$61,570 - $85,300

2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Performance Review

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


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

Find the Best Price

Enter your zip code to get local pricing.

Get Dealer Quotes

To get dealer quotes, enter your zip code.

Search Used Listings

To search used listings, enter your zip code.

Change Location

Enter your zip code to see listings near you.

Please enter a valid zipcode

Best Price Program

Interested in a New?

Use the U.S. News Best Price Program to find great deals and get upfront pricing on the.