2021 Mercedes Benz GLS, Luxury Family Offering 7 Seats
The 3rd generation of Mercedes' GLS large utility vehicle was unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April of 2019. An update that comes at the right time to fight against the recent BMW X7. Like any self-respecting upgrade, the new GLS is bigger, wider and better equipped than its predecessor.
Before I start telling what has changed from the previous generations in GLS580, let me first tell you what's new in general in the 2021 Model Year of the GLS class. Not much is new, but a few things are interestingly new.
- Ventilated Front Seats, 4-Zone Climate Control, 20” wheels now standard (GLS 450 4MATIC)
- New upholstery options available
- Enhanced Alarm System with Parking Damage Detection now standard for GLS 450 4MATIC/GLS 580 4MATIC
- Electric Rear Side-Window Sunshades now available as standalone option on GLS 450 4MATIC
- Driver Assistance Package PLUS now available for GLS 450 4MATIC and GLS 580 4MATIC
- All-new AMG GLS 63 SUV model
- All-new Maybach SUV model
The Mercedes-Benz GLS class comes in four trims: GLS 450 4MATIC SUV, GLS 580 4MATIC SUV, GLS 63 SUV and GLS 600 4MATIC SUV. We test-drove and reviewed the 580 4MATIC SUV, which differs from the 450 model only by its engine size.
The GLS 580 4Matic uses an eight-cylinder engine that develops 483 hp. For the first time in its history, Mercedes-Benz has coupled its motors to a 48-volt electrical system and has a built-in starter generator. This combination turns the GLS into a mild hybridization model. The first engine in the Model 450 is an inline-six with 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The mild hybridization system, dubbed EQ Boost, adds 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Which brings a surplus of power to compensate for the turbo. The other engine is a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that produces 483 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque on the 580 version. EQ Boost delivers better performance while consuming less fuel.
A Familiar Exterior Design
It is easy to recognize, at first glance, the familiar pencil stroke of the GLS and this is intended in order to maintain continuity in the process. Mercedes, however, added elements of unification with other models in the range. Thus, one can recognize common features like thinner, almost rectangular headlights, which one finds on the GLE. At the front, a new grille with thicker horizontal slats, with the highly visible Mercedes logo in its center, becomes a new symbol of the brand. The large taillights have been replaced with thinner units that extend even further into the tailgate to soften the line. Speaking of the headlights: they are beautiful. The famous multi-beam LED headlights with daytime running lights flank the classic twin-blade grille with authority, creating an intimidating and refined face. They are specially unique and powerful at night.
The designers of legendary brands always have a very delicate job when it comes time to change a model. They have to meet a wide range of parameters that are part of the brand's DNA, while adding enough new stuff to make it a different vehicle.
It is a bit like that, the new GLS. On the one hand, we recognize the stature and character traits. On the other, there is a softer overall line that mimics what Mercedes-Benz did with the last GLE. The format has also grown with a total length of 5.21 m and a width of 1.95 m.
The grille offers a new look with thicker horizontal slats, flanked by the Mercedes-Benz logo in its center. The headlights are thinner to add to the sporty style and the elusive shapes help camouflage the model's unusual size. The large taillights have been replaced with thinner units that extend even higher into the tailgate. The profile is cleaner, smoother and the overall styling is more aerodynamic. And it is not a hazard ; the cx (coefficient of drag) went from 0.35 on the old generation to 0.32 on the new one, a respectable figure considering the size of this SUV.
Modern Approach in The Interior
The last major overhaul of the GLS was in 2013, so the interior was of the older generation of Mercedes products. For 2020 and 2021, engineers have installed two 12.3-inch screens side-by-side that both offer a decidedly modern style without being complicated. The new GLS 580 is also slightly longer at 5.21 meters, leaving a little more room for seats in the 3rd row, which can accommodate two adults. Mercedes has also installed the MBUX system as standard. By simply asking “Hey Mercedes!” You have access to all kinds of information. For example: “Hey Mercedes, where is the nearest pizzeria?.” The system is still in the learning phase and you have to repeat the commands often, but it works quite well.
