What is it?
The second generation of Mercedes’ Big ’n’ Gulp SUV. Stuttgart likes to think of the GL as its seven-seat answer to Range Rover, but in reality it’s a soccer mum Panzer; built predominately in Alabama to satisfy America’s appetite for all things four-wheeled and overfed.
Its sheer size is often cited as one of the reasons for the GL’s lacklustre sales record in Europe (the GL is well over five metres, nose to tail, and around six-feet tall) but its blunt, truck-like styling must shoulder some of the blame.
This overhaul doesn’t go deep enough to change that - although the radiator grille and headlights are updated - nor does it do much to lower the titanic, two-and-a-half ton kerb burden. Certainly a new smattering of aluminum alloy saves 90kg, but in the GL’s case that’s like announcing your visit to the hairdresser’s has resulted in significant weight loss.
No, the biggest improvements here come courtesy of engine updates already enacted elsewhere. The 255bhp diesel 3.0-litre V6 in the GL 350 - tested here, and by far the biggest seller - delivers a 24 per cent improvement in fuel consumption over its predecessor.
The claimed combined economy of 38.0mpg puts it on an equal footing with the new Range Rover Sport, and while it doesn’t quite match its CO2 emissions (209g/km vs 199g/km), the Mercedes motor is already Euro6 compliant thanks to its NOx minimising AdBlue technology.
In the UK the 350 represents the entry-level of GL ownership (the 550bhp GL 63 AMG is above it) and starts at £59,485. There’s a respectable amount of kit included for that fee - sat-nav, a powered tailgate, heated front seats, hill descent, active park assist, 21-inch AMG alloy wheels — and of course, all-wheel drive.
If you want Land Rover-style off-road ability, however, Mercedes asks £1985 for low ratio functionality, reinforced underfloor panelling and a proper locking centre diff.