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2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class was new.


Performance: 8.8

The 2009 Mercedes Benz GL gets positive performance reviewers. Reviewers like the way the large SUV drivers like a much smaller vehicle, while still maintaining good off-road abilities. This is in large part thanks to its unibody construction, instead of the body-on-frame construction that is typically used in most large SUVs and trucks. Ride comfort that befits a luxury SUV also puts the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL ahead of some competitors, thanks to standard all-wheel drive, an independent rear suspension, and features such as electronic stability control.

  • The GL "never feels like a full-size brute that can swallow seven; rather, it drives small, coming across more as an S-Class sedan than an Escalade competitor." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Mercedes-Benz GL 450 is large and capable off road yet feels surprisingly car-like on the road." -- New Car Test Drive
  • The GL "manages to present itself with a touch of class. Its mechanical sophistication, unit-body construction and superior craftsmanship also set it apart from other seven-passenger full-sizers" --Edmunds
  • "An impressive combination of power, smoothness, surefooted handling and luxury." -- AutoWeek

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has three available engines. The base GL450 is powered by a 4.6-liter, 335-horsepower V8. The GL320 CDI is powered by a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine that makes 215 horsepower. The GL550 gets a powerful 5.5-liter V8 that makes 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission provides very smooth acceleration in all models, according to most reviewers.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the GL550 is expected to net 13 miles per gallon in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. The GL450 trim provides 13/18 city/highway. But buyers hoping to lessen any guilt over buying such a vehicle might consider opting for the diesel-powered GL320 CDI, which provides much better mileage -- 18/24 mpg city/highway.

  • "Like the CDI before it, the GL320 Bluetec offers significantly better fuel economy than its gasoline-propelled counterparts do. It also provides adequate power for those who can live without the authoritative thrust of the optional V8s." -- Edmunds
  • "[Though] the diesel GL320 CDI isn't going to break any acceleration records, passing and merging maneuvers come easily" -- AutoWeek
  • The GL 550's 5.5 liter V8 is the "right-size engine for the GL. It offers strong, linear acceleration without the neck-snap of an AMG model, but also with no hesitation." -- Motor Trend
  • "Bigger V-8 adds hustle; diesel adds great gas mileage." -- Car and Driver
  • "Both V8s deliver effortless thrust, and while the GL550 has more punch, the GL450 is plenty strong for any task." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts sublimely under all circumstances, kicking down into the thick of the power with just a moment's hesitation." -- Autobytel

Handling and Braking

Most reviews say that the 2009 Mercedes GL Class offers above-average handling, but lacks road feel. The GL450 uses an independent rear suspension system for both the front and rear wheels as well as a four-wheel air suspension system which automatically adjusts for road conditions, and which can also manually raise or lower the car's chassis for those venturing off-road. Reviews say this suspension system does a very good job at providing a comfortable ride. Braking is provided by vented disc brakes, which are supplemented by a four-wheel traction system, which monitors the speed of all wheels for slip, and applies brakes individually as needed. Anti-lock brakes are standard.

  • "In fast turns on smooth surfaces, the GL550 has tenacious grip and relatively little body lean, but all GLs stay flatter in corners than most large SUVs. One test GL450 had a mushy brake-pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • All GL models "drive smaller than they are; agile handlers, they hustle quickly through curves." -- AutoWeek
  • "In terms of handling, Mercedes' GL is made for luxury, not for sport, and it shows. For example, the GL's steering is nicely weighted, but it's a tad slow, and the soft suspension might feel too floaty for some drivers. Relative to other full-size SUVs, though, the 2009 Mercedes GL is reasonably agile and maneuverable." -- Edmunds
  • "Ride quality is way above average," -- Motor Week
  • "Feels smaller than it is, with controlled body motions and smooth ride." -- Car and Driver

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