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2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS Road Test and Review

Brady Holt
by Brady Holt
February 7, 2024
2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

We’re on the record as huge fans of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This big luxury sedan has grace, poise, decadent comfort, and cutting-edge technology. It oozes presence, luxury, and the sense that its designers spared no effort or expense in creating the best vehicle they could. 

We approached the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class with similarly high hopes. It’s the full-size crossover SUV with “S” in its name, after all. But at a starting price of $30,000 less than the S-Class sedan ($87,000), and dating back an extra year since its last full redo, that wasn’t a fair expectation. Instead, the newly updated GLS is a family-friendly SUV that’s also posh, tech-filled, and meticulously engineered. Keep reading to learn more about the GLS’s pros and cons and learn whether this is the right high-end ride for you. 

Updated Design

The current-generation GLS debuted as a 2020 model, and Mercedes just overhauled the big SUV for 2024. The exterior details are subtle. The big grille gains two extra horizontal slats, and the bumpers and taillights saw some tweaks. Our test vehicle’s AMG Line styling package brings a swoopier front bumper and removed body-colored cladding from the fender; our GLS also wore optional AMG-style 22-inch wheels. 

Still, the overall vibe hasn’t changed much. This is a big rounded-off box with an upright front end. It’s not an in-your-face box like the off-road-ready Mercedes G-Class, nor sleek and svelte like an S-Class sedan or a Mercedes EQS electric SUV. It’s the Mercedes for when you want a supremely nice yet practical SUV, rather than one of the brand’s showiest rides. The slim, horizontally stretched taillights could be lifted straight off an S-Class sedan, but that’s the only cue these Mercedes "S" models share. Beyond its styling, the 2024 GLS gets several other updates as well, which we’ll discuss further on – namely, upgraded engines and a revised infotainment system. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Richly Finished Cabin

As you’d expect from a Mercedes, the GLS has a richly finished interior. We loved our test vehicle’s Bahia Brown leather, which felt opulent but also thick and sturdy. It’s upholstery that you can live in without fearing you’ll leave a mark. There’s a big digital display – a 12.3-inch touchscreen connected to a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster – but also enough wood, leather, and other design elements that the GLS still feels warm and welcoming. And sturdy, leather-wrapped grab handles on the center console distinguish it from a sedan. 

We have a couple of complaints. First, the GLS’s dashboard is largely shared with the smaller Mercedes-Benz GLE, which starts at some $25,000 less than the GLS. We wish some of that price went to making the cabin more special. Secondly, the GLS has some clunky controls, including partially touch-sensitive steering-wheel buttons (new this year); multistep processes to navigate the infotainment system (even after a set of changes); and the car loudly interrupting to ask if we were trying to make a voice command (we were not). Still, complicated controls are common on many luxury SUVs, and even the GLE has quite a nice interior by most standards.  Even if it won’t blow away someone who’s already used to six-figure vehicles, the GLS won’t make you feel like you’re in a cut-rate car. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Room to Spread Out

The GLS’s interior might look a lot like the GLE’s, but there’s a lot more room to spread out inside the bigger Benz. At 205 inches long, the GLS occupies nearly a foot of extra curb versus the GLE, though it still comes up about 6 inches shy of a Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator. 

With three rows of seats as standard equipment, the GLS seats seven passengers with its second-row bench seat like our test vehicle, or six if you opt for second-row captain’s chairs. The rear seats are power-adjustable using the same seat-shaped door-mounted controls that the driver and front passenger enjoy. And unlike most three-row crossovers, even the third row is habitable for adults if the middle row’s occupants give up part of their otherwise generous legroom. Of course, even in a car that focuses on its three-row status, the GLS doesn’t forget to pamper the driver. The comfortable, supportive front seats come standard with heating and ventilation, and our test vehicle had an optional $1,750 package that includes a selection of massage styles. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Space for Your Stuff

The GLS has plenty of room for cargo as well as for people. By the numbers, you get 17.4 cubic feet of room behind the third row, 42.7 cubic feet with the third row folded down, and 84.7 cubic feet behind the front seats. That’s about the same volume you’ll see in a typical family-focused three-row crossover SUV like a Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer – and it’s better than most luxury models except the jumbo Cadillac and Lincoln. 

The GLS also lets you fold down the second- and third-row seats with the touch of a button. It can even slide the front seats out of the way to ensure there’s enough room. However, the backseats won’t return to their original positions when you unfold them and they don’t lie completely flat – prioritizing seat comfort over squeezing out every last cubic foot of cargo capacity, as we expect most buyers will prefer. It can also tow a large trailer weighing up to 7,700 pounds. 

