2013 Motor Trend SUV of the Year: Mercedes-Benz GL
Higher and Mightier: Stuttgart’s Biggest Bruiser Recaptures Our SUV Gold
From the December, 2012 issue of Motor Trend
By Jonny Lieberman
| Photos Robert Kerian
For our 2013 competition, the overwhelming majority of the competitors were car-based. However, there was one vehicle that wasn't, and in the words of Frank Markus, "did more of what we expect an SUV to do." That vehicle is the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL.
As far as the driving experience goes, consider us impressed. The 5774-pound GL350 and its potent yet thrifty diesel engine returned the second-best observed mpg of the competition, behind the 3038-pound Subaru XV -- 18.5 mpg compared with 22.4. (The 1.6-liter Ford Escape averaged 17.7 mpg over the same roads and conditions.) Remember, the GL is the largest passenger vehicle Mercedes makes, weighing over 100 pounds more than the big boxy G550. The gasoline-powered GLs returned the worst and second-worst fuel economy of the group, but they were 1200 pounds heavier than the next beefiest contender, the Infiniti JX. And the oil-burning, 455 lb-ft of torque wonder is the entry-level engine. The breadth and quality of the GL range also impressed us. The Ford Escape also has three engine options, but they only sent us the two EcoBoosted examples, leaving us to wonder if the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four (the Escape's base engine) isn't very good. Still, Mercedes has absolutely nothing to hide.
But it does have much to be proud of. "An absolutely amazing piece of machinery," crows Mortara. "An ueber-smooth ride, even in sport mode. You just float down the highway on a cloud and in silence." Floyd adds, "Over the entire two-and-a-half-day stretch, far and away the most fun I had behind the wheel was in the GL450, on both the road and off-road loops. It just shrank around me out on the winery roads. I honestly felt like I was in a sport sedan in spots."
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL truly is the complete package. As Mortara attests, "There is nothing more you could want or need in an SUV." Our editor-in-chief Loh puts it more colorfully: "Imagine a gigantic Swiss Army knife, with 50-some tools (one of the tools is a Leatherman, which itself has 50 tools). Now imagine all the blades are gold-plated platinum, and the inlaid mother-of-pearl handle is wrapped in leather from a Himalayan bald eagle. That's basically the GL."