A seven-passenger full-size sport utility vehicle that weighs roughly three tons is rarely anyone’s idea of a green vehicle, but the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL Class gets the nod when it’s fitted with the company’s Bluetec clean-diesel engine.
First introduced in 2007, and built on the same Alabama production line that also assembles ML five-seat sport utilities and R Class full-size wagons, the GL Class is pitched against such luxury SUVs as the Range Rover (which has only five seats) and full-size models from Lexus and Infiniti.
As luxury seven-seat SUVs go, the GL is competent, tough, and crisply styled. And all seven seats are usable by adult-sized humans, and relatively easy to enter and exit—unlike many other full-size seven-seaters. With a 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8, the gasoline GL 550 model gets the truly dismal gas mileage of its class: It’s rated by the EPA at 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. All engines are mated to the company’s seven-speed automatic transmission.
But opt for the GL 350 Bluetec diesel, and the picture changes. Ratings rise to 17 city, 21 highway, and an overall 19 mpg. Sure, that’s hardly 50-mpg Prius hybrid territory, but the GL will do many, many things a Prius can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t. The 210-hp, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 offers plenty of torque—400 foot-pounds—for any situation, including off-roading, and it comes standard with the Mercedes 4Matic mechanical all-wheel drive system.
With a lengthy list of luxury features, the GL Class competes head to head with the Range Rover and the rest on equipment. It offers swathes of leather, bucks-up audio systems with speakers that cost more than a used car, DVD entertainment systems, and far too many other options to list.
As our sister site TheCarConnection notes in its full review of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL Class, “The boldest thing may be that Mercedes-Benz has built a better [Chevrolet] Suburban, and plopped it down in a pricier neighborhood.”