The updated Mercedes Benz G-class range of SUVs offers up-market buyers unrivalled levels of power, luxury and comfort.
South Africans love their SUVs, something that was affirmed last week by Johannes Fritz, co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa when introducing the updated offerings in the “G” class, a model range that accounts for about 30% of its local sales.
As with all new vehicle introductions these days, there has to be the “wow” — a feature that makes your latest acquisition impress your friends and shake their heads in amazement.
In this case, it is the standard carwash function, which moves the suspension to the highest position, folds in the exterior mirrors, closes the side windows and sunroof and switches the climate control to air-recirculation mode.
It deactivates automatically when the driver drives out of the carwash and accelerates to a speed above 20km/h.
After saying “wow”, it’s also good to note that within the new G range is the GLS which already imposing presence has been strengthened. Sixty millimetres have been added to the wheelbase, which improves interior comfort, improving handling and offering a high degree of off-road capability.
The GL full-size variant offering space for seven people was launched in 2006, and in 2015, a facelift introduced the second generation of the large, and luxurious, SUVs and the change of name to GLS.
At present, Mercedes-Benz offers several models in the SUV segment — GLA, GLB, GLC, GLC Coupé, GLE, GLE Coupé, GLS and G-Class — with the Mercedes-Maybach GLS being launched later this year.
Locals will be able to choose between the GLS 400d 4M and Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4M, which marks the global introduction of the new electrified V8 petrol engine with a 48-volt on-board electrical system and integrated starter-generator.
The GLS 580 4MATIC’s new V8, four-litre petrol engine produces 360 kW and 700 Nm of torque, with an additional 250 Nm of torque and 16 kW of additional output temporarily on tap via EQ Boost.
Combined fuel consumption is around 10.1-9.8 l/100 km. Combined fuel consumption is around 10.1-9.8 l/100.
The GLS 400 d 4MATIC powerplant produces 243 kW and 700 Nm of torque, with combined fuel consumption of about 7.9 – 7.6 l/100 km.
In both variants, power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. The broad ratio spread of gears one to nine allows a perceptible reduction in engine speed and high energy efficiency and ride comfort.
The exterior is nothing less than imposing with the upright radiator grille and distinctive headlamp design guaranteed to make it stand out in the car park. In addition, the new GLS offers reduced fuel consumption and wind noise. The new GLS achieves cd figures as low as 0.32 — a clear improvement compared with its predecessor (cd 0.35).
The cabin’s interior space benefits from the additional 60mm of wheelbase. This is felt in the second row where three fully electrically adjustable seats offer all passengers comfort.
The third row of seats can be retracted into the floor, increasing boot space to 2,400 litres), while the seats in the second row fold flat. In seating mode, they offer seats for people up to 1.94m tall.
The interior combines the comfort of a Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan with SUV detailing. The centre console also offers a wireless-charging compartment for smartphones (Standard in the GLS 580) and standard additional USB ports.
The optional Rear Comfort Package plus includes luxury head restraints with additional cushions and a rearward-extended centre console between the front seats with cup holders.
A removable seven-inch Android tablet with a docking station is placed in the centre armrest and is coupled with wireless charging in the rear.
The tablet allows touch control of all the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) comfort and entertainment functions from the rear seat rows, such as access to radio, media, phone and web browser.
It can also control the rear seat comfort package and the five-zone automatic climate control for the rear seats. The driver can assume control of all options and features from his or her seat at will.
The optional MBUX Interior Assistant also allows intuitive operation of other comfort and MBUX functions by movement recognition. When a hand approaches the touchscreen or the touchpad on the centre console, the media display changes and individual elements are highlighted.
In addition, there are functions that can be controlled by simple hand gestures.
The new GLS is fitted with the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems. Active distance assist (DISTRONIC) with route-based speed adaptation allows the new GLS to recognise and respond to tailbacks or slow-moving traffic before the driver becomes aware of the hazard.
When a traffic jam is detected on the highway (and if the driver does not choose a different response), DISTRONIC reduces the speed to around 100 km/h. When the tailback clears, the GLS accelerates back up to the preset speed.
Trailer Manoeuvring Assist is available as an option for drivers not familiar with towing trailers, or for more experienced drivers towing longer trailers.
Airmatic air suspension is standard in the GLS and features an adaptive damping system. This adapts the damping characteristics to the road condition and the driving situation in real-time. The suspension keeps the car level, regardless of the load on board.
The off-road functions include recovery mode when coupled with the optional Off Road Engineering package: If the GLS has become bogged down in a sand dune, for example, the suspension level is automatically raised and lowered several times.
This changes the ground pressure of the tyres and improves traction so the vehicle can rock itself free.
Individual wheel actuation allows the level at each wheel to be individually adjusted via the touchscreen of the media display. This improves the vehicle’s alignment on rough terrain when a wheel is stuck in a ditch, or a wheel spring is fully contracted and also helps increase traction and the torque at the wheel.