The most powerful AMG also is the quietest.
The skunkworks team in Affalterbach knows how to make AMG-branded Benzes the most-intimidating-sounding cars on the planet—in particular, the sounds of its 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 and naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 are exalted hymns in the church of car enthusiasm. (Listen to us run nine AMGs through a tunnel in Detroit.) But with the introduction of the 2014 SLS AMG Electric Drive, Mercedes-Benz AMG has introduced its first truly stealth supercar. (We have to ask: Hasn’t parent company Daimler learned its lesson with the Electric Drive moniker? We digress.)
Not only is the electric supercar AMG’s quietest model by a long way, but it’s also the brand’s most powerful. Electrification provides the SLS with 740 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, with all the twist available from a standstill. The electricity is generated by four contact permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors that spin to 13,000 rpm and through a so-called axially arranged transmission. In comparison, the new-for-2013 petroleum-powered SLS AMG GT churns out 583 hp and 489 lb-ft. Benz claims the electrified SLS will hit 62 mph in 3.9 seconds before topping out at an electronically limited 155.
Power is routed through what Mercedes is calling AMG Torque Dynamics; this provides the car with selective all-wheel drive and allows each wheel to be independently powered or braked to assist in handling maneuvers. The system can be switched among comfort, sport, and sport plus modes. The motors aren’t located in the hubs, saving unsprung weight, but each corner does feature carbon-ceramic brake discs measuring 15.8 inches in front and 14.2 inches in the rear. Power is stored in a liquid-cooled 60-kWh, 1208-pound lithium-ion battery pack developed by Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains of Brixworth in the U.K.—these are the people responsible for Mercedes’ kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) in Formula 1. The battery pack consists of 12 modules, each made up of 72 lithium-ion cells—that’s 864 cells in total, if you’re keeping score at home—that, like all hybrids, receive a charge under deceleration. When static, the SLS Electric Drive can be charged in three hours via an optional 22-kW quick-charge station; plugging it straight into an unmodified wall outlet, a full charge takes 20 hours. Once the electric SLS is full of juice, Mercedes claims a maximum range of 155 miles, although honking on the thing no doubt rapidly decreases that number.
The electric SLS AMG features a carbon-fiber monocoque, which is bonded to an aluminum space frame and houses the car’s battery. An independent multilink suspension with horizontally mounted pushrod shocks is employed at the front; the conventional car’s vertically arranged struts were tossed to make way for the additional drive shafts.Although the Electric Drive SLS will be the stealthiest AMG ever built, it won’t quite be silent. The car’s engineers developed various sounds to accommodate the electric supercar. A startup noise accompanies the push of the power button, a “dynamic” sound is audible under hard acceleration, and a subdued tone plays while cruising. The sounds and the cancellation of unwanted background noises are provided by the car’s 11-speaker audio system.
For a supercar that’s seemingly from another planet once you pop the hood, the SLS Electric Drive largely looks the same as any internal-combustion-powered SLS. The grille gets “bionic honeycomb-shaped” openings, and it and the adjacent air intakes receive body-matching paint. Paint aside, these openings are functional, feeding air to various cooling bits. Exterior colors are limited to the chromatic blue you see in the photos, an exclusive matte neon yellow called electricbeam, and four others. A new gauge cluster features in the electric SLS, and it replaces a tachometer with a display providing information on power requirements, regeneration status, transmission modes, and battery charge.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Electric Drive starts at €416,500 in Germany (that’s roughly $435,000 when you subtract VAT, although the price isn’t likely to directly translate). Deliveries are expected to begin before the end of the year. At more than double the price and far less than half the sound of its gas-fired sibling, we know which SLS we’d choose to own. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to take the other one for a very quick, nearly silent spin.
Together with local artisans and craftsmen she turned the car’s dashboard into a unique desk where the former speedometer is repurposed to become a magnetised pad, the air vents morphed to become a business card slot, while the oval speed and rev counter now featuring a curved world clock and the ignition lock used to serve a USB charger.
The driver’s seat became a comfortable office chair, and the rear-view mirror transformed into a desk lamp, complemented by a gas and brake pedal pen holder. The chairs reminds us of the classy 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL500 Nappa leather interior in nail polish red to appeal to the femme fatales as well.
Mercedes-Benz design forays in the past include the Mercedes-Benz EC145 helicopter, tailored for the Mercedes experience in the skies. The Eurcopter project was though conceived by the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Como, Italy themselves.
