2020 Mercedes GLS580 4Matic: Whopping price. Whopping vehicle?
Price: $131,800. Lots of stuff. I’ll discuss what there’s room for.
Marketer’s pitch: “The pinnacle of SUVs reaches a new peak.”
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “pulsing V-8, spacious interior, graceful ride quality,” but not the “poor fuel economy, outrun by a BMW X7, S-class money.”
Reality: A whopper, but worth the price differential from the Volvo XC90, reviewed last month?
What’s new: The three-row Mercedes SUV is all new for 2020, larger, with more room dedicated to the second row. An integrated starter generator allows for a short-term power boost as well.
Pricey: A friend asked me if I’m harder on a $130,000 car than I might be on something cheaper. Do I expect more? she wondered.
Very much yes.
And at a hair more than the BMW X5M and $40,000 more than the Volvo XC90, it better have good reason.
High tech: A $2,250 Driver Assistance package came with more features than I can possibly list and still write a column. Note, though, that the vehicle came to a screeching halt in my driveway after a sensor was disabled by a piece of a leaf. No technology yet cleans debris.
The bells and whistles also were set off by random objects when starting from a stop or making slow turns, leading to panic as Mr. Driver’s Seat worried something was about to crash into us. Then I began ignoring all the noise, which means the warnings were moot.
Up to speed: You’ll certainly get your money’s worth in acceleration, getting to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver. That’s all thanks to the 483-horsepower 4.0-liter biturbo V-8 engine, but still beaten by the X5M.
Maintaining speed: While running the cruise control on the notoriously winding Route 422, Mr. Driver’s Seat actually shouted to the empty vehicle, “If I paid $130,000 and my cruise control acted this badly on curves, I’d be livid!” It was the second time the adaptive cruise had let me down in about 15 minutes, slowing down with great force because of a guardrail in a turn. Disappointing.
Seriously loaded: But the GLS has a calming app.
Much earlier in the day, I answered a screen notification about the Energizing Comfort Package ($550), and the vehicle began to play soothing tunes and spritz perfume into the air. So for $130,000, you bring along the Neiman Marcus perfume display. Perhaps an app to make the exhaust spew lilac scents will be next.
Other comfort and toys to impress friends abound. Heated seats. Cooled seats. Massage seats. And this is in four corners, not just in the front.
On the slalom: If you’re shopping for driving thrills, pick the BMW. A beast on the country roads, the GLS580 feels both herky and jerky even trying to maintain a straight line. Every bump and road seam reverberates. I’m not sure what the Car and Driver crew drove.
Speed, steering, and suspension can be adjusted separately, but it’s only through the touchscreen, a difficult exercise on the fly.
Shifty: The 9-speed automatic transmission operated smoothly. Paddle shifters allow choices, and they work fine.
Driver’s Seat: Well, all the seats, really. Everyone loved them. Comfortable. Nicely covered in magma gray and black Nappa dead cow, for $1,370.
Making room for that big biturbo engine means it’s hard to see over the hood, though. When I finally got the seat just right for driving, entry-exit became a real challenge.
For the driver, Mercedes offers fancier dashboards in the sedan, but this gauge pod was clear and inviting as well, and resembled a giant elongated tablet. Gray oaks perished for the dashboard, at a $160 premium.
Cupholders are heated and cooled for $180.
Friends and stuff: We put Sturgis Kids 1.0 and 4.0 in for a short ride one night, so they could do my job for me and play with the rear-seat touchscreen (part of the $3,750 Executive Rear-Seat Package plus). They were able to handle all sorts of functions, including tunes, climate, and seats. Lean back and enjoy the black Dinamica headliner, kids, it’s $1,600.
The second row offers comfort and spaciousness, unless room needs to be made for the third. The third row is heated as well, for $360.
We trash-picked a small table (something no one ever said about their $130,000 Mercedes ever), and waiting for the power seats to fold down was interminable. But cargo space was good: 17.4 cubic feet in the back and 84.7 with everything folded down.
Play some tunes: Those cool USBs we all have? So retro. The GLS came with only mini USB ports, or a 115-volt outlet. And, of course, Bluetooth.
The interface handles iPod selections nicely, and getting from function to function is simple via the large 12.3-inch touchscreen, or not so simple via the touch pad.
Plenty of buttons allow for moving from choice to choice as well.
Sound from the Burmester High-End 3D Surround system was delightful, an A. But for $4,550, anything less would be an F.
Keeping warm and cool: A row of buttons handles all the functions and makes getting the temperature correct easy enough. The system lacked the typical circular vents, so controlling the flow was not so easy.
Fuel economy: It’s lucky I had the opportunity to take the GLS for an essential trip up north (Grandma 1.0 in hospital, unfortunately). The display showed 12.3 mpg before the trip, but rose to 18 mpg afterward, though none of it was in turnpike cruising.
Where it’s built: Vance, Ala.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts a 2 out of 5 for reliability. That’s twice as reliable as the other two.
In the end: Is it worth throwing $40,000 more beyond a Volvo XC90? No. The BMW? Maybe.