By: Jag Dhatt
Winters on BC’s Western Coast are usually the same year-after-year; dreary, rainy, and depressing, with remote chances of snow that actually sticks and stays. Well, such was not the case this winter, with the weather gods pummeling the area with one snow storm after another. Vancouver hasn’t seen this much snow in at least fifteen years, and it’s not over yet.
When it snows on the West Coast, traffic problems compound, with many people fearful of taking their vehicles on the road. But, if you’re driving the new 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS450, you will want to venture on the snowy roads as you’re in good hands.
For those who may be slightly confused on the nomenclature, the Mercedes GLS is the new version of the GL. This is MB’s largest SUV and although it’s not as big as the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, or the Infiniti QX80, it has continues to occupy a soft spot in people’s hearts. How popular is this vehicle? Well, if you want one in Canada, you’re going to have wait a few months.
The 2017 GLS gets a refresh with things that really up the look, feel, and drive of the vehicle. It’s still recognizable as MB’s flagship SUV; however, tweaks to the grille, emblem, fascia, lights and tailgate definitely make the vehicle prominent on the road. I’ve always been a fan of the GL, now GLS’, look because it exemplifies the brand’s luxury bloodline very well.
The GLS is a tall vehicle and there’s definitely a step up to get into the vehicle. Luckily, our press vehicle was equipped with running boards to make that climb more manageable. Once inside, occupants are caressed by MB’s luxury cabin, complete with supple leather, fine carpet, wood inserts, and some great technology and gadgets. The attractive new steering wheel is much better than the outgoing one with the control buttons feeling more ergonomic. The new dashboard also looks and feels great. Overall, the colour combination that came in this press vehicle was perfect.
The wood trim inserts perfectly matched the brown dash and seats. Speaking of seats, all occupants of the GLS rest their behinds on large supportive seats, most of which are heated. Up front, driver and passenger also get variable massage options and trust me, you will get spoiled. The 3rd row seats are always hit and miss – either legroom is next to nothing or the seats are flat and uncomfortable. I can say that with the GLS, even adults can sit in the 3rd row without complaining. Another great feature is the available electronic “easy-entry” feature of the 2nd row. Press a button and the 2nd row seats fold and tumble. Necessity? No, but cool factor for sure. The only gripe here is the you have to put them back manually.
One option that every vehicle should have is a panoramic roof and if you add the Premium Package to your GLS, the heavens open up. During the winter months, the extra light really helps, especially for those who tend to get disgruntled easily. A recent study showed that people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) show improvement if their vehicles have a panoramic roof. All manufacturers, take note please.
New for 2017 is a 9G-Tronic transmission, adding two more gears to the outgoing 7-speed. Some might think that 9 speeds are overkill – well, the new Ford F150 and Mustang will have 10 speeds – but it works great for the GLS. The first seven gears have shorter ratios, making Sport Mode or Manual Mode driving quite fun. The last two are for highway driving and better fuel efficiency. The 9G-Tronic is matched with a 3.0L bi-turbo gasoline engine. A diesel variant will be offered as well and in my opinion, that’s the brute to get. Not only will you get much better fuel economy, but way more torque. For now, the GLS 450’s V6 does a great job for every day driving, even when carrying the whole team or pulling a boat.
As one would expect, the GLS delivers a great plush ride for those who expect luxury. During my time with this SUV, Vancouver streets were getting riddled with potholes; but not to fret as the GLS tracked over them without spilling any of my home-made chai tea. Normally, Vancouver drivers rarely get to test the all-wheel drive functionality of most vehicles, but this time I was in for a treat. MB’s 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive worked amazingly well. Whilst others were staying off the roads, I got to my office and all meetings without missing a beat. Also, the street from my home has quite a steep slope. With the snow and ice compounding the slope, I switched on the GLS 450’s Hill Descent mode and the MB creeped down with confidence. It was quite neat in fact – I had to do nothing except navigate the vehicle.
On roads that were somewhat bare, I tested the GLS 450’s Dynamic Select modes, which include Sport, Comfort, Snow and Off-Road. As mentioned earlier, Snow Mode was useful at times, for obvious reasons. Sport Mode was fun and made the drive much more dynamic than I expected. Honestly, I didn’t think the 3.0L bi-turbo gasoline motor would provide as much get-up-and-go as it did for a vehicle this size. The V6 gasoline puts out 362 HP and 369 lb-ft of torque as low as 1,800 rpm. If you need more insanity, then go with the AMG GLS63, which gets the SUV from 0-100 km/h in just 4.5 seconds. As mentioned before, my choice would be the diesel variant as it’s the perfect engine for this vehicle.
Driving in Sport Mode really shows the “S” in the GLS. Shifts are quick, especially if using the paddle shifters, and the aggressive throttle mapping is more than expected. More so, ride height drops just slightly to improve aerodynamics. Match this with a stiffer steering and you’ve got a big SUV worthy of the “S” badging. In Comfort Mode, everything becomes plush, period. The steering is so light that I doubt anyone would get tired after driving for hours.
While driving the GLS for the week, there were a couple of quirks that really stood out. The first being the storage areas in the front doors. Granted the large, wide seats are great, but if you had to reach for something in the door storage areas, good luck. My hand got stuck so many times that it became annoying.
The other quirk, although it’s becoming a norm in the industry, is the infotainment system screen. It’s a beautiful, large 8” screen, but seems like an aftermarket bolt-on. BMW has also gone the similar route in some of their cars. Yes, it allows for more real estate on the dash, but takes away from the classy look of this luxury vehicle. On the same topic, the infotainment system seems dated and definitely needs a refresh.
Those buying an SUV in this category always expect loads of safety features, because come on, it’s for the family. In addition to the basic safety features, there’s some unique systems in the GLS. If you’ve ever driven across the Fraser Vally of BC, or highways of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in incremental weather, you’ll want the Cross-Wind Assist. Rather being tossed around by cross-winds, this system ensures a straight stable ride. The Brake Assist Plus, Cross Traffic Assist and Collision Prevention Assist all work well together to bring the GLS to a stop in case the driver doesn’t take action during a potential impact situation. Finally, the Distronic Plus with Steer Assist are active cruise control systems that not only keep the vehicle in its lane, but can follow traffic from a stop up to 200 km/h.
True to Mercedes-Benz roots, the 2017 GLS450 is a fantastic SUV that will look great in any driveway. It’s got a lot going for it, from exceptional safety and comfort features to various driving modes that will appease most drivers. Currently, the gas-powered engines are the only option, with the diesel variant hoping to makes its presence in mid to latter 2017. Pricing for the 2017 MB GLS450 starts at $82, 900.