL-Class nameplate to GLS was made back in 2016, roughly halfway through the production life of the previous generation model (codenamed X166). As such, the change of name didn’t pertain to a change of generation, it just had to be done because all of Merc’s crossovers and SUVs were receiving new names. The old GLS featured, among others, the by-now common engine start-stop system as well as drive by wire steering that helped you keep on top of an SUV that was powered by a host of turbocharged engines with capacity ranging between 3.0-liters (for the only diesel) and 5.5-liters (in the case of the AMG version).

In 2019, we know that turbocharging is only the first step towards making an engine more efficient. The next one is enlisting some sort of electric helping hand to smooth things out. That’s why the GLS sports what Mercedes calls an EQ Boost. We know what EQ is, namely the model denomination for all of the brand’s electric models. So, what is the EQ Boost?

The 2020 Mercedes GLS Arrives With a Twin-Turbo V-8 and Seating for Seven
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It’s an integrated 48-volt electric system that can act as a starter-generator although its main party piece is the ability to offer short bursts of extra torque.

Without help, the 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 puts out 489 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque but, with the EQ Boost enabled, you can get 184 pound-feet and 22 horsepower extra.

According to Mercedes-Benz, "the integrated starter-generator (ISG) is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation while allowing fuel savings that were previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology."

The only catch here is that the GLS 580 4Matic is not yet available and that means you can only pour money over your Mercedes sales representative for a GLS 450 4Matic that packs a lesser punch: 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque via a 3.0-liter, turbocharged inline-six. For the record, this isn’t the M276 3.0-liter V-6 available in the previous-generation GLS but, oddly enough, the figures are the same with the M276 E30 version available in the GLS 450 which could go from naught to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds. The inline-six, though, is much better at getting you up to speed and sprints to 62 mph in 5.9 seconds, just 0.6 seconds off the 0-to-62 mph time achieved by the old M278 DE46 4.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 available in the GLS 500 and that cranked out 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.

2020 Mercedes GLS drivetrain specifications
Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATIC
Engine V-8 with 48-volt on-board electrical system six-cylinder in- line engine electrified with 48-volt technology
Horsepower 483 HP 362 HP
Torque 516 LB-FT 369 LB-FT
EQ Boost 184 LB-FT and 21 HP 184 LB-FT and 21 HP
Transmission 9G-TRONIC automatic 9G-TRONIC automatic
The 2020 Mercedes GLS Arrives With a Twin-Turbo V-8 and Seating for Seven
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If you glance over to Munich, the X7 too offers a rather feisty inline-six but this is no surprise since six-pots are BMW’s specialty. The xDrive40i is propelled by a 3.0-liter, turbocharged unit that puts out 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. And you wonder why it’s hard to pick a car in 2019. Also, the fourth-generation Navigator packs a V-6 as well, only it’s slightly bigger and more powerful at 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of twist. The power gets transferred through to the wheels thanks to a 10-speed automatic by Borg Warner while Mercedes employs a nine-speed automatic.

That EQ Boost feature I told you about earlier has a few other uses too. Its 48-volt system helps power the E-Active Body Control system that helps your GLS ride better through rough terrain or when negotiating twisty bits of road. According to the German automaker, "the hydropneumatics (while the E-Active Body Control system is optional, all GLS models come with the Airmatic suspension air suspension in standard) generate dynamic forces that overlay the air suspension forces and actively support and dampen the vehicle body." What is more, "the off-road functions include recovery mode: if the GLS has become bogged down in a sand dune, for example, this can help to free the vehicle more easily in many such situations. If possible the suspension level is automatically raised and lowered several times, which changes the ground pressure of the tires and therefore improves traction."

The 2020 Mercedes GLS Arrives With a Twin-Turbo V-8 and Seating for Seven
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There's also the 'Curve' function that helps the GLS better lean into corners for improved stability.

The system includes a stereo multi-purpose camera that scans the road ahead to help the suspension adjust itself to the road conditions. Even if you don’t go for this sort of wizardry, the basic Airmatic air suspension features the Adaptive Damping System Plus.

Having bored you to the moon and back with the cleverness of the electrical system and the suspension of the GLS, let’s talk a bit about styling because, hey, you don’t notice a car’s suspension upon first seeing it. In fact, you never notice it unless the automaker brings a rolling chassis to a show but that’s a different story. The 2020 GLS looks better than the old one and that’s because it has narrower LED headlights (a lot of Sensual Purity here as Mercedes would want you to remember) placed on either side of a broad grille with the typical logo in the middle. A few other air inlets complete the front fascia while the rear remains pleasantly boxy but, again, with narrow taillights that go around the back corners.

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The 205 inch-long SUV will be made in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and is actually 2.2 inches longer than the X7 and five inches shorter than the Navigator SWB. It’s also 2.5 inches longer than the standard wheelbase Escalade. What this means is that you can fit up to six people inside and you get the option of having the GLS equipped with bucket seats in the second row as well as full-fledged seats in the third row, seats big enough for a 6’3" person to sit in them. All seats are electrically adjustable and you can option the SUV with the MBUX Rear Seat Entertainment System that consists of two 11.6-inch touchscreens.

There’s also a special tablet available that lets you control the features of the infotainment system remotely part of the Rear Comfort package Plus. As expected, the model sports just about any safety feature you can fathom including Active Distance Assist or the Active Stop-and-Go Assist that’s part of the Driving Assistance Plus suite. The stop-and-go assist allows the car to keep within the boundaries of one lane and adjust its speed without you having to do anything when driving in a tailback.

The 2020 Mercedes GLS Arrives With a Twin-Turbo V-8 and Seating for Seven
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The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS, then, offers a world of options and will definitely be interesting to see how the market will respond to it since the previous-generation model fell in sales last year as just 21.973 were sold compared to little over 30,000 in both 2017 and 2016. Still, this was way better than what Lincoln was up to with only 17.839 moving off lots last year.

Further reading

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class.

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