One thing the car industry has done rather well over these past 10 years is anaesthetise our natural distaste for large automobiles. When the first Mercedes-Benz GL was launched in 2007, it was to fill a seven-seat hole in Mercedes’ North American line-up.

The soccer-mom shed on wheels was ideal for trucking kids and trailers from sea to shining sea, but it was perceived to be proportioned like an aircraft carrier when the German manufacturer attempted to insert it into the UK’s modest-sized niche. 

European manufacturers were late to the feeding frenzy that is the US's full-size luxuy crossover market. For years, domestic and Japanese options had sated demand, but the introduction of the seven-seat Audi Q7 in 2005 marked the appearance of luxury brands from the old world.

Mercedes followed with the GL a year later, and if its debut a the Detroit motor show wasn't an obvious statement of intent, the decision to build the car in Alabama clearly showed where it was intended for.

Fast forward to 2013 and the new GL is still a gargantuan beast, yet our blossoming appetite for buying large SUVs – and our subsequent familiarity with them on our roads – has helped it to shrink somewhat in our perception. 

Certainly there is room for another premium seven-seat option in the large SUV class. It’s a growth segment, but one that lacks competition when compared with the more compact alternatives. So perhaps now there is room in British buyers’ estimation for Mercedes’ five-metre by two-metre prospect.

Let’s find out if it deserves a place on the short list.

Top 5 Sports SUVs

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run