2012 Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic: Review notes

The price of this 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic makes me gasp, but this is as fine a vacation vehicle as one could ask for. If there’s a quieter, smoother big ute on the market, I’d like to see it.

This thing is just butter. The power, never abrupt or overbearing, is just smooth, smooth, smooth and more than ample when you need it. Shifts are imperceptible.

Handling-wise, this ute isn’t exactly agile, but it drives well for a 5,500-pounder. The adjustable suspension makes the ride suitable for most conditions, or at least all of the ones I encountered. One could argue that the soft setting is a little too forgiving. I found myself in soft when I had the thing loaded up with people and firm when I was by myself. That seemed to be a good compromise.

The whole truck exudes quality, from the sheetmetal gaps to the door thunks. The cockpit is well built and the seats are comfortable for long hauls; my longest was a couple of hours, and the seats were terrific. And God knows this ute certainly will haul a ton of stuff and/or people in supreme comfort.

In my opinion, the E-class wagon is one of the best cars available in this country, and the reality is I would probably get one of those if I really wanted a Benz. But this GL was a lovely vacation hauler.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: I always enjoy time in a GL, as to me it exemplifies exactly what a big ute from Mercedes-Benz should be: big, refined, comfortable and powerful. This thing is all of that. With the snow flying last night and then the icy roads this morning, it was reassuring to climb aboard knowing I was piloting a nearly three-ton vehicle equipped with every electronic gizmo known to man to help keep me between the ditches. Traction/stability control and ABS are wonderful things when the coefficient of friction is more like an ice rink than a racetrack.

Speaking of which, the big V8 can motivate all of this tonnage quite well. It’s not going to win many drag races, but this thing is not slow. Not by a long shot.

The GL is in need of an update as far as the interior goes. It would be great to have the seat controls on the door, as in the passenger cars, and the radio interface is old Mercedes, lacking the iDrive-like control found on the new sedans.

As Wes noted, all of this bigness comes at a price. But for those who need the space, towing capabilities and, of course, the luxury, it’s worth it.

 

2012 Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic

Base Price: $86,175

As-Tested Price: $89,125

Drivetrain: 5.5-liter V8; AWD, seven-speed automatic

Output: 382 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 391 lb-ft @ 2,800-4,800 rpm

Curb Weight: 5,545 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 14/14.7 mpg

Options: Rear-seat entertainment system including two front head-restraint-integrated eight-inch LCD monitors, two wireless headsets, dual remote controls, single-disc DVD player, auxiliary inputs ($1,950); class IV trailer hitch with 7,500-pound capacity ($550); heated steering wheel ($225); accessory chrome package with chrome door-handle inserts, hood fin cover ($225)

 

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