Also check-out the Mercedes-Benz SL’s through the 60 years it has been into production, in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL coffee table book published by teNeues, one of the leading Coffee table books publisher based in Germany.
We brought you information on how the VIPs at the 65th Palme d’OR will be ferried from one point to another. Wrapped in gold, Mercedes Benz S500 was truly a luxurious way for VIPs to travel in. Now the same model of the gold wrapped car is on display at the global training center of Mercedes Benz, in Stuttgart, Germany. With so much of bling, it is without a doubt easy to say that there is no better statement to show off your wealth and luxurious lifestyle. The Porsche 996 Turbo has also been recently seen wrapped completely in gold, and so was a Lamborghini Murcielago at the recently held 2012 Tokyo Auto Show.
McLaren MP4-12C, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series: 2012 Best Driver’s Car Contenders
Our look at the nine contenders for the 2012 Motor Trend Best Driver’s car competition concludes with the McLaren MP4-12C, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series, and Chevy’s mighty Camaro ZL1. As part of our Best Driver’s Car Week, we’re highlighting each contender through a special hot lap video around the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with commentary from race driver extraordinaire Randy Pobst, who drove all nine cars to the limit. Stay tuned tomorrow, Thursday, August 23, to find out which car won this year’s title!
2012 McLaren MP4-12C
Some 14 years after ending production of the game-changing and extremely exclusive F1 supercar, McLaren is back in the street car business with the high-tech MP4-12C. It combines a lightweight carbon-fiber passenger cell with aluminum sub-frames and suspension, and replaces traditional anti-roll bars with a variable hydraulic system. A self-adjusting rear wing provides downforce and assists with braking. The race-derived twin-turbo V-8 engine is mounted as low as possible in the middle of the chassis to keep the center of gravity low. It’s not hyperbole to call it a race car for the street.
|2012 McLaren MP4-12C|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$267,545|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.8L/592-hp/443-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3213 lb (42/58%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||177.4 x 75.2 x 47.2 in|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||15/22 mpg|
|TIRES, F;R||235/35ZR19 91Y; 305/30ZR20 99Y Pirelli P Zero Corsa|
On the transmission: The transmission’s fabulous. I didn’t feel like the shifters were stiff. They felt natural to me, but I was making an effort to make sure I went through the detent.
On the brakes: The car is so bloody fast that I was a little bit conservative with my brake points, but the braking is extremely strong. I love the center of pressure change from that brake-wing angle-change. You can really feel that lock the car down in the brake zone and help it stop.
On the engine: There’s a tremendous amount of engine noise that I think is intake noise. By strong I mean LOUD. I’m thinking about wearing my earplugs like I’m driving a race car. I haven’t driven this car on the street, so I’m guessing maybe it’s not so radical there.
Overall: Wow, what an amazing experience. I’m gonna tell you, I both like it and hate it. This McLaren raises the level of stability control to a whole other realm. There’s a lot of computing at work while I’m driving and it’s extremely effective in the way that the car drives, but the car’s not driving exactly the way I’m driving it. I even find myself getting a little bit stupid, like I know I have these crutches so I lean on them. They work so smoothly, it’s almost invisible, except I know I just turned the wheel 20 degrees and the car’s not turning 20 degrees. Something else happened, and that something else is very effective, but I’m not the guy really driving the car. It is amazing.
Turn 3: Braking stronger later in braking zone. Will drift the tail, then the computer controls it. Understeers mid-corner. Excellent traction under power.
Turn 9: Excellent stability on turn-in for tricky fast downhill corner. Funky transition to understeer mid-corner at power application. Pushes under power.
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Not content with being beaten at the track by the Ford Mustang Boss 302, Chevrolet rolled out its big daddy Camaro, the ZL1. The race-bred ZL1 borrows heavily from GM’s BMW-fighter, the Cadillac CTS-V. The ZL1’s supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 packs 26 more horsepower and 5 more lb-ft than the V Caddy’s mill, and it makes use of the Cadillac’s ultra-responsive magnetic shock absorbers. Big brakes and cooling ducts feature prominently, as does a Corvette-derived stability control program with five levels of assistance, including a setting that allows the driver to mash the throttle mid-corner while the computer doles out the torque necessary to achieve maximum acceleration and grip.
|2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$57,265|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||6.2L/580-hp/556-lb-ft supercharged OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4094 lb (53/47%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||190.4 x 75.5 x 54.2 in|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||16/19 mpg|
|TIRES, F;R||285/35ZR20 100Y; 305/35ZR20 104Y Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2|
On the Track Mode: The Track Mode Five setting is a good one for an aggressive track-day driver. It does an excellent job of keeping the car from getting in trouble. I do believe it’s taking a little bit off the lap time because the car won’t leave the corner as hard. It was putting power down extremely well.
