In the final ranking, nothing came close to the GL450. It drives like a tall and muscular car, solidly built and serious about quality. When you unroll north of 60 large, presentation counts. This Benz is a snappy dresser. Instead of acres of vinyl padding on the dash and doors, stitched leather is standard equipment here, facing all passenger positions. Pure luxury, this touch, and applied with the sort of craftsmanship you'd expect from the finest Italian leather boutique.
A $12, 400 load of options lifted the Benz's as-tested price above all others to a lofty $68, 075; the base price of $55, 675 is $1605 below the Escalade's.
Credit the engineering team for producing, by a small margin, the lightest vehicle here at 5441 pounds, and for the seven-speed automatic. Result: The Benz surpassed all others in acceleration and fuel economy, the latter by a wide margin over our 900-mile test trip, where it averaged 18 mpg compared with a next-best 16 for the Audi and Lincoln. The 335-hp V-8, second smallest of the group with 91 fewer cubes than the big-inch Cadillac's 376, makes just a musical moan when you put the pedal down. This is a refined machine, always on its best behavior.