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Driven: Mercedes ups the pressure with GLS

Big ideas: The hulking Mercedes-Benz GLS will continue to dominate its premium upper-large SUV segment, according to local executives.

Mercedes-Benz predicts ongoing upper-large SUV success with refreshed GLS

Mercedes-Benz logo22 Apr 2016

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

MERCEDES-BENZ expects the GLS will continue as the top seller in its segment as the facelifted and renamed SUV arrives to replace the GL, citing strong recent sales growth for the outgoing model as a reason for its ongoing success.

The Australian launch of the upper-large GLS this month will complete the brand’ s SUV renaming strategy that has seen the large ML renamed GLE and the new compact GLA and medium GLC introduced.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy said the brand has always seen the GL as the SUV equivalent of an S-Class limousine and the new naming strategy more clearly signposts its intent.

“I think the GLS actually defines it (the GL) a little bit better given we like to think of the GL as the S-Class of SUVs, so the naming actually very clearly positions it there,” he said at a preview drive event of the GLS in Melbourne.

“The vehicle does sit at the top of the SUV family (and) for quite a few years we didn’t really have enough SUV vehicles whereas now we do, so it’s very clear as you step up from GLA to GLE, then the coupe variants, GLS sits in the right place.” Sales of the GL increased 27.1 per cent to 756 units in 2015 compared with 2014, almost doubling sales of the Range Rover (396) and more than tripling volume of the Lexus LX (193) that are second and third in the $100K-plus upper-large SUV segment as classified by VFACTS.

GL sales have soared by a further 49.7 per cent to 226 units in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period last year, despite being in run-out ahead of the GLS’ arrival.

“The vehicle has really been very successful for us, not just because it’s a seven-seater but the size of the vehicle (and) the AMG variant has done really well, which has surprised a few of us,” Mr McCarthy said.

“I think it will continue to lead its segment, I don’t see any reason why it won’t.

“GL has led its segment for a very long time, and while it does have Audi (Q7) and Range Rover, BMW don’t really have a competitor yet (but) I believe they’re working on one.” The GLS500 is expected to be the top-selling variant of a four-tier GLS range that closely mirrors the previous GL.

As reported in December, pricing for the 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel V6 GLS350d starts at $116,900 plus on-road costs, featuring an unchanged 190kW/620Nm. However a new nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the previous seven-speed unit (as it does on all non-AMG variants).

A 0-100km/h claim of 7.8 seconds is reduced by 0.1s and claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres falls 0.1L/100km.

Pricing rises $2400 over the outgoing equivalent, but benefits from range-wide updates including a new Comand online infotainment system with Apple CarPlay connectivity, five Dynamic Select driving modes and full LED headlights with adaptive high-beam.

The $135,900 GLS350d Sport replaces 20-inch wheels with 21s, and adds an active anti-roll bar design called Active Curve System, tyre pressure monitor, and Nappa leather interior over the GLS350d and the equivalent, $1400-cheaper previous variant.

The GLS500 includes an additional 15kW from its 4.7-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 engine, which now produces 335kW/700Nm, claiming 0-100km/h in 5.4s (0.1s faster) and consumption of 11.3L/100km (a 0.2L reduction).

It is priced from $161,900, up $2390 from before, and adds a panoramic glass sunroof with tilt/slide function, luxury front seats with heating and ventilation, heated middle row seats and a digital TV tuner.

The Mercedes-AMG GLS63 tops the range at $217,900 or $3390 more than before, and its 5.5-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 engine delivers a further 20kW for 430kW/760Nm total outputs.

A claimed 4.6-second 0-100km/h is reduced by 0.3s but 12.3L/100km consumption is unchanged. It is the only variant to retain a seven-speed automatic and includes a unique 40:60 front/rear torque split for its standard 4Matic all-wheel drive system.

A sixth Sport+ driving mode, 22-inch wheels, AMG sports suspension, high-performance braking package, power closing doors and AMG Driver’s Package with 270km/h top speed are GLS63 feature highlights.

There are no major body or chassis changes to the 2245-2580kg upper-large SUV, which continues to utilise a multi-link front and rear suspension set-up and boast a cargo volume of between 680 and 2300 litres.

Mr McCarthy called the GLS a “facelift” model for the three-year-old second-generation GL, which launched locally in 2013, and he does not expect the buyer base for the GLS to change.

“It’s a facelift and there’s some extra items of kit in the car, I think it’s still really good value when you think it is a seven-seater,” he said of the predicted continued popularity of the GLS.

“Certainly a lot of families buy it, but you actually see a lot of GL models with tow-packs and towing horse floats, and other large and heavy loads, so it’ s definitely got a market there, and more than a handful of them actually go off-road.

“Dynamically the AMG (GLS63) is pretty good, so again, it’s broadening it out and refining the offering and that’s why I think it will continue to do pretty well. The AMG has really added icing to the cake, so if you want an AMG – and many customers have more than one AMG – well, we’re giving them another option.” 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS pricing*
GLS 350d (a) $116,900
GLS 350d Sport (a) $135,900
GLS 500 (a) $161,900
GLS 63 AMG (a) $217,900
*Excludes on-road costs

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