Like a supertanker navigating the Panama Canal, the car is a tight squeeze for most parking spaces, and if the car next to you has been abandoned inconsiderately, there is much tummy sucking to do to get back behind the steering wheel. Many drivers will also find themselves using the showy running boards as a door step.
Once aboard, however, the GL doesn’t disappoint. The dashboard architecture is almost exactly the same as that found in the smaller ML we tested last year, so it’s visually appealing without any unnecessary showiness beyond a dusting of aluminium trim. The brashness is there but it’s all behind you, a built-in result of so much enclosed, clothed, trimmed and carpeted space.
Mercedes says there have been marginal gains over its predecessor in shoulder, elbow and headroom in all three rows of seating, although the 9mm gleaned from the roofline right at the back is likely to be the most consequential. Very few alleged seven-seaters have a legitimate claim to seating their full capacity in comfort, but the GL comes far closer than most to fulfilling the brief.
Average-sized adults will fit in the third row (with some selfless adjustment by those seated in front), and thanks to an optional – and essential – motorised version of the Easy-Entry seating system there is even a slither of dignity to entry and exit.
Unlike the second row, the final two seats in the GL’s 2-3-2 formation fold down electrically as standard, increasing the boot capacity from a respectable 295 litres to a voluminous 680 litres. Fold the middle row flat as well and there’s a near-inexhaustible 2300 litres, which eclipses easily the total load capacity of both an Audi Q7 and a full-size Range Rover.
Standard equipment is comprehensive and includes electric heated seats, Bluetooth, Mercedes' COMAND system with sat-nav and myriad media functions, a DAB tuner and climate control.
The Mercedes' standard entertainment system is fine, with CD, DAB and all the MP3 connections you could need, but there’s plenty more to spend your money on if you so wish.
As well as the Bang & Olufsen surround sound system, you can also specify options consisting of a TV tuner and a rear entertainment package, which includes two eight-inch screens in the back of the front headrests. The only essential add-on, though, is the Parking Package.