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The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a four-door, seven-passenger luxury sport-utility vehicle. The Mercedes GL-Class is a relatively new offering from the luxury automaker. Born from the perceived need to compete in an ever growing SUV market, the GL is the largest sport-utility vehicle currently on sale from Mercedes-Benz. Built in the United States largely for the American market, the GL was introduced in 2006 as a sort of stretched version of the M-Class, and while it does share some styling cues with this popular, smaller SUV, the GL is very distinctively its own vehicle.

The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is offered in three separate trims. The first is the GL320 CDI, which employs a 215 horsepower, 3.0 liter turbo-diesel engine that also churns out a very healthy 398 lb-ft of torque. For those who prefer a gasoline engine, the GL450 uses a 4.6 liter V8 the produces 335 horsepower, making for more lively acceleration. If performance is key, then the top of the line GL550 is the safest bet, with 382 horsepower on tap from a 5.5 liter V8 that accelerates the heavy GL-Class to 60 miles per hour in only 6.4 seconds. All versions of the GL-Class make use of all-wheel drive and have a 7-speed automatic transmission installed to handle the shifting duties.

The GL-Class’ size is reflected in its fuel economy numbers. The turbo-diesel GL320 is the best of the bunch, turning in 24 miles per gallon on the highway and 18 in the city, but both the V8’s are below 20 miles per gallon in highway driving – and an abysmal 13 miles per gallon in stop and go traffic.

Given that the GL-Class is so large both inside and out, it is no surprise that several of the options and features available with the vehicle are focused on keeping not just the driver but also the 6 other possible passengers happy. Three zones of climate control allow those at the very rear of the GL-Class to enjoy the same comfort as front-seat passengers, and dual headrest-mounted video screens with their own controls can play DVD’s to keep children quiet and entertained during long trips. The GL-Class offers over 80 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded down, which is significantly more than the next-in-line M-Class. When it comes to maneuvering this beast of an SUV, a rear-view camera helps to make backing up less of a gamble, and in combination with the Mercedes-Benz Parktronic system of bumper-mounted sensors, the GL-Class has an easier time with urban parking than other large vehicles.

The GL550 is the best equipped of the three versions, coming with 21-inch 5-spoke wheels borrowed from in-house tuners AMG, as well as an optional bicycle rack and illuminated door sills that glow the car company’s name in blue lighting. Wood trim and front leather seats that are both heated and ventilated are also available.

The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is an intriguing offering from the German automaker. While it might seem as though it is aimed against the Audi Q7, the vehicle’s styling is more of a combination of the Jeep Commander and the M-Class, cementing its appeal to non-European buyers. Whether this vehicle will enjoy the same level of success as its older sibling remains to be seen.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a carryover from 2008, with the addition of a new diesel powertrain. There are three different trims available for the 2009 GL-Class. The GL320 pairs a 7-speed automatic transmission with a 3.0 liter diesel V6 that offers 210 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is a fairly impressive 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 miles per gallon on the highway. The next step up, the GL450, features a 4.6 liter V8 that produces 335 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. Making use of the same transmission as the GL320, the V8’s fuel mileage is rated at 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 miles per gallon during highway cruising. The top of the line GL550 has a 5.5 liter V8 installed underneath the hood. Matches with a 7-speed automatic and capable of producing 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque, the GL550’s fuel economy shows as 13 miles per gallon in the city and 17 miles per gallon on the highway. All versions of the GL-Class are outfitted with all-wheel drive.