On the steering: Turns in accurately with no drama. Easy to throw into corners, but a little lazy turning into the tight corners.
On the engine: The engine has a real fat torque curve. It’s another classic American kind of engine, except it revs out well, too. We’re revving to 6000, it makes power all the way up, but it’s making huge power at 2500.
Overall: The Camaro is very happy on the racetrack. It’s an enjoyable car to drive. It’s got a big, meaty feel from the big, fat steering wheel, the big shift knob and the effort — you feel like you’re moving large gears. It’s just such an American “both hands around a piece of iron” kind of feel, like you’re swinging a sledgehammer, but it’s very effective. It’s very rewarding to drive. I enjoy it.
Turn 8: Confident braking but long travel from beginning. A little lazy into very tight left, bit o’ push at turn-in. Rear stays hooked up exiting Corkscrew. This car likes banking-type loans.
Turn 11: Still stops for hairpin Turn 11, unlike some others in test. Accurate turn-in, but a little lazy into tight one. Pushes, washes front a bit at late entry. Second gear got sudden power oversteer at throttle application. Traction much better later after transfer of weight to rear–characteristic of front-engine, front-weight chassis configuration.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series
The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is a potent sports coupe, but for those who demand the best of the best, AMG’s Black Division offers the extremely limited (read: already sold-out) Black Series. Combining the looks of a DTM race car with maximum performance, the C63 Black is wider, more powerful, and lighter thanks in part to the absence of the rear seats. Its 6.2-liter V-8 borrows parts from the mighty SLS AMG and produces an extra 29 horsepower and 14 lb-ft of torque over the most powerful non-Black C63. Its functional aerodynamic add-ons and massive carbon-ceramic brakes help keep all the power on the track and under control.
|2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$109,925|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||6.2L/510-hp/457-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4045 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||185.3 x 69.7 x 54.6 in|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||13/19 mpg|
|TIRES, F;R||255/35ZR19 96Y; 285/30ZR19 98Y Dunlop Sport Maxx Race MO|
On the transmission: I thought the transmission shifted very well for a torque-converter automatic. I got hung up in second gear off the hairpin. It revs fast and you gotta pull the shifter real early to avoid hitting the limiter. When I hit the limiter, it stayed there a long time. It felt awful, frankly, only because it was slowing me down.
On the steering: Good feel in the steering. It has those linear responses. You ask for 10 percent of turning, you get it. Pretty impressive.
Overall: It is just a terrific package, extremely satisfying to drive. It’s almost like you took a Subaru BRZ, tightened up the shocks a little bit, and added 300 horsepower. That’s kinda where this car is. It’s that good.
Turn 2: Strong braking, no fade — first-rate. Very direct and linear at turn-in, tight and well-dampened, too. Very little sensation of roll, will drift the entry. Roll power on with care, will snap loose. Do it right and it’s hooked up on exit. Slight power oversteer possible and enjoyable.
Turn 8: Late-brake king! Puts the power to the ground when you go to the throttle. Small power oversteer is predictable and fun when tracking out.
All About Randy
Randy Pobst is one of the most successful American drivers on the road today. His career includes two overall wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona, four World Challenge GT Class championships, five Sports Car Challenge championships, and nine SCCA national championships. He currently drives for KPAX Racing in the World Challenge series
In the convoluted language of design, right angles convey paramilitary authenticity. The Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen looks like a Maytag top-loader because the German army demands it. People want what the German army wants, apparently, because the G-wagen is still in production with a design that has remained true to form for 33 years.
And it’s not changing much now; alterations under the tough old hide address the fact that the G-class had become a mechanical relic with hoary engines and an outdated electrical architecture. For 2013, two versions are on sale here. The base G550 uses a 5.5-liter V-8 now seeing 388 horses, and the G63 AMG becomes the new Russian mafia staff car with a 544-hp, twin-turbo version of the same engine.
Both benefit from a seven-speed automatic and a new interior. And both remain the ultimate rectilinear expression of off-road virility for the many owners who go off-road only when they turn into their driveways of crushed sienna marble.
