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You'll Like The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class If...

If you want the benefits of Mercedes engineering, German build quality, American-style accommodations and the optional availability of a fuel-efficient turbo-diesel engine, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL delivers in spades.

You May Not Like The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class If...

If third-row seating is a very occasional requirement, renting a larger vehicle might make more economic sense than maneuvering — or propelling — three rows of SUV on a regular basis.

What's New

The 382-horsepower GL550 joins the line, touting a larger grille, sporty fender flairs and 21-inch wheels.

Interior Features

The GL’s bucket seats are well-shaped and supportive. The driver is fronted by a four-spoke steering wheel and what Mercedes describes as a "sport-oriented" instrument panel. The horizontal grab handles on the console are notable, alluding — both aesthetically and functionally — to the GL’s off-road capability. We remain undecided regarding the shift lever being mounted to the steering column; it does provide for a clean, uninterrupted console, but is less-than-intuitive in its operation. To its credit, the design team has provided reasonably easy access to the third row and generous headroom throughout the interior.

Exterior Features

With the 2008 GL-Class, Mercedes hits all the right exterior notes. In profile, the big Mercedes is very well-proportioned, disguising its overall length (200.3 inches) with short overhangs, an aggressive windshield angle, generous greenhouse, flared wheel arches (similar to the new S-Class) and careful detailing. The traditional Mercedes face is framed by high-tech halogen headlamps; optional Bi-Xenon lamps include a swiveling feature for additional visibility in turns. Privacy glass covers both the "B" and "C" pillars, giving the appearance of one uninterrupted glass panel along the entire side of the vehicle. It is, from any angle, a highly unified design.

Driving Impressions

Subjected to highly variable road conditions, including some fairly aggressive on-road twists and turns and an equally aggressive off-road experience, the GL450 handled itself with grace, especially when equipped with the standard air suspension and optional adaptive damping. Despite almost 5,300 pounds of curb weight and an overall length right around 200 inches, the GL450 drives like a much smaller, significantly lighter SUV. This is in contrast to recent drives in the M-Class, which we felt drove "larger" than its physical size suggested. Response from the 4.6-liter DOHC V8 is great, made more so by the excellent seven-speed automatic transmission. Venture off-road, especially if the vehicle is equipped with the Off-Road package, and you won’t be disappointed. The GL450 can handle anything an owner with payments remaining would care to give it. It may not be quite as off-road capable as a comparably priced Range Rover, but we like its balance between on-road practicality and off-road capability.

Pricing Notes

The GL320 CDI’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $54,000, while the GL450 bumps the price closer to $56,000 and the top-of-the-line GL550 starts around $78,000. With the GL320 and GL450, adding only the Premium Package I and rear-seat entertainment brings the MSRP close to $65,000. A couple more checks of the option column would easily bring the price close to that of the well-equipped GL550. Of course, the $70,000-plus figure represents something of a bargain when compared to the new S-Class or, for that matter, a heavily-optioned E-Class. In terms of resale value, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is projected to be an excellent performer over time, with residuals along the same lines as the Land Rover Range Rover.

Notable Equipment

With assembly in Alabama, the GL-Class — like both the M-Class and R-Class — is value-driven. That’s reflected in a long list of standard equipment, where several items are notable. Passive safety is addressed with two-stage front airbags for front-seat occupants, side airbags for both first- and second-row seats and side-curtain airbags spanning all three rows. Audiophiles will enjoy a standard, glovebox-mounted six-disc CD changer, auxiliary input for MP3 players and eight speakers. Those living in the sunbelt should appreciate the rear (stationary) sunroof with shade, while inhabitants of the snowbelt will benefit from standard full-time four-wheel drive. The GL550 adds 21-inch wheels, a rearview camera, running boards, full leather interior, Parktronic park assist, heated rear seats and the harman/kardon LOGIC7 sound system.

Notable Options

Despite all that is standard, the GL’s extensive list of options won’t disappoint feature-oriented consumers. Driving in congested areas is a good argument for Distronic, Mercedes’ adaptive cruise control. For occupants not in the front seats, the rear-seat entertainment system should provide plenty of entertainment. The Off-Road package includes a two-speed transfer case with locking center and rear differentials. Offerings also include SIRIUS Satellite Radio, DVD navigation, heated second-row seating, a rear-view back-up camera and a Class-IV trailer hitch to complement the GL450’s 7,500-pound tow rating.

Favorite Features

{Adaptive Damping SystemFew vehicle types confront changing road conditions more often than an SUV. The GL’s air suspension is constantly reacting to road surface variations, with an ability to change shock absorber settings 20 times per second. If the road is smooth, the system delivers relatively softer shock absorber action and a smooth ride; if the road gets bad, the shock absorbers become more firm for increased control. The result is an SUV with a comfortable ride when you want it and appropriately more responsive handling when you need it.Unitized Body/ChassisIn contrast to its domestic competition, Mercedes-Benz builds the GL-Class using a unitized body and chassis. This offers many benefits, including less weight, a lower center of gravity and, along with the all-independent suspension, a more car-like ride. The GL-Class remains a fully capable, all-season SUV, but with the on-road manners of smaller crossover vehicles. It’s a compelling combination.

Under the Hood

There are three engine options for the GL. The GL320 CDI employs a powerful yet fuel-efficient 3.0-liter direct-injection turbo-diesel V6. With plenty of low-end torque for quick acceleration, the GL320 CDI delivers an impressive 24 miles per gallon in highway driving. The GL450 is powered by a marvelous 4.6-liter V8. If, as advertised, the GL450 represents "more Mercedes to love," then this new V8 is more performance to adore. With four valves per cylinder, the engine delivers a seamless 335 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque and, more impressively, delivers that power and torque over a broad engine speed range. The powerhouse 5.5-liter V8 in the GL550 cranks out 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. Connecting the smooth power to all four wheels is a seven-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission. 3.0-liter V6 Turbo Diesel215 horsepower @ 3800 rpm398 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600-2800 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/244.6-liter V8335 horsepower @ 6000 rpm339 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2700-5000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/185.5-liter V8382 horsepower @ 6000 rpm391 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800-4800 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/17

Editors' Notes

One look at the luxury import segment and you see — very quickly — the preponderance of growth in the SUV category. With the launch of its M-Class over eight years ago, Mercedes anticipated what has since become an industry-wide trend. And, while the M-Class has certainly enjoyed its share of success, its reception was hampered by the lack of a third-row seat at launch and, once a third row was finally introduced, the marginal comfort and accessibility of that seating did not impress buyers. The introduction of the GL-Class remedied this situation, creating a full-size SUV with seating for seven in an easy-to-maneuver package.

Road Test Video Reviews

2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Owner Reviews

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Some bad things and some great things.

2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Base

My transmission went out to the cost of $8000 at 102,000 miles. The engine light comes on occasionally but does not stay on long enough for someone to put it on machine. It is very luxurious, drives great, very comfortable. Lots of room especially with extra third seat. But if you use the extra 3rd seat for passengers there is not much room for them.

- brenda D

Mercedes is a good vehicle, but not worth the price.

2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

We've had a number of issues with my vehicle. The air suspension has needed replaced along with the struts which was very costly. Oil changes in this vehicle are expensive as well. I think it has to do with the age of the vehicle. Over all I like the car, but would likely buy a less expensive vehicle maintenance wise in the future.

- Danielle S

Professional and boss status

2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4.6L

No problems, great reliable truck that drives smooth and has all the bells and whistles. Feels like your floating on a cloud. There is plenty of leg space in front and back and has 3 rows. Automate everything. The stance of this vehicle is professional and classy

- Brittany B

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