Flagship enterprise: Mercedes-Benz GLS 450d review

Dean Evans, Editor
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Mercedes-Benz GLS 450d, supercedes GLS 400d

  • Massive range
  • Mercedes, comfort and familiarity
  • Diesel torque for days
  • Typical initial diesel delay
  • Some tech glitches
  • She’s a big beast

The Mercedes-Benz GLS sits right at the top of the Mercedes-Benz luxury SUV tree. And the star on top of that three-model tree is perched the $371,000 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600; the mid-model is the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 at a modest $297,500, while the better present you’re more likely use and buy is the entry level GLS 450 d 4MATIC. Why? Because at just 191,300 dollars and 20 cents (the 20 cents are important!), it’s a relative bargain. Plus, well, it’s the one we’ve driven here.

Ignoring first and business class GLSs for a moment, the GLS 450d is anything but economy, and its imposing size and grandeur is befitting of its stature as the premium SUV model in the Mercedes line-up.

Seating seven and replacing the GLS 400d, the d in 450d stands for diesel, though the 450 stands for, er, a 3.0-litre V6, which offers up 270kW, but also an updated powertrain with a 48 volt mild hybrid boost for another 15kW and added efficiency when the battery has charge, which is almost always does. That takes the total to 285kW, and performance in the region of 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds. Which is impressive, but more so when realising its hefty 2700kg. Power is also increased from the previous 400 d’s 243kW/700Nm package, despite it also using a 3.0 turbo diesel.

Without directly comparing what it doesn’t have compared to its range siblings, it’s objectively, independently difficult to determine what the GLS 450d is lacking, as it’s luxury defined inside. Though hardly unique, either, as the interior is a copy-paste from the recently updated GLE we tested here.

The GLS model updates are with the design of the exterior and interior, as well as updates to the infotainment system, drive systems and equipment logic.

The prominent four-louvre radiator grille is derived from the G Class, while a new Sodalite Blue metallic and non-metallic ‘Manufaktur’ Alpine Grey, as tested. New Multibeam LED headlamps turn night into day, with automatic dipping, while new tail lamps are, well, new.

The MBUX multimedia system and the multifunction steering wheel have each been upgraded to the latest generation, which is unremarkably similar but similarly remarkable as other models such as the GLE and latest C Class sedan. Two new upholstery colours are available: Catalana Beige and Bahia Brown. We got the grey, though lifted a little by the multi-colour lighting, today, a purple hue.

Without wanting to sound like a brochure, standard equipment in the GLS 450 d is extensive: an AMG Line exterior makes it look all scoopy and aggressive, while tech is in abundance, such as a 360 degree parking package, augmented navigation that combines the actual forward camera view with graphic arrows to more accurately advise directions, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear, power closing doors, Head Up Display, aluminium running boards with puddle lamps and a full panoramic sunroof are just the start.

At just over 5.2 metres, she’s a big beast, but still a little shorter than a Ranger or Hilux, packing in not just a third row of electrically raised and lowered seats, but tonnes of luggage space, even with the seats up. With all seats lowered, it’s as big as a double bed, and almost as flat.

The dash layout is starting to feel strangely familiar after a run of new Mercedes, which is great for familiarity, given the abundance of features, just a little lacking for individuality… at least a minor issue for those with multiple Mercs in the garage. We also encountered some minor technical bugs with phone connectivity dropping out, though they wasn't frequent enough to ascertain if it was car or phone.

The talking piece on our test car, for our kids, was without question the Rear Comfort Package, a $9900 option available on the 450d and AMG 63. Comprising a wireless charging system for mobile devices, there’s both a centrally mounted, removeable MBUX tablet in the flip-down centre console for all the entertainment or climate controls that the front touchscreen offers, plus a wireless headset along with a high end rear seat entertainment package, aka, two separate screens for each rear-seat passenger that allows connectivity to 4G or WiFi, as thoroughly tested by our kids, Ella and Oscar, where they happily spent the afternoon enjoying Mincecraft YouTubes and The Kiffness X Cala cat videos.

As chauffeur for the day with two back passengers playing memory games, driving the GLS is a premium experience. Heavier and slower than its slightly smaller GLE sibling, while using the same engine, there’s plenty of torque on tap and mid-range is where it excels, with the only minor issue being the typical diesel delay from standstill, though it’s easy enough to adapt and understand how to offset it, while the nine-speed gearbox is silky smooth and almost always in the right gear for throttle response.

Fuel economy figure claims of 7.8l/100km were a little closer to 9.8l/100km during our time with it, albeit mostly around town driving and a bit more enthusiastic test driving than typical commuting. Though with a 90-litre tank, that's close to 1000km of useable range.

Adjustable ride-height and an off-road mode are also on the menu, though we’d imagine like most GLS owners, left largely untouched.

Imposing but agile, large and supremely practical with seven seats, and quiet and somewhat economical for its size, while the Business and First Class GLS might be luring us into temptation, the 450d is a modernised and made-better version that continues the Mercedes maxim of luxury with performance.

Mercedes-Benz GLD 450d

ENGINE: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, mild hybrid
POWER: 270kW (+15kW EV boost), 750Nm
GEARBOX: 9-speed auto
ECONOMY: 7.8l/100km
0-100KM/H: 6.1 secs
PRICE: $191,300.20


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