In the world of premium fullsize SUVs, the Mercedes Benz GL550 is a technological powerhouse that also places a large emphasis on safety and convenience. Taking aim at the Escalade and Range Rover models, the Alabama-built, seven-passenger SUV features a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, bi-turbo V-8 providing 429 hp and a mind-bending 516 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1800 rpm, 4MATIC all-wheel drive, and an adjustable AIRMATIC sport/comfort air suspension. Thanks to the Adaptive Damping System and the optional 21-inch AMG-specific wheels with Pirelli tires, the GL550 encourages the driver to push the Mercedes beyond traditional SUV limits. Never have I driven such a large SUV (5578-pound curb weight) that felt so light on its feet and eager to turn at a moment's notice.
With a laundry list of safety gadgets such as 13-way airbag protection, PARKTRONIC with Active Parking Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, DISTRONIC PLUS with PRE-SAFE braking, and surround view system for easy parking, the GL will keep the family protected under most extreme circumstances. The family will appreciate the 8-inch LCD screens in each front headrest with individual headphones, the powered liftgate, and Harmon Kardon LOGIC7 surround sound system.
During our week-long test, we put more than 1,500 freeway, highway, and city miles on the GL550. To say we were impressed would be an understatement. With double-pane glass, the GL is quieter than an Escalade, with a more refined and elegant cabin, while also having freeway passing-power that most large SUVs can't match. Despite hauling around two kids and all of their gear, the cabin never felt cramped, rather quite the opposite was true. Soft-touch materials abound, and thanks to the powered tilt/telescopic steering column along with the heated/ventilated leather seats, mom and dad always found the perfect seating position. For all you off-roaders out there, you'll be happy to know the GL features an off-road mode with a two-speed low-range transfer case. With a tow rating of 7,500 pounds, there isn't much this Mercedes can't do well. Then again, it does excel at draining your bank account. It would take $99,295 to drive home our spec'd-out GL550. Looking back at my time behind the wheel, it would be money well spent.
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550
Base Price: $86,900
Price as Tested: $99,295
Type: 4.6L V-8 DOHC 32-valve bi-turbo
Displacement: 280 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Horsepower: 429 at 5,250 rpm
Torque: 516 at 1,800 rpm
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded
Layout: Front engine, 4MATIC AWD
Transmission: Seven-speed auto with paddle shifters
Brakes: 13.9-inch front with two-piston calipers/ 12.6-inch rear disc
Wheels: AMG five-spoke 21x10-inch
Tires: 295/40R21 Pirelli Scorpion Zero
Tow Capacity: 7,500 pounds
0-60: 5.1 seconds
1/4-mile: 13.6 at 102.6 mph
60-0: 117 feet
Observed Gas Mileage: 17.7 mpg