This is a seriously large vehicle. It’s bigger in every regard than an Audi Q7 for instance. It’s also the latest version of the GL-Class, now with added S. In some ways it hasn’t changed all that much, just added more kit and sparkly bits, so is that enough?
We tested the version with the big-selling 3.0-litre V6 diesel, but now it is mated to a new nine-speed auto box. This shuffles gears convincingly and smoothly and it also does good things for fuel consumption and emissions. The nose covering this engine has been revamped to fit in with the rest of the range better, and there are more design changes inside.
So it’s not a massive makeover, but it is a massive vehicle. Controlling all two and a half tonnes is no small feat, but the Designo Line spec adds clever anti-roll bars to what is already a very competent handling package. Roll is very well controlled, even in Comfort mode, so switching up to Sport simply makes the ride harder without having too many other benefits.
Sure, you are aware of the sheer bulk and heft of the thing, but it’s controlled pretty well unless you start pushing on in a way that few drivers would want to. Even manoeuvring is simple, helped by the all-round camera. The steering is lifeless, but that’s a complaint we make about a lot of modern systems.
Step up into the cabin and you’re in a cavernous space. A flexible one too, since you can seat seven adults in some comfort, but if you need to you can fold down both the second and third rows of seats. Naturally the seats fold electrically so there’s no need to use those big biceps you’ve been honing at the gym.
With just the front row of seats up you’re looking at the sort of cargo area that would give agoraphobics complete nightmares. Watch out for echoes. That’s a useful quality, but what’s lacking is a true sense of occasion, that S-Class class.
There’s plush stuff, leather and nice metal, but not everything looks great, and some of the switchgear obviously came from a more general parts bin. Overall the interior disappoints. It’s just not opulent enough to go with the rest of the package.
The cabin doesn’t compare to that of a Range Rover, but neither does it compare favourably with that of the Audi Q7. That’s a cheaper alternative most definitely, yet it has the superior cabin and doesn’t fall far behind in any area. This GLS 350d is for those for whom size really does matter.
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