2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic Review

More space, comfort and luxury than before, the German's biggest SUV finally gets the complete redesign it deserved

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There’s been a recent surge in interest in large sport utility vehicles as consumers continue to migrate away from minivan offerings due to their rather mundane image. With a plethora of new options in this category (like these 2021 and 2022 models) the product planning team at Mercedes-Benz knew that it was time to give its largest offering, the GLS-class, a complete redesign for 2020. 

Power: under the GLS 450’s hood

There are two models in the GLS-class of vehicles, and both have been re-engineered to offer improved performance in all areas, as well as higher levels of comfort, luxury and technology.  We tested the six-cylinder GLS 450, but there is also the GLS 580 which features a 4.0-litre V8 engine.  Both power trains are as efficient as they are powerful, as each employs the use of turbocharger technology and Mercedes’ clever EQ Boost electric-assist hybrid system. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic engine
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic puts down 362-horsepower and 369 lb-ft or torques courtesy of a 3.0L turbocharged powerplant. Photo: Russell Purcell

The GLS 450 is powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6 cylinder engine which delivers 362-horsepower and 369 lb-ft or torques with the assistance of an innovative 48-volt mild hybrid system.  This combination allows engineers to increase engine performance and overall efficiency without sacrificing fuel economy. This clever system will reclaim energy during braking and has the ability to coast fuel-free on the highway which helps reduce both fuel consumption and overall CO2 emissions. 

Both models of the GLS are equipped with a 9-speed automatic transmission (complete with shift paddles) and the company’s well-sorted 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.  

For something a little smaller from the German, check out our 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 & 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Review.

GLS-Class on the road: how does the MB’s big SUV handle?

On the road I found the single-turbocharged engine to be a smooth operator, and well matched to the transmission.  The gear ratios are short and designed to keep the engine operating as efficiently as possible, but should you find the need to accelerate hard the gearbox reacts quickly to place you right in the sweet-spot of the engine’s power band. Acceleration is strong and the additional power and torque provided by the EQ Boost starter-alternator arrives instantaneously. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic rear view
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic. Photo: Russell Purcell

Even with a full complement of passengers on board the GLS never felt sluggish or overworked. The well-insulated cabin did an excellent job of limiting engine, traffic and road noise, allowing the pleasant flow of conversation to occur even at highway speeds. 

Acceleration is strong, and Mercedes’ literature claims that the GLS 450 will launch from 0 to 100 kilometres-per-hour in 6.2 seconds.  When you stomp on the accelerator the electric motor kicks in to deliver power instantaneously as the car’s turbo spools up and the engine gets up to speed. From the driver’s perspective this is an impressive feat given the size and type of vehicle represented by the GLS.   

The gear ratios are short and designed to keep the engine operating as efficiently as possible, but should you find the need to accelerate hard the gearbox reacts quickly to place you right in the sweet-spot of the engine’s power band.

The GLS handles extremely well for a vehicle of such large proportions. Ride quality is optimised for road conditions and handling dynamics via the standard Airmatic air suspension system. However, our evaluation unit had been fitted with the optional Sport Package, which adds an Adaptive Damping System (ADS PLUS) which continually optimizes the suspension by automatically selecting one of four damping profiles for each spring-strut every time a wheel changes its direction of up–down travel. The driver may also further tailor the system by using the Dynamic Select system which offers both Comfort and Sport modes. 

Interior: a look inside the 2020 redesigned GLS 450 cabin

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic interior
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic interior. Photo: Russell Purcell

One look inside the GLS will remind you why many believe that Mercedes-Benz produces some of the most luxurious passenger cabins in the business. Our test unit included both the Comfort and the Premium packages, which added such niceties as retractable rear window blinds, massaging front seats, upgraded climate control systems (four-zone), soft close doors, and a mellifluous Burmester surround sound system. An extra-large panorama glass roof helps create an airy feel in the cabin.  

The quality of the standard man-made leather, wood panels, and various soft-touch trim materials is exceptional, as is the level of overall fit-and-finish. 

Seating & comfort

The standard seating configuration for the GLS features a three-passenger second-row bench (40/20/40-split) and a two-passenger (50/50-split) bench in the rear. The cabin layout in our test vehicle had been optimized for four adults and two children in that there were bucket seats in the first two rows and a compact bench in the third. 

