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2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.7

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS leads the luxury large SUV class in performance. Robust mild-hybrid powertrains, great fuel economy estimates, and a ride that can be tuned for comfortable cruising or composed agility all help it stand out from the pack.

  • "The GLS's ride quality is buttery, not sloppy." -- Car and Driver
  • "Considering how physically large the GLS is, you'll likely be surprised by how it drives like a much smaller SUV. Thank its adaptive suspension and responsive powertrain for that. In the softest setting, the adaptive air suspension soaks up the bumps and offers a supple ride. And if you find it to be too soft on twisty roads, switching it up to a more aggressive drive mode can stabilize the body and prevent it from rolling too much." -- Edmunds
  • "With the EQ Boost system ironing out the dips between shifts, the GLS is remarkably smooth and quiet. However, the added hybrid grunt means that even the six-cylinder model feels V8 potent when it comes time to pass." -- CNET

Acceleration and Power

The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 features a 362-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. The GLS 550 gets a brawnier 483-horsepower 4.0-liter turbo V8.

This is a mild-hybrid vehicle, as both engines are paired with a 48-volt electric motor (EQ Boost) that can make an additional 21 horsepower. A nine-speed automatic is the only transmission available.

Both powertrains produce more than enough energy for most driving scenarios. As you might expect, the V8 engine packs more punch, but the GLS 450’s acceleration is nearly as brisk as the 550’s. The transmission shifts smoothly. A properly equipped GLS can tow up to 7,700 pounds.

The GLS 450 earns an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. At the time of writing, the EPA has not rated the GLS 550.

  • "The base engine is … agreeable and refined, if not as smooth as a comparable BMW six. Sending its 369 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission to the standard all-wheel-drive system, the straight-six is really all the engine you'll need. The uplevel GLS580, however, packs a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 with the same hybridized electric starter/generator as on the six. Mercedes calls this EQ Boost. The V-8's 483 horses and 516 lb-ft is not strictly speaking necessary, but it is smooth and expensive." -- Car and Driver
  • "The GLS 580, on the other hand, feels sportier and more powerful. Its 4.0-liter V-8 engine feels dynamic and energetic. Just like in the 3.0-liter, the nine-speed transmission is quick and smooth. Although it goes for the highest gear possible most of the time, it will downshift quickly when you need it to." -- Motor Trend
  • "You might think that the GLS580’s potent V-8 would be the no-brainer, with its stonking 483 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, but we actually preferred the GLS450’s inline-six despite it making 'just' 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. Why? Because the six-cylinder’s interaction with the 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission was far smoother, more refined, and more consistent across all types of driving." -- Automobile Magazine

Handling and Braking

Many critics rave about the available E-Active Body Control. It works essentially like this: A camera is used to scan the road ahead. Then the suspension auto-adjusts to adapt to any upcoming bumps or dips, facilitating a blissfully smooth ride. E-Active Body Control’s Curve setting helps this big SUV take corners with minimal lean. Even without it, the GLS feels poised and confident on the road.

All-wheel drive is standard.

  • "The 450 we drove, like all GLS models, comes with adjustable-height air springs and adaptive dampers but without the trick 48-volt E-Active Body Control (E-ABC) suspension system. … Still, its body roll is well controlled and progressive, and its steering provided ample feel and precision. Its brakes withstood 50 miles of twisty-road flogging." -- Car and Driver
  • "For a car intended to be very comfortable, the handling is great." -- Jalopnik
  • "The new engines and four-wheel drive system are great, but the single most impressive thing about the 2020 GLS is the ride. The standard air suspension offers a smooth and isolating ride for such a big SUV, but the optional E-Active Body Control is something really special. It's a complicated system … but the basic premise is that a camera reads the road ahead and pre-loads the suspension for any imperfections. Unlike some reactive systems, this knows what's coming up ahead, smoothing out imperfections and potholes like they aren't even there." -- Autoblog

Off-Roading

The GLS may not be much of an off-roader, but it’s more than capable of exploring sand, dirt, and rocky trails. It comes with hill descent control, an adjustable ride height, and an Off-Road package with features such as low-range crawl control and off-road drive modes.

  • "Mercedes set us up on a dirt course which was honestly much, much more intense than it needed to be. It took a few hours, and included a hill climb and, then, a descent down a rocky surface, all of which should’ve been a little perilous but with which the GLS handled with the smoothness of a much smaller car." -- Jalopnik
  • "While no GLS owner is actually going to be doing any serious off-roading, the GLS is plenty capable, especially with the new off-road package. The package includes a real, legitimate low range for better crawling and an enhanced Off-Road+ mode that adjusts things like throttle response, suspension and transmission tuning. The GLS also includes hill-descent control and adjustable ride height. All told, the GLS is similar to the Range Rover in that it's far more capable than it realistically needs to be." -- Autoblog
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2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

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