Because 50 percent of the 1200 G-classes sold annually in the U.S. are AMGs, we concern ourselves with the top-spec, $130,000 G63 here.
Climbing up into the G, the doors still seem oddly light as they slam shut, and the steering wheel still lacks a telescoping function to move it away from the dash. The new cabin cribs design elements from other Benzes, including fine brightwork accents, the current corporate stereo and climate-control units, and a knurled super-knob to work the nav/info screen. The center, rear, and front differential lockers are helpfully labeled “1,” “2,” and “3” to denote the order in which they should be pushed if Judgment Day arrives.
Unless your other vehicle is Alice Cooper’s tour bus, the G’s steering will be the numbest and slowest you’ve ever experienced. Fully 90 degrees of input are required for revectoring. Though it wears an AMG badge, the G63’s athleticism is limited by genetics.
Even with the hammer cocked in sport mode (one of three control settings), the G’s throttle and shift aggression is softer than the E63’s. That’s because the truck’s four-wheel driveline and double-solid-axle suspension will react to a hard shift with some unseemly flexing, says powertrain development engineer Volker Müller, so AMG turned down the dial a bit.
Even so, the G63 takes off with a bullish snort from the side pipes. It’ll run with a Mustang GT—and possibly just run it over. It is big and gaudy and absurdly overbuilt for the majority of its owners, which is exactly why they want it.
The conversation with my friend in the passenger seat went something like this: Him: “This thing’s got a pretty nice rumble to it.”Me: “Yeah, it’s the AMG version with the optional $6000 Performance Package. This thing’s got 550 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. It’ll do 174 mph! Isn’t that awesome?”
Him: “Why would you need that much power in an SUV?”
Me: “Why wouldn’t you?”
Him: (blank stare)
The 2012 ML63 starts at $95,865 including destination charges and is currently on sale.
|2012 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$107,725|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||5.5L/550-hp/560-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5243 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||188.2 x 77.8 x 73.3|
|0-60 MPH||4.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||12.8 sec @ 110.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||106 ft|
|ATERAL ACCELERATION||0.85 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.6 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||14/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||241/187 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.25 lb/mile|
The Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG is an Olympic decathlete wearing a hand-tailored tuxedo – its well-rounded performance is every bit as impressive as its physical appearance. Such talent and charm is often acknowledged by the automotive press, but such accolades don’t always guarantee a winning combination in the showroom.
But Mercedes-Benz knows its AMG customers, understands what stirs them and realizes how to pry open their checkbooks. The automaker is aware that its affluent clientele don’t purchase objectively. Rather, they gaze at the styling, take a deep whiff of the leather interior, grasp and hold the thick steering wheel and absorb the raucous note of the exhaust. A sale isn’t far behind.
The sound of signed checks fluttering to the table may be common at the Mercedes-Benz dealership, but how does the CLS63 AMG perform out in the real world? What separates it from its CLS550sibling? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Most importantly, what makes this iconic seven-year-old four-door coupe unique? We recently spent a week with the CLS63 AMG to figure it out.
With the Performance Package, the factory claims that 60 mph falls in 4.3 seconds and the top speed governor is raised to 186 mph.
Launched in 2004 as an E-Class (W211) platform knock-off, the first-generation CLS-Class (W219) is credited with starting the whole “four-door coupe” segment. The second-generation model (W218) was launched in 2010, still sharing the same platform but with a slew of upgrades and a fresh new appearance. While there are many engine choices worldwide, in the States we are offered just two variants: CLS550 and CLS63 AMG.
The CLS550 is fitted with a twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V8 rated at 402 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. The four-door features a seven-speed automatic transmission sending power to the two rear wheels (the automaker’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is offered as an option). Hardly a slouch, the standard CLS will sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 5.1 seconds with a top speed governed at 130 mph. However, and despite its valid reputation as a true driver’s car, the CLS550 lost out to an Audi A7 3.0T in our comparison last year – blame its age, despite its refresh.
The CLS63 AMG turns things up significantly. Under the hood is a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 rated at 518 horsepower and 519 pound-feet of torque in standard trim, or 550 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque when optioned with the AMG Performance Package (as our test car was). To handle the additional torque, and deliver a sporty driving feel, the traditional automatic is replaced by an AMG Speedshift seven-speed MCT gearbox with launch control. The standard CLS63 AMG will hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds with a governed top speed of 155 mph. With the Performance Package, the factory claims that 60 mph falls in 4.3 seconds and the top speed governor is raised to 186 mph. (Consider those numbers conservative as Car and Driverrecently tested the 2012 CLS63 AMG at 3.8 seconds with a quarter mile of 12.0 seconds at 121 mph. Motor Trend got 3.9 seconds.)
