The cabin is a likeable environment, but doesn’t feel quite as rich or special as the ‘S-Class of SUVs’ strapline suggests it should. There’s much that gives an impression of the smaller GLE, only scaled up in size, which feels like a cop-out in a flagship luxury SUV. Cars like this deserve a more bespoke ambience.
Those with a keen eye will note the array of squared-off air vents set in an attractive brushed aluminium dashboard fascia, while the slender grab handles that protrude from the centre console have also been carried over from the GLE. All the switchgear is largely familiar, as are the shapes and locations of numerous storage solutions dotted around the front of the cabin. But as familiar as the GLS’s cabin is, the same argument applies to the likes of the BMW X5 and X7.
The twin screens of the latest MBUX infotainment suite dominate the dashtop and the Mercedes feels like the more technologically sophisticated seven-seat SUV when compared with its closest German opponents. As a bona fide seven-seat SUV, however, the X7 outshines the GLS for three-row practicality. Both have cavernous second rows (the Mercedes has up to 850mm of leg room and 990mm of head room), but the X7 pips it for third-row space. We have yet to take a tape measure to the BMW, but previous experience confirms adult passengers can fit in the rearmost seats in impressive comfort. In the GLS, these seats are best left for larger children.
Boot space ranges from 470 litres with the rearmost seats in place to a gargantuan 2400 litres with two rows of seats folded dead flat.
Mercedes-Benz GLS infotainment and sat-nav
Mercedes’ expansive MBUX infotainment system continues to impress, with pin-sharp graphics and intuitive menus, even if the rotary controller found in the BMW X7 still beats the trackpad used here for making quick, precise commands on the fly.
The two 12.3in displays nevertheless convey the feeling of technological superiority that Mercedes will have intended and, alongside the system’s capacity for voice and gesture control, the central display is touch sensitive, and so your angles of attack are many. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come as standard, with no associated subscription fee.
Premium Plus Executive trim extends the technology to the second row, adding wireless phone chargers, extra USB connections (for 11 in total) and 7.0in tablets, which can themselves be upgraded to 11.6in touchscreens with the MBUX Rear Seat Entertainment System.