The third-generation GLS comes to tackle the BMW X7

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS represents the third generation of the company’s already iconic SUV. Introduced at the 2019 New York Auto Show, it offers more space, more comfort, and more luxury while retaining a familiar face. The GLS arrives to take on the BMW X7, the company’s first foray in the full-size SUV market, the Lincoln Navigator, and the Cadillac Escalade.

The GLS adopts Mercedes’ latest styling language, seen most recently on the smaller GLE crossover. The exterior has smoother surfaces and sportier fascias, while the interior borrows from the S-Class sedan but features a few unique cues as well. Under the hood, the GLS retains its two-engine lineup with V-6 and V-8 offerings for the U.S. market, but both units are paired to 48-volt mild hybrid systems.

Exterior

  • Borrows from the GLE
  • Sportier overall
  • Slim lights
  • New grille
  • Smoother lines
  • Still boxy
  • Evolutionary design
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Up front, we can see the company's new radiator grille that now features thicker horizontal slats

What’s immediately apparent is that the new GLS retains the boxy design of its predecessor. However, Mercedes-Benz aligned the SUV’s design to its new styling language, so the GLS looks like a bloated GLE overall.

Up front, we can see the company’s new radiator grille that now features thicker horizontal slats. It also extends lower into the bumper, and it’s flanked by slimmer, almost rectangular headlamps, just like the GLE’s. The bumper retains the brand’s familiar architecture with an A-shaped apron in the center and large vents on the sides. Both elements are thinner and more aggressive, even on the entry-level version. Two power domes give the engine hood more character, a feature previously available on AMG models only.

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The tall taillights were replaced with slimmer units that extend even more into the tailgate

The GLS’ profile looks much cleaner now, as Mercedes-Benz ditched the heavily sculpted horizontal character lines of the old model. The panels are smoother but remain muscular just above the beltline and above the side skirt area. Again, this is a trademark feature for all Merc, and we’ve already seen it on the GLE and cars like the E-Class and S-Class.

The roof has the same boxy design toward the rear, but the quarter has a rounder frame and slightly thicker pillar toward the top. The rear haunches are muscular too, but it’s less obvious when compared to the angular shoulder of the outgoing GLS. This gives the SUV a more elegant look, but it doesn’t turn it into an utterly bland design.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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The SUVs aerodynamic coefficient is down for 0.35 to 0.32, an impressive figure for a full-size SUV

Changes are similar around back. The tall taillights were replaced with slimmer units that extend even more into the tailgate. The license plate recess is smaller and features a chrome strip at the top. The tailgate didn’t change much, but the rear window is no longer almost vertical, so the rear end looks sportier than before. The same goes for the bumper, which now has an independent lower section that looks like a diffuser. All told, the GLS no longer looks like a van from behind.

The sleeker design also improves aerodynamics. The SUVs aerodynamic coefficient is down for 0.35 to 0.32, an impressive figure for a full-size hauler. Difficult to achieve on small cars only a few years ago, this coefficient is slowly becoming the norm for larger vehicles, but Mercedes is the first to hit this number with an SUV.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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Size-wise, the GLS is only slightly bigger than its predecessor. The redesigned SUV is 205.2 inches long, a 3.6-inch increase, and 77 inches wide, a 0.9-inch increase. The wheelbase is now 2.4 inches longer, measuring 123.4 inches from one axle to the other.

2020 Mercedes GLS exterior dimensions
Wheelbase 123.4 inches
Length 205.2 inches
Width 77.0 inches

Interior

  • Borrows from the S-Class
  • Unique cues
  • Luxury items
  • State-of-the-art tech
  • Heated third-row seats
  • Rear-seat entertainment
  • Big screens
  • More legroom
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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The SUV finally adopted Mercedes' current interior design, which is already around six years old

Design-wise, the new-generation GLS is a massive departure from its predecessor. The SUV finally adopted Mercedes’ current interior design, which is already around six years old, having been introduced on the current S-Class sedan in 2013. The interesting thing here is that even though it borrows from the S-Class, just like other modern Mercs do, it feature notably different features. For starters, the A/C vents on the center stack are rectangular instead of round.

