The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS is the brand’s most luxurious SUV.
It’s bigger inside for 2020 to give passengers more comfort and space.
An available powertrain combination produces over 500 lb-ft. of torque.
SUVs are, or at least started out, as barely civilized work trucks designed to haul people and their stuff from point A to B no matter the road conditions. Over time, people wanted a less truck-like demeanor and more car-like comfort. Which leads us directly to this, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS.
The title just about says it all, doesn’t it? The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS is big, safe, and loaded with everything a driver or passenger could want. Sounds like an S-Class, no? It’s like an S-Class, only shaped like a big friggin’ box with all the subtly and styling of a half-track.
For me, that’s a good thing. I like my SUVs devoid of pretense.
Space & Comfort
Mercedes-Benz goes in a different direction with the GLS, stating right up front how it’s the “largest and most luxurious SUV” in their lineup. Further, the Germans say the new GLS is about offering more: more space, more comfort, and more luxury. For 2020, the GLS is 2.4-inches (60 mm) longer, wheelbase-wise, so the interior is more spacious, especially for second-row passengers. For example, legroom here is increased by 3.4 inches when the seats are in their rearmost position, which also makes it easier to jump in.
There are three, fully-electric and adjustable seat rows so all passengers get a generous amount of space and comfort. The third-row seats can lower into the floor to increase the trunk space, while the second-row seats fold flat. In other words, you’ve got tons of space for stuff if you need it, and when you don’t need it, you’ve got lots of space for people.
Speaking of space for people, there is a six-seater variant of the GLS that has two luxurious captain’s chairs for the second row, a first for 2020.
There’s an Executive Rear Seat Package with a separate seven-inch Android tablet for controlling the comfort and entertainment functions from the rear. It is even possible to order a lumbar massage function for the rear seats. HVAC? Shut up and get out! Five-zone automatic climate control for the rear seats, each set by the tablet. Also standard is the Easy-Entry function for getting into and out of the third-row seats (meaning all of the rear seats simply move forward and/or fold down via a button).
The center console also offers a wireless charging compartment for smartphones and additional USB ports.
But that’s just the start of everything the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS packs.
Between Gas & Hybrid
Also hitting the road for the first time in 2020 is the GLS 580 4MATIC. This big-block V8 variant has Mercedes’ EQ Boost system, a 48-volt on-board electrical setup with an integrated starter generator. Running the higher 48-volt setup allows for, in this instance, what would be a normal starter as a generator; and as a continually-available power source. This EQ Boost system sort of halves the way between hybrids and gas engines. It’s pretty clever.
By comparison, the GLS 450 4MATIC comes with a turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, also with EQ Boost. But c’mon, you’re going to go for the 580!
The V8 gasoline engine with the 48-volt, on-board electrical system and starter generator creates 483 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque; with a further 184 lb-ft. of torque and 21 horsepower available via the EQ Boost over short periods. By comparison, the six-cylinder with the same 48-volt technology produces 362 horsepower and and 369 lb-ft. of torque; with a further 184 lb-ft. of torque and an extra 21 horsepower available via the EQ Boost over short periods.
All variants of the new GLS feature a nine-speed automatic. The electronically-controlled, multi-plate clutch transfer case allows for a “variable transfer of drive torque” from zero to 100 percent (torque on demand) between the axles.
Handling & Aerodynamics
The new GLS also features Mercedes’ sophisticated E-Active Body Control, an active suspension system paired with the aforementioned 48-volt technology. The result is a more comfortable ride and agile handling, and a higher degree of off-road capability. For example, the off-road functions on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS include a “rocking mode.” Say your new GLS has become bogged down in the sand because you were out catching the waves. Well, the suspension level will automatically raise and lower several times, changing the ground pressure of the tires to improve traction. This, according to Mercedes-Benz, helps the GLS “rock itself free.”
Furthermore, Mercedes says the GLS has impressive aerodynamics with a Cd of 0.32. They’re right, that is impressive, for something that’s shaped like the crate it’s shipped in. With regard to aerodynamics, special attention was paid to the underbody and the air flowing through the engine compartment because of the vehicle’s shape. With the GLS, engineers had to address the more upright front end and higher ground clearance when it came to air flow. Ultimately, the new GLS was subjected numerous computation loops, CAE simulations, and wind tunnel measurements in Sindelfingen, Germany.
Oh, and get this: there’s a new Carwash function. Push a button and “woosh,” the mirrors retract, the side windows and sunroof close; the climate control goes to air-recirculation mode, and the 360 camera shows what’s directly ahead so you have an easier time getting into the wash. All that stuff you would normally do with several steps is now done with a single button. Ain’t life grand?
Manufacturing & Availability
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS will go on sale in the U.S. by the end of the year, with production taking place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Look, I’m not usually one to advocate for this sort of thing but if (and this is a big if); you’re rich and have a large family, it sure sounds like the new GLS is the ride for you.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.