Despite the mechanical upgrades, its curb weight is less than 100 pounds greater than the CLS550.
Regardless of who the CLS63 AMG is competing against, it will most likely win.
With the gearshift in “D” and the selector on “Sport +”, it is in full attack setting.
We spent one full week with the well-toned four-door, driving it so much that its engine never completely cooled. Few vehicles in our garage warrant this much affection. Rather than gush over the engine, brakes and handling in traditional linear manner, it is best to recall a few significant excursions.
The only time the sleek coupe seemed to hesitate was when the corners became really tight and its size and weight got in the way.
On its third day under our watch, we headed up the famed Mulholland highway. Cruising through the canyons at a very good clip, the CLS63 AMG handled the corners effortlessly. The tires stuck tenaciously and the stock iron brakes never gave up an inch to fade (ceramics are optional, but we didn’t ever get close to needing them). It was a real hoot to drive spiritedly, hearing the deep exhaust boom off the canyon walls, and we opened the sunroof and dropped the windows in celebration. The only time the sleek coupe seemed to hesitate was when the corners became really tight (on windy Decker Canyon Road) and its size and weight (4,275 pounds) got in the way. Drive it really hard – too hard – and the four-door won’t let you forget that it has a very comfortable second row of seats behind you.
On its fifth day in our possession, we pointed the four-passenger Benz towards California Speedway. We figured the 200-mile jaunt would afford us some meaningful highway time. Despite a very firm suspension, which never bothered us but did raise more than a few of our passenger’s eyebrows, we found it to be an excellent long-distance sled. The CLS63 tracked like an arrow at high speed, there was always plenty of power on tap, and the automaker’s Distronic Plus cruise control worked miracles in steady and stop-and-go traffic. We’ve come to regard it as the best autonomous cruise control on the market (unfortunately, its extended-wave radar operating at 77 GHz and 24 GHz does very annoying things to radar detectors). We arrived at the event (a Porsche Owners Club race), parked up front, and had to wipe dozens of fingerprints off the glass. The big coupe was a big hit.
The day of reckoning always comes at the end of the week, just before a car is picked up. It’s the time when we pull out the window sticker, take a second look at a few of the small details, and then try to figure out who its primary competitor is. While that last part isn’t usually difficult, this particular CLS had us a bit stumped. After a bit of chin rubbing, we settled on the Porsche Panamera S.
The CLS63 AMG is worth every penny of its $115,000 sticker price, and that isn’t something we say very often.
Our guess is that the engineering team at Mercedes-Benz never envisioned that its CLS-Class would be compared to a Porsche (the Panamera didn’t arrive until 2009, five years later), but the correlation is a solid compliment to both parties. Some will argue that the Porsche is underpowered compared to the burly Benz, and it is. But this isn’t so much about power as it is about driving dynamics. More specifically, rear-wheel-drive vehicle dynamics. Unlike the many all-wheel-drive competitors, delivering all-season grip at the expense of driving pleasure, the Panamera S and CLS63 may be tossed and caught with the throttle on all types of pavement. They are both fabulous, and thoroughly engaging, drivers’ cars – and there is no clear gold medalist.
As you have figured out by now, the original high-performance four-door sports coupe has really impressed us. As it does to affluent buyers each day in the showroom, it tickled our enthusiast soul. We won’t suggest that it is a perfect match for all drivers, but we will boldly proclaim that the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG is worth every penny of its $115,000 sticker price, and that isn’t something we say very often.
It’s a wonder luxury SUVs survived the mass extinction event of the 2007-2009 recession at all. As investment accounts withered on the vine and fuel prices comfortably boiled past the underside of $5.00 per gallon in some places, chicken-little minded Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator owners couldn’t have tossed their keys any quicker if you’d told them the fobs were hewn from chunks of raw BPA by pro-choice Iraqi gay-rights activists. Those shining symbols of status and accomplishment transmuted into social millstones overnight, and used car lots quickly piled up with row after row of models boasting 22-inch wheels and seating for seven.
