The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, one fast nanny: Motoramic Drives
Let's just start out by acknowledging the obvious. This, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, is a very nice truck.
I mean swank.
It's a league far beyond my Honda Odyssey minivan — which does have leather seats, navigation and a sunroof. And frankly I'm pretty happy driving the Honda most days. But tomorrow it will be a little harder to get into my minivan, because I just spent two days cruising around New Mexico in Mercedes GL SUVs.
The thing about these vehicles — and when I say this it will become clear that I don't usually drive a Mercedes — is that there are features and options that not only had I never seen, but that I had never conceived. The cup holders heat and cool. The middle seats flip forward and double over with the touch of a button. A computer steers my car back into its lane if I begin to drive off the road.
The navigation system can not only find your restaurant but tell you its Zagat ratings. The back seats have their own DVD system with wireless headphones. If you're worried about whether that parallel parking space is too small, the GL-Class will park itself.
So with the understanding that it's an impressive vehicle, let's take a look at the details.
The GL450 is equipped with a 362-hp, twin-turbo V-8 engine that can tow up to 7,500 lbs., comparable to a Chevy Suburban. It's rated at 14 miles a gallon in city driving and 19 mpg on the highway. Mercedes will also offer a more efficient, less expensive GL350 turbo diesel model, and thirsty GL550, with a 429-hp V-8, with all models sporting a seven-speed automatic transmission and all wheel drive. There's even a GL63 AMG that will boast a 550-hp V-8, for the Bieber-Kardashian set.
Yet with all that power, the company clearly had the suburban housewife in mind when designing this car. The soft leather seats heat, cool and even give you a massage. The body is more reminiscent of a Toyota Highlander than a Ram pickup. And there are more safety features than any State Farm agent could wish for.
I first hit the road in the monster GL550 heading north from Albuquerque to Santa Fe along the picturesque "Turquoise Trail." The 550 felt right at home in this rugged landscape, and I wouldn't have worried if a detour had taken me off-road.
Alas, I stayed on the highway and, frankly, this is just too much car for someone who spends her time on flat pavement. With a nudge of my toe, the 550 and I were cruising at 70 mph. Just a bit more pressure had me accelerating to 90 past some slowpokes in the right lane. When I was stuck behind a minivan going about 65, this 429-hp machine felt like a boy trapped in a schoolhouse. It just couldn't wait to be free and play. It would be too easy to collect speeding tickets shuttling kids around in this thing.