You won’t mistake the GL for any of its siblings like the G-Class. This car is enormous. It’s longer, wider and taller than the model it replaces – a car we said was big enough to be problematic several years ago – and is longer overall than the outgoing S-Class, with more than three metres between the wheels. Not a car for anyone concerned about the size of their office car park, then.
For all that, the GL is skilfully styled, with attractive details and panel sculpture to distract from the sheer expanse of metal. As the SsangYong Rodius proved, making a vehicle this size look normal, never mind good, isn’t easy. Mercedes can consider its efforts a quiet success.
The GL’s is a monocoque construction. Its body is built mainly from steel with suspension of lighter aluminium alloy, but 90kg has been saved from the kerb weight by using aluminium for the bonnet and wings.
That’s 90kg out of an overall 2710kg, mind you. A Range Rover TDV8, itself no lightweight and with two extra engine cylinders, is 85kg lighter. Considering the weight Stuttgart has saved from its new SL and S-Class models, that’s a bit unimpressive.
There are two versions for UK buyers: the 255bhp six-cylinder diesel tested here and the full-house 549bhp GL 63 AMG. Self-levelling, load-sensing Airmatic air suspension features as standard, connected to adaptive dampers at all four corners.
Optionally, you can also add extra ride height adjustability and active anti-roll bars, both to dial out body roll on the road and increase wheel articulation off road as part of Mercedes’ Active Curve system.
It seems a pity that you have to spec the optional On & Offroad Package to release the GL’s full off-road ability, but Mercedes knows that most owners won’t need it. Even in standard form, there’s a 30deg approach angle, which is reasonable, but it is slightly compromised by a 25deg departure angle.
The breakover angle of 20deg is respectable, given the vast wheelbase, and the 276mm ground clearance is fine for most rutted tracks. The capability to wade to a 500mm water depth is excellent.