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Can Mercedes’ third-generation GLS behemoth justify its claim to be the ‘S-Class of SUVs’?

The Mercedes-Benz GLS, which is now entering its third full model cycle, has become something of a strange idol for those who believe, absolutely and unquestionably, that bigger must necessarily mean better when it comes to luxury cars.

It hasn’t always been known by that initialism. The first version, which stretched the ML-Class’s underpinnings to suit a proper adult-sized seven-seat SUV application, was dubbed ‘GL’ when it came along in 2007 and helped provide the production volume to establish Mercedes’ US factory in Alabama.

The GLS would be a very odd flagship SUV for Mercedes, but the fact is that it isn’t anything of the kind any more. It has been so plainly usurped by the latest G-Class, which has all the sense of identity and authenticity that the GLS lacks.

But now that first mission has been achieved, and with so many ways to spend a six-figure sum on a leather-lined, exotically positioned luxury 4x4 today that simply didn’t exist 13 years ago (not to mention a much improved G-Class sibling rival with which to compete), does Mercedes need to redefine this car’s brief and positioning? Does the BMW X7 represent a direct challenge to which Mercedes must be seen to react? Which way does the biggest Mercedes SUV of them all now turn to ensure its continued existence – or does it simply plough steadily straight on in global market conditions that supposedly remain favourable to all cars of its ilk?

All these questions and more must have concerned Mercedes’ product planners during the initial design and conception of the X167- generation GLS, which undergoes this week’s road test in what is effectively the only engine and trim-level derivative form in which it’s offered to UK buyers: as the six-cylinder diesel GLS 400d.

The firm describes the new GLS as more evolutionary than revolutionary, claiming it simply offers “more of the same: more space, more comfort, more luxury”. Stand by to find out, then, if even more really does mean more in this particular case.

The GLS line-up at a glance

Although the GLS is available with a much wider range of six- and eight-cylinder petrol and diesel engines in other markets, the 400d is the sole choice for the UK. AMG Line is the entry-level trim offering, with Premium, Premium Plus and Premium Plus Executive add-on packs optionally available.

Mercedes-AMG has recently unveiled the monstrous GLS 63, whose 4.0-litre V8 develops 603bhp and 627lb ft with assistance from a 48V mild-hybrid system. This model will arrive towards the end of spring.

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Price £75,040 Power 326bhp Torque 516lb ft 0-60mph 6.5sec 30-70mph in fourth 6.9sec Fuel economy 30.0mpg CO2 emissions 213g/km 70-0mph 45.5m

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Mercedes-benz GLS

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