The comfort of the seats is excellent and the driving position dominant. All the on-board electronics help to make the vehicle more maneuverable and lighter. For those who constantly meet business people and transfer them from the airport to business meetings and have the budget, the GLS 580 version and its V8 is for you. On this model you get the air suspension as standard. It also analyzes the road, can move each wheel's suspension up or down in off-road situations using on-screen keys, helps cornering better and even moves the suspension up and down by rocking. the vehicle to release it in sand, mud or snow.
The longer wheelbase offers more room in the rear where passengers also benefit from a zipper adjustment to be able to stretch their legs further.
Overall, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 provides a lavish cabin with supple seats, composed handling and smooth ride, really good cargo capacity and powerful engines.
A word about the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multimedia system which started its career in the A-Class and which now extends to all new models. By simply saying “Hey Mercedes! You can ask for all kinds of information.
For those daring to hit the trails with a vehicle that will sell in six figures, know that the GLS 580 comes with a transfer case configured to improve off-road handling characteristics. In addition to a controlled multi-plate clutch with torque-on-demand function, it also has a reduction gearbox for off-road driving. This transfer case improves handling and agility by significantly reducing, among other things, the turning radius, and by influencing the degree of yaw to induce oversteer or understeer.
The GLS can be based on the AirMatic air suspension system, available as an option with the Adaptive Damping System Plus, which is standard. This setup uses complex sensors and algorithms to adapt the damping characteristics to the road condition and driving situation in real time. The wheel suspensions have been optimized to improve driving comfort. It's sort of a smart suspension that can read the road and adapt to the conditions. And it works very well.
The driving position is excellent and the on-board electronics help to make the vehicle more maneuverable and lighter. The turning radius is particularly tight for a product that fits 21-inch and optional 23-inch tires.
Naturally, the ultimate driving experience goes through the 580 version and its V8 which offers a spellbinding sound. Our test model also offered air suspension with E-Active Body Control. This system is able to individually control the spring and damping force on each wheel, greatly suppressing roll, pitch and lift movements.
To conclude, here is what I liked about the 2021 Mercedes GLS. This SUV provides really good comfort. It has a high-tech interior, good off-road skills and again, impressive level of comfort.
Mercedes-Benz GLS Standard Feature Highlights
- 4.0L V8 Biturbo engine with EQ Boost and 48-volt onboard electrical system
- 7-seater, or 6-seater with Captain’s Chairs
- Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) with Voice Control
- 12.3” Digital Instrument Cluster and 12.3” Touchscreen Multimedia Display
- Burmester® Surround Sound System
- 64-color Ambient Lighting
- Inductive Wireless Charging
- SiriusXM Radio
- Carwash mode
- 4-Zone Climate Control
- 115V AC household-type power outlet
- 64-Color Ambient Lighting
- 9 USB ports
- Pre-Wiring for Rear Seat Entertainment & comfort adapter
- LED Intelligent light system headlamps and LED taillamps
- Smartphone Integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Blind Spot Assist
- Active Brake Assist
- ATTENTION ASSIST®
- Active Parking Assist with Surround View
- PRE-SAFE® System, including PRE-SAFE® Sound
- Car-to-X Communication
- 20” wheels (GLS 450)
- 21” wheels (GLS 580)
- Easy-Pack Tailgate
- Load Compartment Cover
- SUV-specific storage compartments designed especially for off-road driving
Mercedes-Benz GLS Optional Feature Highlights
- E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension
- Executive Rear Seat Package with large center foldable console with 7” MBUX tablet in the rear, wireless charging and comfort headrests; Executive Rear Seat Package PLUS also includes heated and ventilated and multicontour seats in the rear
- Augmented Video for Navigation
- MBUX Interior Assistant gesture control
- Head-Up Display
- 5-Zone Climate Control (standard on GLS 580)
- Heated and cooled cupholders (front and rear)
- Active multicontour front seats with massage (standard on GLS 580)
- Driver Assistance Package with new Active Stop-and-Go Assist feature
- ENERGIZING Comfort
- Air Balance cabin fragrance system
- AMG Line (GLS 580 only)
- Night Package (GLS 580 only)
- Warmth and Comfort Package
- Burmester® High-End 3D Surround Sound System
- 23” wheels (GLS 580)
Armen Hareyan is the founder and the Editor in Chief of Torque News. He founded TorqueNews.com in 2010, which since then has been publishing expert news and analysis about the automotive industry. He can be reached at Torque News Twitter, Facebok, Linkedin and Youtube.