2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 400 d 4Matic – Car Review – Does size matter?

A few months ago Fred and I got to spend time behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz GLE 300d and 400d. We both loved the GLE, and gave both models top marks, 5 chevron reviews. Now it’s time for the main course, the flagship SUV from Mercedes-Benz, the GLS 400d. I was excited to see how the GLS would compare to the GLE. Is bigger better?

The Range

There is only one model available from Mercedes-Benz, the 400d 4Matic. Starting at $168,500 the 400d comes standard with 3.0-litre 6-cylinder diesel engine, the same great engine that’s in the GLE 400d that we have recently reviewed. With 4Matic all-wheel-drive and 9G-Tronic gearbox the GLS can access 243kW of power and 700Nm of torque. This kind of power makes the GLS a formidable unit. 

Like the GLE, the GLS SUV is also available in 10 colors, with Polar White non-metallic as the standard colour. However, every other paint option comes with an additional cost. Obsidian Black Metallic, Iridium Silver Metallic, Mojave silver metallic, Cavansite Blue Metallic, Brilliant Blue Metallic, Emerald green Metallic and Selenite Grey Metallic are all $2,100 extra. Designo Diamond White BRIGHT Metallic and designo Hyacinth Red Metallic are $3,200 extra. 

The standard equipment for the GLS is much the same as the GLE, both for standard options and extra packages. Standard features include 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive, 9G-TRONIC transmission, adaptive highbeam assist plus, EASY-PACK tailgate, ECO start/stop function, KEYLESS-GO package including keyless start function & hands-free access, Multibeam LED Headlights, windscreen wiper system with automatic rain sensing wipers, ambient lighting with 64 colours, ARTICO upholstery – black, driver’s seat 4-way lumbar support, electrically operated park brake, head-up display with virtual image windscreen projection, heated front seats, multifunction sports steering wheel in nappa leather, THERMATIC climate control, touch pad, ISOFIX and child seat top-tether on 2nd row seats only, 12V socket in load area, Mercedes Me connect, digital radio, and lastly Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto capability.

There are many packages available for the GLS, this is where is changes somewhat from the options in the GLE range, including the following: Innovation Package, Night Package, Anti-Theft Package, Energizing Package Plus, Towbar Package and Off-road-Engineering Package.

The GLS comes standard with 2- inch 5-spoke AMG wheels, and our test model had been upgraded to the 23-inch 5-spoke AMG wheels for $2100. In addition to wheels, our review vehicle had other packages added. The Innovation Package ($800), Night Package ($2500), Energizing Package Plus ($3,900) and a Towbar package ($1900)

There’s a huge amount of different options to up-spec your GLS 400d, for the full list head over to the Mercedes-Benz New Zealand website, to check them all out. WEBSITE LINK

First Impressions

The Mercedes-Benz GLS is anything but subtle, it’s big, really big. The front is ominously slab faced like an American Peterbilt, with a massive Mercedes-Benz badge in the middle of it. The rest of the SUV is scaled to match, everything about the GLS is big. Big wheels, big engine, big space and big storage. It’s the wet dream of any family SUV. 

The GLS that was waiting for me at Wellington Mercedes-Benz was white and black, minimal chrome. It was really nice, the colour worked well, black would have lost its strong features and the contrasting intakes and vents. Standing there on 23-inch wheels, I was starting to think if I needed a different grade licence to drive it, but thankfully not. It was time to step up into the GLS and see what it’s like to live with a freightliner in a city like Wellington.

The Inside

The inside of the GLS is where the action is, this is a big people mover and pleaser. There are not many vehicles I feel l have to climb up into, but the GLS was one of them. From the front seat you almost feel like you’re sitting behind the steering wheel of a futuristic freightliner. There’s a big digital dash that looks out across a massive bonnet. I loved seeing the two aggressive swage lines in the bonnet, it really made the GLS feel aggressive. 

The inside of the GLS is pretty much the same as the GLE, being greeted yet again with my favourite black open-pore oak wood grain on the doors and dash. The new style grab handles on the centre console. Just like the GLE, I didn’t like them at first but grew to like and use them a lot. On every leather surface there is a lot of finely finished stitching, making the cabin feel very upmarket and handmade. 

The new central display and dash is beautiful. This is very stylishly incorporated into the dash with purpose. This was where you could control everything. Once again I didn’t really enjoy using the centre console touch pad, but as the screen was touch screen it didn’t really bother me. Overall it had a nice clutter-free feel.

A couple of mornings during my review, I found ice on the car. Normally not an issue, jump in and fire up all the heaters. However it seemed to take a long time to heat the front windscreen, almost 5 minutes. Each morning it was a similar time, which I found a bit odd due to the price of the vehicle.

The panoramic glass roof was stunning, reaching from just past the driver’s head all the way behind the second row of seats. It was huge and it really helped to bring a lot of light to a dark cabin due to material colour and darkened rear side windows.

So far things were looking good for the GLS, hitting a lot of the same top scoring bench marks that the GLE 400d did. Inside the cabin was a very serene place, so very quiet, you sometimes didn’t know if the engine was on or not. This overall peaceful experience added to some of the other luxury features available, such as the heated and cooled massage seats for the front driver and passenger. I joked about it at first, as it seems really over the top, but when you use it once, you find you’re using it again and again. I got to the point of using it almost every time I was driving, so relaxing.

Rear cabin in the GLS was one step up from the GLE, it was massive. I sat in behind my own driving position and there was at least 6 inches between my knees and the driver’s seat. This also allowed the second row of seats enough space to move forward and create ample legroom for adults in the third row, not something you see every day. Even my own Land Rover Discovery, which is just as big, struggles with some adults in the third row.

