$18,925 - $23,954

2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 8.3

Reviewers like the way the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class drives, especially for such a large SUV. They say that even the smallest engine, a diesel-powered V6, is plenty powerful. All three models win praise for their handling, which writers say isn’t as truck-like as most luxury large SUVs. Overall, reviewers recommend the fuel-sipping GL350 BlueTEC for its winning combination of price, fuel economy and performance.

  • “In comparison, the GL diesel is just about as economical to operate as the (Cadillac) Escalade Hybrid, which is slower, more cumbersome to drive and more expensive.” -- Edmunds
  • "The GL550 has more tire noise than other GLs, and its exhaust note is prominent, but even the diesel is quiet at cruise.” -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Mercedes GL-Class has three engine options, which all come standard with all-wheel drive. The base GL350 Bluetec is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that makes 210 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. The GL350 is the least expensive and most fuel-efficient option. The EPA hasn’t rated this year’s model yet, but Mercedes says it will net 17/21 mpg city/highway. The next step up, the GL450, has a gas-powered 4.6-liter V8 with 335 ponies under the hood and 339 pound-feet of torque. This model gets 13/18 mpg. Finally, the GL550’s 5.5-liter V8 makes 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque, and rates a dismal 12 /17 mpg. Both the GL450 and GL550 require premium gasoline, another cost added onto their already high annual fuel costs.

All three models have a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds.

Most reviewers note that the GL350 is a bit slow off the line, thanks to the diesel engine’s turbochargers, but once under way, the GL350 has plenty of get-up-and-go. The other engines are more powerful, earning positive comments from nearly every reviewer. In order for the GL350’s diesel engine to meet emissions standards, it includes an extra exhaust-treatment system. This type of exhaust treatment requires periodic visits to the dealer for maintenance, which is something to keep in mind when shopping.

  • "Lackluster low-end power (diesel).” -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Generally, reviewers say that the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class handles better than most other luxury large SUVs because it’s built on a unibody car frame rather than a truck-based platform. The GL’s standard air suspension system allows drivers to choose whether they prefer Sport or Comfort mode, but some reviewers mention that in Comfort mode, the ride feels a bit floaty. This same system can also raise or lower the ride height, which gives the GL additional ground clearance in case drivers decide to take it off road.

  • "The thing I keep thinking about when I drive a GL is the impeccable road manners for a vehicle this big. The steering is on the money, and this thing just sails over road imperfections.” -- AutoWeek
  • "The GL’s impeccable road manners remain intact. It never tries to be a sports car, but the steering is slop-free and accurate, and the GL350 wafts over bumps in a way that seems to say, ‘You’re in a giant Mercedes. I know you don’t want to be disturbed.’" -- Car and Driver

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