It’s not just a car, it’s a family member.
Your kids smile when they see it in the school pick up lane and break into a run to be the first to climb in. Your heart lifts just a bit when you spot in the airport parking garage after a long trip. It shines like a beacon in the Whole Foods parking lot making it easy to steer your cart right to it. It’s in the background of family photos and you don’t mind; it belongs there.
It takes care of every passenger. It comforts you in the driver’s seat. It’s warm on cold days, refreshing on hot days, shuts out the din of the city and despite the traffic jam outside, inside is a respite of calm and conversation. It’s your car, and it’s not just a vehicle for getting to-and-fro, it’s a part of the family.
That’s what it’s like to drive the 2020 Mercedes-BenzGLS 450 luxury SUV.
This is a top of the line, full-size luxury SUV. Even in the base model it’s well appointed and filled with luxury features. It has three rows, seating for 6 or 7 and prominently features the new MBUX infotainment system (MBUX for Mercedes-Benz User Experience). It’s simply a delight to drive and even more delightful to fill with people.
The Logic of Luxury
A car that does all these things is a treasure. But, steeling yourself for the purchase can be a household battle. Especially when you’re looking at a $1,200 car payment, pricier insurance and higher taxes or registration fees on a luxury car.
But counter that with: Leather seats that will hold up for a decade or more; driver assist and safety technology that won’t be outdated anytime soon; an engine that won’t be strained by long days on the road and fully loaded road trips. Kids who will go from car seat passengers to taking the driver’s seat during your ownership.
These are not light considerations. Don’t listen to the naysayers who chide people who choose leather seats and opt for the pricier technology packages or air suspension. They’re not the ones driving 20,000 miles a year, lifting 40 lb. toddlers into car seats and toting home 3,000 lbs. of dog food every year. You are.
What Your Family Needs: Functional Space
And, those things are not independent of one another. One of the things we appreciated most in the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 is that the center seats move forward and back with electric controls on the door panels. So you can move center seats closer to the front to tend to a child in a car seat; you can provide more legroom for third row passengers, and you can recline the center row seats when someone wants to nap.
Center row captains chairs are a great option if you don’t need a seventh seat, as in, a bench seat in the center row. The model we test drove had captains chairs and honestly, I think I’d never fold the center seats to access the third row; I’d always choose to walk between them.
Of course, you can also fold any of the seats for additional cargo space: fold one of the third row seats down and accommodate a couple of golf bags or a large stroller. This makes a road trip for a family of 5 a reality; everyone has their own seat and theres still room for all your gear.
“Hey Mercedes” is Just the Start in the New MBUX System
This might become your family’s new favorite game. “Hey Mercedes, where is the nearest Amy’s Ice Cream?” “Hey Mercedes, when will we be there?” “Hey Mercedes, change the radio station to NPR.” Imagine the possibilities! Just say her name and the voice activated assistant is there to help.
And, it displays all this beautiful on a new single pane of glass that sweeps across the dash from the driver’s side to the middle of the dashboard. It’s wide and easy for everyone to see; it displays crisp, clear graphics that can be enhanced with augmented video for navigation. This essentially shows a video image of the road ahead during navigation, overlaying the video with arrows and directions to help you better see your next direction. This will be the wave of the future of these systems; as usual, Mercedes-Benz is leading the charge.
Thinking Ahead: 8 USB-C Ports Means Power for Every Passenger
While yes, everyone can ask Mercedes a question and get assistance, in reality, passengers love to plug into their own devices on the road. For this, there are lots of power outlets.
Planning for the next era of USB power, Mercedes-Benz installed USB-C ports rather than standard USB ports. The downside is that if your devices aren’t USB-C compatible you’ll need to invest in adapters. The upside? In a few years you won’t need to invest in adapters because most devices will have USB-C ports. And, these things charge way faster than the standard ones.
Then, Mercedes-Benz went a bit crazy with them. There are two in the front seat (plus a wireless charge pad), two in the center rear console (for second row passengers) and two for each passenger in the third row.
And for those who don’t have an adapter? Well, there’s a household outlet, too. Just in case.
What This Car Costs
The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic all wheel drive 3-row SUV starts at $75,950 and includes a V6 turbo engine with 362 horsepower. From there you can add packages – or not, it’s pretty nicely outfitted at the base model. I would highly recommend adding the driver assistance package which gives you a huge array of great technology features. This and other add-ons include:
- Driver assistance package with adaptive cruise with stop and go, steering assist, brake assist with cross-traffic function, emergency stop assist, blind spot monitor, lane keep assist and lane change assist which, when using adaptive cruise, turn on your turn signal and this system will change lanes for you: $2,250
- Running boards: $650
- Burmester premium sound system $4,550
- Convenience Package with 4-zone climate control, ventilated front seats and power 2nd-row side-window sunshades: $1,750
- Panoramic sun roof $1,000
- Head UP display $1,100
- Price of the model we test drove, including $995 delivery charge, about $90,195
The Last Consideration: What It’s Like to Drive a Car This Big
And that is a big consideration. Yes, this is a full size SUV. Yes, it takes up most of a parking spot. Yes, it gets 19 MPG in the city and 23 on the highway. And yes, when you’re in it by yourself you might feel the weight of this big car — or the glory of having it all to yourself.
I found it easier to drive than I expected. It didn’t feel huge; it drove like a car. It didn’t feel weighty, it felt nicely balanced. Its rounded corners, high seating position and low hood line made easing in and out of parking spaces fairly easy, even at Whole Foods (with its notoriously skinny parking spaces!). And, knowing that you can get all your people, your gear and your groceries in and out easily, that you’ll ride in comfort and luxury and that you will for the next decade, well, that’s enough carve out a warm spot in your heart for this member of the family.
Disclosure: The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 was provided for this review; all opinions are my own.