An expensive, well-dressed wedding marquee on wheels. The new GL has actually grown a few millimetres in every direction, and there really is no escaping its size up close. Especially in a standard-edition British car parking space, which it fills with all the cramped awkwardness of Sherman Klump on a bus seat.
You’d be forgiven for thinking its bling aluminium running boards are strictly for show, but in fact the car really does require a front step if you’re to lever yourself into it with any dignity.
Once inside the GL’s advantages are readily apparent. There’s ample space for a large family, and while looking in the rear-view mirror is like looking down the aisle of a church, it’s obvious that there’s going to be leg, head and shoulder room to spare.
If you’ve forked out £410 for the electrically operated Easy-Entry seats - and you should - access and egress to the second row is made conspicuously easy by the button operated forward roll of the seat in front (although, disappointingly, it requires adult muscles to shunt it back into place).
Push all the buttons and the seats fold almost flat to reveal 2300 litres of load space, enough to make even a new Range Rover’s innards look stingy. It’s also worth mentioning that the quality of Mercedes’ fit and finish does not diminish the further you get from the driver’s seat - this is a premium product, and even those in the second row will testify to it. Certainly more so than in the last GL, which is reflected in the driving experience, too. The manufacturer has worked hard on the noise, vibration and harshness of its formerly hollow-sounding creation, and although its claim of S-class-style refinement can be taken with a pinch of salt, it’s a quiet and comfortable punt.
Granted, there is none of the dynamic charm of Land Rover’s latest product line - this a benign machine with ethereal, finger-twirling steering - but the GL benefits from the full support of its air suspension, fidgeting only slightly and inoffensively over Surrey roads.
Opt for the optional Active Curve System (which adds lateral stabilisers to the front and rear axles) and it will even corner with commendably little roll angle.
Of course, doing this aggressively is out. Though the flexibility and quick-fire 457lb ft of torque hides it well, this is a 2455kg car with a 3075mm wheelbase - agile it ain’t. Inevitably it also has a habit of turning A roads into B roads, and B roads into bridleways.
It’s probably telling that the only time the GL felt truly at home was during the photography on a deserted, runway-wide perimeter road at Longcross - where they used to test tanks.