The A/C vent on the passenger side is also rectangular, but the one on the driver’s side is notably bigger and as tall as the instrument cluster and infotainment displays. A similar vent flanks two big displays on the right side too, but this one appears to be fake. But I can see why Merc designed it like this, as the infotainment and instrument cluster screens, which look like a really long display together, and are flanked by identical elements.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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Like in any full-size SUV, the GLS has a wider center stack, while the A/C control panel is clearly separated from this unit. The dashboard is also taller, which leaves more room between the stack and the center console. Two handles flank the wide center console. The two displays are identical to those in the S-Class and measure 12.3 inches each.

The two displays are identical to those in the S-Class and measure 12.3 inches each

It’s pretty obvious that the GLS is a luxury SUV. Most surfaces are wrapped in leather, there’s authentic wood veneer on the door panels, and contrast piping on the lower dashboard, center console, and door panels. The model shown here also has a two-tone layout that combines light gray and black for a classy appearance. You can obviously choose from many available colors and various materials, including fine leather and Alcantara.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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The GLS also comes with a new steering wheel with touch-sensitive buttons that detects horizontal and vertical swipes just like the screen of a smartphone or tablet. It also has an energy-saving, 64-color ambient lighting system and upgraded seats that are electrically adjustable and thus more comfortable for long trips.

The slightly longer wheelbase adds extra legroom in the second row and, for the first time, you can opt for two captain’s chairs instead of a bench here. The third row has adjustable seats as well, and all of them can be lowered into the floor to increase trunk space. You can also opt for heated third-row seats and various climate options that cover the entire cabin. The five-zone A/C system, for instance, adds climate controls in the third-row compartment.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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For the first time, you can opt for two captain's chairs instead of a rear-seat bench

Get the Executive Rear Seat Package, and the GLS comes with a seven-inch Android tablet with its own docking station in the second-row center armrest. It provides access to the radio, media, phone, web browser, and the climate system. Rear-seat passengers also have access to a wireless charging compartment in the center console and USB ports. Optionally, you can order rear seats with a lumbar massage function.

Like all modern Mercs, the GLS is equipped with MBUX; the company’s the latest infotainment system. It displays information on both screens, and it includes many segment-leading functions. The optional Interior Assistant allows intuitive operation of different functions by movement recognition via a camera placed in the overhead. When a hand approaches the touchscreen or the touchpad on the center console, the system is able to distinguish whether it’s yours or the front passenger’s and knows for whose seat the massage function is to be activated. But this is just an example. You can also enable the reading lamp by extending your hand toward the mirror.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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MBUX is also able to learn thanks to artificial intelligence. Using predictive functions, it can anticipate what you would like to do next. For instance, if you place a specific phone call to a specific person when driving back from work, MBUX will display the number on the screen as a suggestion. It will also suggest a radio station that you tune to at a particular time to get news or listen to a specific broadcast.

Mercedes has yet to release passenger room and trunk space details, but we’ll be back with an update as soon there are some figures to run by.

Drivetrain

  • Mild hybrid drivetrains
  • V-6 and V-8
  • Up to 504 horsepower
  • U to 700 pound-feet
  • Automatic transmission
  • Standard AWD
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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For the first time ever, Mercedes-Benz paired its twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine with a 48-volt electrical system

The new-generation GLS was unveiled with two drivetrains, one of which is a premiere. For the first time ever, Mercedes-Benz paired its twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine with a 48-volt electrical system and integrated starter generator. This combo turns the GLS into a mild hybrid. The V-8, already available in a wide range of AMG and non-AMG Mercs, cranks out 483 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque in this SUV. The electrical system, called EQ Boost, adds 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Total system output thus reaches 504 horses and a whopping 700 pound-feet, although maximum power and torque are only available for a limited time.

The SUV equipped with the layout sports a GLS580 badge and replaces the GLS550. This model features a twin-turbo, 4.7-liter V-8 rated at 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet, so the new GLS won 34 horses, not including the EQ Boost features. But more importantly, it succeeds in the fuel efficiency department and has a more compact drivetrain since the 48-volt system eliminates the need for a belt drive for ancillary components at the front of the engine.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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The second model in the lineup is the GLS450, which also features an EQ Boost system, but paired to the 3.0-liter V-6, just like in the CLS four-door coupe. The gas mill delivers 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, while EQ Boost adds the same 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet. Total output sits at 383 horses and 553 pound-feet of twist. The V-6 alone is just as powerful as in the outgoing GLS450, but EQ Boost adds extra oomph and improves fuel economy.

