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The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GL, of all the full-size luxury SUVs, has some of the best road manners. Its electric power steering isn't full of feedback, but it's not loose or overly light. The independent suspension has air shocks that give it a pillowy ride, and some versions offer an adaptive suspension that counteracts body lean quite well. We'd normally prefer a more basic solution, but this way, a wider spread between comfort and sporty driving modes tailors the GL to more drivers.
The GL is built in America, where it sells very well. In fact, the three-row luxury bus is aimed squarely Americans. The German automaker's largest SUV, the GL shares its platform and assembly line with the two-row M-Class SUV, offering similar powertrain choices and features.
Like any respectable high-end people mover, the GL has LED lighting front and rear. The familiar Mercedes grille is pronounced, and the long profile of this three-row crossover enhances the wedge shape created by the side character lines. The overall effect is less boxy than the previous generation, but it's still just as rugged as ever. GL550s are differentiated from 350 and 450 models with their flared wheel arches and 21-inch wheels. And the AMG gets its own look, with big wheels and body-kit pieces.
Inside, the GL has a matte-finish glow that also avoids the blingy excesses. Leather upholstery and eucalyptus or burl walnut wood trim give warmth to the cabin, and customers can opt for a range upgraded trims that include olive ash wood and perforated "designo" leather. All models come standard with a 7.0-inch screen on the dash to house the infotainment functions, and the COMAND operating system's knob controller on the center console runs those features.
The GL has an independent suspension and standard air springs that are tuned for a pillowy ride, making it better at isolating road surfaces than the Chevrolet and GMC utilities of the same size. Optional active dampers have Sport and Comfort modes that widen the spread, making the highway ride a touch softer or firming up the ride and steering a moderate amount. In either setting, the controlled ride limits the amount of side-to-side head pitch. There's also an optional semi-active system with anti-roll bars that can firm up as the GL leans into corners. It's expensive, and it counters some of the natural body motion that drivers might expect to encounter as they press the GL into tighter curves. We prefer the more basic setup, and we can also can do without the biggest wheel-and-tire combinations that add some jiggle to the GL's ride.
For off-roaders there's a package that adds a low range, a locking center differential, tuned traction and stability control, and adjustable ride height that lifts the GL from 8.5 inches of ground clearance to a full foot. The GL can tow a trailer weighing up to 7,500 pounds, something a GL driver is much more likely to encounter than even a dirt road.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.