The restyled GL is, if anything, even more imposing than it was. The appearance at the front leaves you in no doubt about its lineage, but the rear disappointingly possesses common visual links with any number of current off-roaders, particularly the shape of the tail lights.
Inside you are treated to an airy cabin that shares much with that of the latest M-class. It is a classy and high-quality driving environment, but despite its newness it lacks the up-market feel of the soon-to-be-replaced Range Rover. Accommodation is plentiful in the first two rows of seats, but less so in the third row.
Mercedes-Benz’s latest V6 diesel feels custom-made for its new flagship off-roader, providing the GL 350 BlueTec 4Matic with a good turn of speed from a standstill, a satisfyingly flexible mid-range and effortless motorway properties. It is strong enough to make the V8 petrol powered GL 500 BlueEfficiency superfluous, with a 0-62mph time of 7.9sec and a towing capacity of 3500kg.
The turbocharged 3.0-litre unit mates wonderfully to the firm's seven-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive system to imbue the base GL with excellent levels of mechanical refinement and remarkable fuel efficiency. Official figures put combined cycle consumption at 38.2mpg and average CO2 emissions at 192g/km. This all makes it a great long distance proposition, and with a 100-litre fuel tank it boasts a theoretical range of almost 800 miles.
Mercedes is keenly aware that its biggest off-roader is never going to be capable of delivering hot hatch levels of agility, so has wisely engineered it with an emphasis on comfort. From the start, you’re aware of the inherent lightness of the new electro-mechanical steering, which provides the GL350 BlueTec 4Matic with a direct feel and impressive low speed manovourability. The weighting increases as speed rises but it also becomes a little less direct in its actions, too. The steering does, however, boast keen centering properties and is sensitive enough to provide a good level of feedback on most surfaces.
The GL 350 BlueTec 4Matic feels most at home on the motorway, with impressive straight-line stability and a cosseting, refined ride. It is less happy on winding back roads, although refinements to the suspension and, on models equipped with air springs, the inclusion of Active Curve System as an option ensures it corners with greater body control than its predecessor.
We’re yet to put the GL 350 BlueTec 4Matic to the test in true off-road conditions. A brief excursion on a gravel mountain road indicated it will meet most expectations away from the bitumen.