The four buckets were firm, but comfortable, and provided great support when the vehicle was in motion. All were heated, as were their inboard armrests, but as part of the optional Premium Package the front seats were also fitted with a cooling system. 

Rear passengers

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic rear seats
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic rear seats. Photo: Russell Purcell

The rear bench is a quality piece of furniture, unlike the third row offerings in many similar sized vehicles, and both seating positions feature adjustable headrests. Small to average sized adults could ride back here in a pinch, but it really is a space best reserved for children.  

With the re-design both the second and third row seating areas gained some room, especially in the leg department. There are secondary controls for the rear climate system on the console and a host of cup-holders and charging points are distributed throughout the rear passenger area. .  

Cargo space & visibility

Should you find the need to transport cargo rather than people, it should be noted that all of the rear seats can be electronically folded flat in short order, and this results in an impressive 2,400 litres of available space. A power-operated upswing lift gate and wide radius side doors make loading and unloading less of a chore and the air-suspension lowers the vehicle slightly when in park.  

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic cargo space rear
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic rear cargo space with seats down. Photo: Russell Purcell

Perched in the infinitely adjustable driver’s seat I was able to find the optimal position to allow me a good view of the road, my surroundings, and all of the car’s operating controls, screens and gauges. The well-bolstered seat proved more than capable of holding me in place during more aggressive driving manoeuvres, and there was plenty of room for my 6’2″ frame.  

Outward visibility is quite good, as the GLS has large windows, but there are front and rear  parking sensors on board as well as Active Parking Assist, a program that searches for suitable parallel or perpendicular parking spaces as you drive and will effectively takeover and park the vehicle for you at the touch of a button.  A rear camera is standard, but a 360-degree camera is available to display a live overhead view of your immediate surroundings on the central screen to further assist piloting the GLS in tight confines at slow speeds. 

Tech features

The dashboard is dominated by a pair of impressive 12.3-inch display screens. The first offers a highly customizable digital gauge cluster, while the second serves as the infotainment command centre. The new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) control system integrates an in-dash touchscreen display, touch-sensitive controls, Bluetooth capabilities, and voice control operation. The user interface is accurate and easy to use, and the system offers Navigation, serves as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  

Standard features & upgrades

Consumers have a hunger for technology, and the GLS-Class comes standard with a host of advanced safety and convenience features, including intelligent braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, cruise control, and adaptive automatic LED headlights. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic tech features
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic. Photo: Russell Purcell

Options on our loaner included a heads-up display, as well as the Intelligent Drive Package. This package outfits the GLS with an arsenal of active driving aids that can step in to assist with braking, steering, cruising speed and emergency situations without driver interaction or interference.

Takeaway

The GLS should appeal to those buyers looking for a versatile and luxurious all-rounder that delivers an abundance of room, the latest in technology, and the status boost that comes from piloting a Mercedes-Benz.   

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic Pictures:

Technical Specifications: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 4Matic

  • Base price (MSRP): US price $76,195; Canada price C$95,500
  • Price as tested: C$114,900
  • Body Style: Full-size, 7 passenger SUV
  • Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.0-Litre turbocharged inline-six cylinder
  • Horsepower:  362 hp @ 5,500-6,100 rpm
  • Torque:  369 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,500 rpm
  • Transmission:  9-speed automatic
  • Brakes (front/rear): Disc/disc
  • Cargo capacity (L): 355 (seats in place); 2,400 (rear seats folded) 
  • Towing capacity: 3,500 kg. (7,700 lb.)
  • Wheelbase (mm): 3,135 
  • Curb weight (kg): 2,480
  • Fuel economy (L/100km):  12.3 City; 10.2 Hwy
Russell Purcellhttps://www.flickr.com/people/autoexposurecanada/
Russell Purcell is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. His passion for automobiles was sparked at the tender age of six, when a family friend gave the wide-eyed first grader a ride to school in a track prepared Porsche 911 RSR. He continues to fan the flames by building an impressive library of automotive related books as well as a vast collection of interesting automobilia and motoring artefacts. Russell is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and is active on Twitter as RoadTestRuss.

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