Unfortunately, EPA estimates aren’t available as of April 2019.

Both trims come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox and a 4Matic all-wheel-drive system

The GLS580 is available with a transfer case configured for enhanced off-road driving characteristics. In addition to a controlled multi-plate clutch with torque-on-demand function, it also features a reduction gear for off-road driving. When driving on paved roads and when cornering, fully networked transfer cases with torque-on-demand improve both handling and agility by influencing the degree of yaw to induce oversteer or understeer.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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The GLS rides on an improved AirMatic air suspension system with Adaptive Damping System Plus as standard. This setup uses complex sensors and algorithms to adapt the damping characteristics to the road condition and driving situation in real time. The wheel suspension mountings have been optimized to maximize ride comfort.

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

Prices

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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Pricing information is not yet available, but it’s safe to assume that the new GLS will cost a bit more than the outgoing model. Expect the GLS450 to retail from around $72,000, while the GLS580 should come in at almost $100,000 before options.

Competition

BMW X7

2019 BMW X7 Exterior
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Although it joined the SUV market in the late 1990s, BMW did not join the full-size segment until 2018. This left the GLS almost on its own in this class for more than ten years. But BMW now has the X7, a proper full-size SUV that has what it takes to give the new-generation GLS a run for its money. Essentially a larger, boxier X5, the X7 has an aggressive appearance defined by sharp lines and a massive kidney grille up front. The slim headlamps and taillights give it a sportier look, as do the muscular rear haunches and the sculpted lower doors. The X7 has similar features inside the cabin, including 12.3-inch displays for the instrument cluster and infotainment system, state-of-the-art technology, and an available selection of leather upholsteries and wood trim. Two engines are available in the United States. The base xDrive40i model features a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-six engine rated at 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, while the xDrive50i trim has a twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8 good for 456 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of twist. As the name suggests, both models are equipped with all-wheel drive as standard. Pricing starts from $73,900 for the base model and from $92,600 for the V-8 version.

Read our full story on the 2019 BMW X7.

Cadillac Escalade

2015 Cadillac Escalade High Resolution Exterior
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The Escalade might be a bit long in the tooth now that it’s four years old as of 2019, but it’s a solid competitor in the United States. Big, boxy, and imposing, the Escalade is powerful too thanks to a 6.2-liter V-8 that generates 420 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. Cadillac doesn’t offer a six-cylinder engine or a hybrid variant yet, and this might not change until the next-generation model arrives. The Escalade is also a full-fledged luxury vehicle, but it doesn’t have the modern tech you can find in the Bimmer or the Merc. The materials aren’t that good either, so it’s probably best to wait until the next-generation model arrives. But if you’re hooked on the Escalade’s imposing look and you want an American V-8 under the hood, then this SUV is a pretty good option. Pricing starts from $75,195.

Read our full review of the 2019 Cadillac Escalade.

Lincoln Navigator

The New Lincoln Navigator is Here, and You're Going to Want One High Resolution
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Redesigned for the 2018 model year, the Navigator is a fresh option compared to the Cadillac Escalade. Designed on the same recipe, the Navigator is big, boxy, and very American. While it looks a bit more organic than the Escalade, it’s not as dynamic as the GLS and X7 design-wise. Because it’s newer, it has more modern tech than the Escalade inside the cabin. The displays aren’t as big, but you do get a panoramic sunroof, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, USB, SYNC AppLink, and even a couple of 10-inch TVs for the second-row passengers. There’s no variety under the hood with just one engine available, but the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 cranks out a solid 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It also mates to Ford’s latest 10-speed automatic. Pricing starts from $73,205, on par with the competition.

Read our full story on the 2019 Lincoln Navigator.

Conclusion

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
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The previous-generation GLS had a successful career overall, but things went downhill quick when Lincoln launched the latest Navigator and BMW introduced the X7. Although it was still a solid option by modern standards, it was obviously dated when compared to its rivals. The new GLS comes to fix that with state-of-the-art technology, new materials, and new engines. Granted, it might not look as appealing as the X7 on the outside, but it has the coolest interior in this segment, and it’s the only one to have mild hybrid technology on both V-6 and V-8 engines. We don’t have all the figures we need for a proper comparison, but the GLS already looks promising, and BMW and Lincoln will have a hard time getting new customers into their dealerships.

  • Leave it
    • Evolutionary design
    • Tough competition

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.

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

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