Motoring | Motoring News
Jaco Van Der Merwe
Keeping up with the Jones’ is one thing, but staying abreast of Mercedes-Benz’s model range can be a whole different kettle of fish.
Before I’m going to start telling you about the GLS400d we spent a week with recently, a quick rundown of the Mercedes-Benz family tree will help to get everyone on the same page. In the German premium car maker’s local line-up, no less than six of the 16 model ranges’ nomenclature include the letter G, which stands for gelandewagen, the German word for off-road vehicle. The actual G-Class nameplate is reserved for the iconic G-Wagon, which derivatives are indicated by only the letter G and a number, like the G63 S and G400d.
For the other five model ranges, the letter L is used to link the G with Mercedes’ appropriate Class nomenclature the SUV is equivalent to. They include the GLA, the GLB, the GLC, the GLE and the GLS. In other words, similar to each equivalent Class, the SUV line-up gets bigger and more expensive as you work your way up from the GLA through to the flagship GLS.
Just for the record, for those who might wonder where the M-Class, which is still a common sight on our roads, fits into the SUV family, Mercedes has renamed all ML-derivatives to GLEs some years ago. The GLS also went through a name change along the line. Starting out as the GL in 2006 as a bigger version of the ML, it was renamed as the GLS four years ago to correspond with the Mercedes naming scheme.
As the nameplate indicates, the GLS400d we had on test is an oil-burner and the most affordable of the three derivates in the line-up. In AMG Line, the GLS400d is priced at R1 849 840, with the two petrol versions, the GLS580 and the AMG GLS63, going for just south of two bar and just north of three bar respectively.
The GLS is every bit as luxurious and exclusive as you’d come to expect from a Mercedes-Benz featuring an S in its badge, with space being the major differentiating factor from the SUVs below it in the food chain. Measuring 5 207 mm in length, it is almost 300 mm longer than the GLE, with its wheelbase 140 mm longer than its smaller sibling while it stands 50 mm taller at 1 823 mm.
As you’d expect with generous dimensions like that, space inside the cabin is plentiful. Even when sliding the second row forward to create greater comfort for passengers in the third row, there is still plenty of legroom left for passengers in the second row. And while you could argue that seating in the third row of a seven-seater can never be as comfortable as in the second row, the GLS’s outer-seats are as good as it gets taken cushioning, legroom, air vents and safety belt poisoning into account.
Even with the third-row seats in the upright position, the boot features a healthy 355 litres of space. This can be increased to a ginormous 2 400 litres with both rows of seats folded flat. Along with all the space inside comes the usual premium finishing and comfort, along with the MBUX, Mercedes’ advanced infotainment system and widescreen digital cockpit. And while it also features heaps of safety features, the lack of Head-Up display and adaptive cruise control as standard features is a bit annoying considering you can buy a four-bedroom house in a decent neighbourhood for the same price.
It is powered by the same 2.9-litre V6 turbo engine that is found in the GLE400d which produces 243 kW of power and 700N m of torque. The power is sent to all four wheels via the 4Matic system via the 9G tronic transmission. And even though the GLS400d weighs in at a hefty 2.5 tonnes, the powerplant does an exceptional job in making the car feel fast off the mark with the peak torque available from 1 200 rpm. Mercedes claims it can reach 100 km/h from a standstill in 6.3 sec and we have no reason to doubt that number.
As far as fuel consumption goes, we used 12.1L/100 km over the course of the 423 km we covered which included a good mix of city traffic and open road. With the fuel tank being all of 90 litres, you should be able to easily reach Durban from Joburg without having to refuel along the way. While it cruises like an ocean liner and overtakes like a speedboat, what did bother a bit was wind noise from the large side mirrors at higher speeds.
Judging by the reaction we got from admirers during our week in the GLS400d, there is no doubting the statement a big and shiny Mercedes such as this makes. It’s sheer size, sculpted-in familiar Mercedes SUV fashion with large grille, three-pointed star badge and 21-inch alloy wheels to boot, is something few people can resist. And best of all, it’s got potential to make even the Jones’ themselves a tad bit jealous.
The GLS400d comes with a five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan and a two-year/unlimited km
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