More Power, Better Mileage

The biggest change to the 2024 GLS is under the hood. In particular, the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 on the base GLS 450 model now makes 375 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque – good for a silky-smooth, rich-sounding rush to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. Not only is this engine stronger than last year’s 362-hp version, but gas mileage improves by 1 mpg at the same time. The EPA pegs it at 19 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg combined, which is excellent for such a big and powerful SUV. (The rival BMW X7 does even better, though.) We matched the EPA estimate during our weeklong test.

The GLS is also offered with a choice of two V8 engines. The luxury-focused GLS 580 delivers now makes 510 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque and cuts the 60-mph sprint to 4.7 seconds, but it gets just 16 mpg in mixed driving – 2 mpg worse than last year. The GLS 600 bumps output to 550 hp, but its extra weight means it’s no faster (4.8 seconds to 60). The max-performance GLS 63 AMG (603 hp, 627 lb-ft) needs just 4.1 snarling seconds without making the gas mileage much more dismal. We see every reason to stick with the already-potent GLS 450, especially now that it’s more economical than ever. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Agile for Its Size

One thing we love about the S-Class sedan is its marriage of an extra-smooth ride with remarkable agility. Of course, the S-Class is a low, wide sedan with a low center of gravity. The GLS is more than a foot taller, and its suspension also has to throw in a modicum of capability. 

All things considered, the GLS does well. It’s comfortable and hushed, yet it’ll outhustle a Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator around a curve. Plus it’s sturdy enough to tow a big trailer, and its 8 inches of ground clearance will help it contend with light-duty obstacles like mud and snow. We preferred the X7’s ride and handling, but the Mercedes is in the same ballpark. We’re sure our test vehicle’s huge 22-inch wheels didn’t help it drive like a dream. The AMG version pairs a stiffer sport-tuned suspension with its extra power, but for most three-row-SUV buyers, we think the standard suspension strikes the appropriate balance between comfort and steady handling. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Not a Budget Ride

The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 starts at $87,000, which is a $5,000 bump from last year. It’s decadently equipped even at its base price, but there’s plenty of room to raise it up with options. Our test vehicle hit $97,230 before the $1,150 destination charge, and that’s even without some of the coddling we’d expect for this much money like soft-close doors, a head-up display, and second-row sunshades. Still, if your budget allows it and you can conceive of an option, you can likely find it here in the GLS. 

If the GLS 450’s power won’t do, you’ll pay $112,000 for the GLS 580, $145,850 for the GLS 63 AMG, or $174,350 for the GLS 600, which is sold under Mercedes’s Maybach sub-brand with exclusive styling details and a maximum of standard features. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Competitors to Consider

The GLS faces a number of competitors in the three-row luxury SUV segment. Its top rival is the BMW X7, and it’s one that we love. We like driving it more than the Benz, and we prefer its infotainment system. Plus, it costs thousands less. But the GLS has a roomier third-row seat and more cargo room behind it, making it the more practical family-hauler. Meanwhile, the Benz is also more practical – and more affordable – than the dazzling Land Rover Range Rover, even though its latest generation has a (small) third-row seat for the first time. 

The Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator are other key competitors. Both are bigger and bulkier than the GLS, trading some driving poise for sheer size and brawn. Our pick between the two is the better-finished Lincoln, but the Escalade has even more space than the Navigator. You could also shop the GLS against the new Lexus TX, which has just as much room for much less money – giving up some glitz, flash, pizzazz, speed, and overall sense of supreme luxury. Lastly, Mercedes wants you to consider the all-electric EQS SUV, which beats the GLS in most objective ways but costs $104,000 and up – and which you’ll need to recharge at least every few hundred miles. 

2023 BMW X7 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 BMW X7 ・ Photo by Brady Holt

The Big Benz

The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS is less of an SUV version of the S-Class sedan than a Mercedes GLE with more space. It didn’t blow us away, but on the other hand, it didn’t have to. A GLE with more space is the perfect choice for families who love that best-selling Benz and don’t mind paying a hefty premium for extra room. 

The GLE is already a marvelous piece of engineering with no shortage of luxury, so we don’t want to overstate any objection to its similarity to the GLS. And anyone who’s already attached to the Mercedes brand will appreciate how the company provides traditional luxury in a package that’s well-suited for large families. And finally, as we discussed above, each of the GLS’s excellent competitors has its own foibles to consider. We wish we loved the GLS as much as we loved the S-Class, but with the proper expectations, it’s an excellent family-friendly luxury SUV. 

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 ・ Photo by Brady Holt


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