But the full-size luxury SUV and its brethren didn’t vanish from the face of the Earth. Far from it. Clever product planners and marketing managers quickly worked to repackage everything buyers loved about their oil-field-sucking family haulers into new, modestly more efficient and socially acceptable packages. Thus began the reign of the crossover. Mercedes-Benz became something of an artisan in this field, and its efforts have been well rewarded. Last year, the company sold more light trucks alone than it did all of its models combined in 2005.
At the top of that high-riding food chain is the GL-Class. The mammoth utility services the company’s youngest average buyer at 48 years old and recently eclipsed the aforementioned Escalade as the most popular full-size luxury SUV in the States. For 2013, the GL has grown in every measurable dimension, offers subtly more fuel-efficient drivetrain options and a rash of standard and available technology, all supported by a miracle-working air-ride suspension. The changes are enough to put the GL that much farther ahead of the ancient Cadillac, but the recipe isn’t perfect.
The GL-Class serves up design elements lifted from siblings like the ever-attractive CLS.
The 2013 GL does lose a bit of its design precision toward the rear, however. While the LED taillamps are attractive enough, the bulging bumper cover gives the model a distinctly crossover profile. Down low, the integrated exhaust tips are well executed and help break up the plastic. If the GL conveys its size anywhere, it’s viewed from the stern. With a tall, frameless rear window, the model can’t help but look monolithic. If anything, that’s a comment on how excellently designers have managed to proportion the SUV’s exterior. On the road, the GL simply doesn’t look as big as it is, despite boasting a 121.1-inch wheelbase. That’s 5.6 inches more space between the wheels than the Cadillac Escalade, despite the fact that the Cadillac is over an inch longer from stem to stern.
That stretched wheelbase, wider body and taller roof translates into a cavernous cabin. All told, the GL delivers 143.6 cubic feet of cabin volume, with up to 93.8 cubes of cargo area with both rear seat rows stowed. Speaking of sending the back seats packing, the second and third rows are now mechanized, which means getting the second-row buckets to stow is as simple as mashing a button. The same goes for the way-back bench as well.
Compared to Audi MMI or Cadillac CUE, COMAND is beginning to look more than a little rusty.
The optional Airmatic system can increase ground clearance by a staggering four inches.
The 2013 GL-Class comes with 4Matic all-wheel drive as standard equipment, though buyers can choose from three engine options. Mercedes-Benz says the vast majority of buyers will wind up going home with twin-turbocharged, direct-injection 4.6-liter V8 in the GL450. The engine delivers 362 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, which is more than adequate enough to kick the ridiculously heavy SUV down the highway. Official estimates put the run to 60 miles per hour in the 6.2-second range thanks in part to the seven-speed automatic transmission. TheEnvironmental Protection Agency hasn’t released official mileage figures just yet, though Mercedes-Benz estimates the combination is good for 14 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway. Those numbers aren’t outstanding, but they aren’t horrible for a vehicle that tips the scales at 5,401 pounds.
Engineers have worked hard to mask the machine’s mass, but outstanding acceleration aside, the seven-passenger behemoth feels heavy from behind the wheel. Each GL comes standard with the Mercedes-Benz Airmatic air ride suspension, which does an excellent job of mitigating body roll and soaking up imperfections in the road surface. Our test route took us down a heavily washboarded dirt road, and the GL450 absorbed the worst of the undulations at speeds up to 50 mph. The design also allows the driver to select a ride height for any given situation, and the optional $2,800 off-road package lets the Airmatic system increase ground clearance by a staggering four inches. Expect to find additional skid plates and two locking differentials as part of the kit.
Like most modern SUVs, the 2013 GL is equipped with an arsenal of driver aids designed to keep the machine on course in any situation. Engineers rolled in a new crosswind stabilization system that senses strong gusts and uses brake application to countersteer the vehicle without driver input. Buyers may also opt for a $2,800 Driver Assistance package that includes a pre-collision warning system and active braking to slow the GL before an accident occurs. In addition, the pack rolls in Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist. While we’ve found the latter system to be novel on other Mercedes-Benz products, it feels heavy-handed on the GL. Get too close to the lines on the road, and the SUV will nosedive as the brakes coerce the machine back on course.
The GL-Class is based on a unibody chassis borrowed from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Speaking of brakes, the GL has some impressive stoppers on hand. On GL450 and GL550 models, 14.8-inch ventilated and perforated rotors handle dissipating heat, while 13.6-inch pieces pull similar duty out back. Even so, the pedal lacks a positive bite on first application, requiring the driver to dig deeper to come to a full halt. From behind the wheel, the GL can’t help but feel like a big crossover, thanks largely to the fact that more than any other “SUV” on the road, this beast cozies up the line between the two segments. With a unibody chassis borrowed from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the machine’s off-road pretentions are the only thing standing between it and full-on crossoverdom.
