Mercedes-Benz adds a 50-state diesel to its GL-Class lineup.
2009 MB GL class
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL320 BlueTec replaces the GL320 CDI as the diesel offering in the GL-Class. M-B's accident-anticipating Pre-Safe system comes standard in all GLs this year. An integrated rear-seat DVD entertainment system, HD Radio and Sirius Real-Time Traffic top the list of options available. But again, the big news is the diesel.
Despite the high price of diesel in the U.S., the GL320 BlueTec offers fuel economy, environmental sensitivity and good old-fashioned power, especially if you've got to do some towing. Of the three Mercedes SUVs that the BlueTec V-6 is being added to for 2009 – the GL-Class, the M-Class and the R-Class – our number one pick is the GL.
Fuel prices appear to be heading ever higher as the summer wears on, and diesel prices are leading the way. So is this a good time to introduce a full-size diesel-powered SUV? Mercedes-Benz answers in the affirmative with the 2009 GL320 BlueTec.
The GL-Class already has a strong reputation among luxury SUV watchers. It's a big package that drives smaller than it really is. The interior comfort and convenience is notable. The feature-to-dollar ratio is high. So now, here comes a BlueTec V-6 turbodiesel version of the GL-Class boasting high mpg and good towing capability, as you'd expect, along with low tailpipe emissions and some spirit to its off-the-line performance – a bit more on the unexpected side.
Along with the 2009 ML320 BlueTec and R320 BlueTec, the GL320 V-6 brings the notion of clean-diesel to the SUV market. Thanks to numerous technological breakthroughs, the Mercedes trio of diesel SUVs runs so clean – in fact, in some cases even cleaner than their gasoline-burning counterparts in the car, truck and SUV world – that they are certified as legal for sale in all 50 U.S. states.
Combined with a deliciously smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission, the GL320 BlueTec's 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V-6 gets 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the open road. That's especially impressive for a full-size luxury SUV, even at diesel fuel's current premium, although the new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid should give it a run for its money.
In the GL320 BlueTec, the diesel V-6 produces 210 horsepower – not the stuff of legends. What commands attention, however, is the burst of 398 lb.-ft. of torque that starts at 1,600 rpm and stays on until 2,400 rpm. That kind of thrust just off idle launches the 5,313-lb. GL across an intersection as soon as the light turns green, and it'll get you onto the freeway pretty quick. On the other side of the 2,400-rev mark, however, the best of the acceleration is over too quickly. So while you can haul to your heart's desire (the GL320 BlueTec has a 7,500-lb. towing capacity), your highway-speed passing power is only average.
Like the other GLs in the Mercedes stable, the GL320 BlueTec is one of the easiest driving full-size SUVs on the market. That ease begins with the car-like stability and connection to the road afforded by the GL's unit-body construction, especially significant in a class full of body-on-frame SUVs. The air-suspension ride was Mercedes-Benz pleasant, and the interior quiet was undisturbed by road noise, despite standard 20-inch run-flat tires.
The steering, while not razor-sharp, was nicely weighted and responsive to inputs. The brakes felt better than we remembered from earlier years of GL, though we didn't stress them much.
If you catch the off-road bug, the GL320 BlueTec includes standard four-wheel drive, height-adjustable suspension (good for three inches of added clearance), a hill-descent control feature (controls the braking and throttling for you as you "crawl" down tricky slopes) and an off-road driving package.
Despite the lack of standard leather upholstery (a leather seating package is optional), the standard equipment list on the GL320 BlueTec is impressive. For the front-seat occupants, three-stage heated seats with eight-way power adjustments and, for the driver, four-way pneumatic lumbar support.
Third-row occupants – yes, there's almost enough room for adults – are treated to a fixed panorama sunroof to ward off any claustrophobia, and when the third row is empty, you can power-fold them down to increase your cargo space to 43.8 cubic feet. With both rows folded flat, the result is a generous 83.3 cubic feet of room.
Standard technology includes the COMAND in-car media control system with a 6.5-inch high-definition color screen, a Bluetooth interface, and a DVD video/audio player.
Anything that doesn't come standard you can find on the options page, including a rear-seat entertainment system, an adaptive-damping suspension, three-zone climate control, and premium packages that bundle high-tech goodies like rear-views cameras, navigation with voice control, and HD radio.
Standard safety considerations include nine airbags, including a kneebag for the driver, and Pre-Safe, which uses throttle, braking and steering input sensors to detect when a crash may be imminent. If such a determination is made, the seatbelts are firmed up, the front passenger seat moves into a better position for effective airbag deployment, and the side windows close. If a rollover is detected, the sunroof will close as well to help protect occupants from flying debris.
Arriving this coming October and forecast to be priced at around $55,000, the 2009 GL320 BlueTec represents quite a bargain in the big luxury SUV arena. If you're shopping for one, this one belongs in your consideration set.