The GLS suffered from the same issues I had with the GLE, but stepped it up a notch. Both the second and third row seats had a full range of electric seat controls. On the doors in the second row and in the armrests in the third row. “Wow” I hear you say, well sort of. Wow if you don’t have kids, and the person who designed it does not have any. These buttons may as well have been made out of candy, my daughter was able to touch them with her feet from her front-facing child seat. Every time she was in the car was a drama, trying to find ways for her to leave the buttons alone. I could not find any way to disable them. I had forgotten how annoying this was to live with. Even my wife who likes to sit in the back with our daughter found it baffling.

The boot is good size, however most 7-seater vehicles drop the ball when the third row goes up. So how much space are you left with once the third row is up? 620 litres. Yup, it’s huge for a boot behind 3 rows of seats. With the third row down this grows to 1320 litres and it gets even bigger with the second row down, 2300 litres. I had the same issue with the boot door as I had on the GLE. Smaller people can’t reach the buttons on the door when open. Hopefully there are options somewhere deep in the menus to reduce the opening height. 

The fold-out tow bar was a nice feature, with one press of a button a 50mm towball and Euro spec trailer plug appeared from nowhere. Getting it to retract was another story, I feel there was something not working right as I clawed with the button, but having it stow away was never as easy as having it deploy. 

The Drive

After driving the GLE 400d I had a good idea of what to expect from the drive. That 243kW, 700Nm six-cylinder is a great engine and I will never know how they made it sound so good. This engine was really amazing, it was so powerful and smooth, delivering power effortlessly through the 9-speed gearbox with ease. Even though this GLS probably weighs as much as the moon, the engine never seemed to work hard to get it up and going. Believe me 700Nm will get most things going, even the GLS, at a pretty snappy pace.

Much like the GLE, the GLS was a breeze to daily drive, I looked forward to those massage seats. You can’t be unhappy when so many things work well together, the engine, drivetrain, driver controls and seats, it feels just right. 

I covered around 400km in the time I had the 400d. This was about a 60/40 split of city and motorway driving. During this time I had noticed a rather high fuel consumption figure of 13.1-litres per 100km. Mercedes-Benz rated it at 7.0-litres per 100km, which is almost half what I was getting. I was starting to worry that I would run out of fuel long before I got anywhere, however and to my surprise. By the end of my time in the GLS, I had only used up half a tank, which was amazing. It was odd though, as it did not feel like it was using 13.1 litres per 100km. This probably means you could get an easy 800-900km from a tank, as long as the driver was not heavy with the foot. 

I took the GLS through a McDonalds drive though one day on my way to work. I did it without thinking about it, and instantly broke out in a sweat-filled panic. The alloy wheels on the GLS are 23-inches, with is a narrow band of rubber between them and the ground. Every McDonalds has concrete kerbs that seem to reflect the bumper bars from a bowling alley, so they keep your car in the lane. Normally this would have been no hassle, however the GLS is a big unit, with a big and long footprint. I remembered that it had the top down parking view camera, which I used to help me navigate the concrete gutters. The overall length did not make things easy, but I managed to get through the maze without a scratch. This did make me think about bringing it into a multi storey carpark. Not sure I would be so brave to do that in this monster.

Again the 400d is hitting a lot of solid homeruns, but it was let down by the electric rear seats. Such a small thing, but it does have big implications to those of us with kids.

The driving experience was almost exactly the same as the GLE 400d, which you can read more about at the following link – (2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 d 4Matic – Car Review – That was a diesel?)

The Competition

This end of the market is interesting, as there is not a huge amount of SUVS that are at this size and price. Audi’s Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne are still small when compared to the GLS, the only other thing on the market is BMW’s new X7. Typical 7-seaters suffer from a common trait: they all try to fit 7 seats into vehicles predominantly designed for 5 seats. Much like trying to get extra seats onto a plane, the result is less leg room to cater for people of all shapes and sizes. This is something that the GLS does not suffer from.

Large Size SUV – Diesel

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmNumber of SeatsFuel L/100kmBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d3.0-litre, 6-cylinder diesel-turbo243/7005/77.7620/1320/2300$168,500
BMW X7 xDrive40i3.0-litre, 6-cylinder turbo250/4505/79.1620/1320/2300$168,000
ProsCons
Huge levels of power
Lovely engine sounds, for a diesel
Smooth and comfy ride
Engine is so quiet, forget it’s a diesel.
Good handling for an SUV
Easy to drive, even for its size
Quality, luxury interior
LED headlights are amazing
Big boot
Top shelf sound system
7 adult sized seats
Second and third row seat controls
Boot push button close height (may be a issue for smaller people)
Towbar controls on rear door
Hard to gauge front corners due to size
Fuel economy higher than expected

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 d 4Matic

Vehicle TypeAll-wheel drive luxury 5-door SUV
Starting Price$168,500
Price as Tested$180,700
Engine3.0-litre, 6-cylinder diesel-turbo
Power, Torque243kW/700Nm
Transmission9G-TRONIC automatic transmission
Spare WheelNone
Kerb Weight, Kg2415
Length x Width x Height, mm5130 x 1934 x 1850
Cargo Capacity, litres620 (third row up)1320 (third row down) 2300 (second and third row down)
Fuel tank capacity, litres88 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 7.7Real World Test – Combined – 13.1Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750/3400
Turning circle, metres13Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years warranty
ANCAP Safety RatingsTo be tested
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
5
Interior
9
Performance
9
Saftey
8
Styling
8
Value
6
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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