At one time, it was going to be the replacement for the military-grade Gelaendewagen, or the G-Class. But by the time it was ready for production in 2007, the SUV market was on fire, and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class took its own place in the lineup as a true Range Rover fighter.
SUV sales may have tanked, but the GL-Class is still the tank we'd rather be seen driving. It's among the best seven-seat SUVs on the market, with crisp and rugged styling matched by a splendid cabin with room for seven passengers.
Of the three models, the diesel-powered GL350 BlueTEC might be the best of all. Its 400 pound-feet of torque relieve any concerns about acceleration, and it's a perfect match for off-roading (even if the true off-road package can only be found on the V-8-powered GL450). It earns the best gas mileage of the bunch, too, at 17/21 mpg-far better than the thirsty but incredibly powerful GL550 and its 12/17 mpg rating.
The spiffy seven-seat cabin is sized for adults, in all three rows, and they're relatively easy to get into-something you can't say for the GM utes like the Cadillac Escalade. The Land Rover Range Rover only comes as a five-seater. And the GL-Class matches nearly every feature to be found on the others, with high-dollar audio systems, the knob- or voice-driven COMAND system, DVD entertainment, Bluetooth connections, and iPod compatibility.
The boldest thing about the GL-Class, it turns out, isn't the big three-pointed star on the nose, nearly the size of a Honda Civic steering wheel. The boldest thing may be that Mercedes-Benz has built a better Suburban, and plopped it down in a pricier neighborhood.