That impression is underscored by the vehicle’s electro-mechanical power steering system. As in other applications, the setup is speed sensitive, offering single-finger steering at low speeds and firming up once the GL gathers its momentum. Even at a highway clip, inputs feel on the numb side, though we doubt buyers in this class will care. Those looking for a luxury SUV are likely to be more content with all the dynamics of a soft-driving crossover backed by the muscular V8 under the GL450’s hood.
The current-generation GL has fought tooth and nail to best the Escalade at its own game on its home court. Mercedes-Benz reports the company managed to sell 25,139 GL-Class units last year, thereby becoming the most popular luxury SUV in the U.S. in the process. This new generation will only coax more buyers behind the wheel, and that’s saying something given the leviathan’s price tag. Technically, Mercedes-Benz will ask $63,900 for the GL450, plus a $950 destination fee. That cash will buy you standard equipment like heated eight-way power adjustable seats, dual-zone climate control, Attention Assist and Collision Prevention Assist on top of a slew of other mechanical and comfort equipment. It’s worth noting, however, that Collision Prevention Assist won’t actually engage the brakes to avoid an impact without the $2,800 Driver Assistance package.
Its price puts the GL at a disadvantage against the Jurassic Escalade.
And here’s where the story turns unfortunate for the 2013 GL-Class. Our tester came loaded with $25,225 worth of options for a final as-tested price of $90,030 with destination. Keep in mind, this isn’t the powerful GL550 or the fire-breathing GL63 AMG. While the base GL450 is nicely equipped, taking advantage of three-zone climate control, the expansive available technology, special exterior colors and interior options will quickly swell the bottom line. While this is nothing new when it comes to German manufacturers, it certainly puts the GL at a disadvantage against the Jurassic Escalade it just dethroned. Buyers can slide $82,495 across the table for a top-trim four-wheel-drive Escalade Platinum.
Make no mistake, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is built to coddle, and it does so with more interior room than ever before, genuinely attractive exterior styling and a drivetrain that’s only exceeded in refinement by the SUV’s suspension. Buyers who found lots to love in the previous generation will discover this newest iteration a welcome sight so long as the crossover specter doesn’t scare them off.
Gunther Holtorf, a former German airline executive, embarked on a roadtrip with his wife in a humble 85-horsepower diesel Mercedes G-Wagen. The plan was to do 18 months in Africa. But after the trip ended, they decided to keep driving. And driving. And driving. When they ran out of road, they put the car on a ship until they landed somewhere with more road. The trip started in 1989 (after the fall of the Berlin wall), it’s now 2012, and Gunther’s never stopped.
Sadly, his wife Christine passed away in 2010, but as per her wishes he has continued to travel. The G-Wagen has taken him to over 200 countries and clocked more than 500,000 miles, or 800,000 kilometers. The bad-ass part: The odometer only has five digits, so every time Gunther closes in on a new 100,000-kilometer-mark, he swings by a Mercedes dealership in Europe; they crack the dial open and manually add a new digit.
Gunther and the missus set out on their trip well before this thing called the internet became popular, which is why you won’t see him Facebooking, Tweeting or blogging. But thankfully, he ran into a photographer named David Lemke in Vietnam, and Lemke has shared Gunther’s tale with the rest of the world:
Read about what specific gear self-sufficient Gunther travels with here.
We’re not exactly sure why an orange, stretched Mercedes-Benz wagon has been rippling across the automotive Internet, but hey, it’s bizarre and looks like nothing more than a stylish hearse, so why not?
Besides, professional cars – that’s what you call custom coachwork limos, hearses and ambulances – are among the coolest things rolling on four wheels, even if they’re used for hauling ski gear, equipment cases and dogs rather than caskets.
The X-Orange is the product of Binz Limousine, a particularly flashy version of the company’s XTend, a model we first saw in December 2010. The car is just what it looks like: An E-Class estate that’s been given a 31.7-inch stretch to a whopping 224.4 inches, making it two inches longer than a Chevrolet Suburban, according to eMercedeBenz.com. Might we suggest pulling the styling taffy on an E63 AMG next time?
Check out all the high-res images in our gallery.