Why Mercedes’ 2017 GLS-Class Is an Important Move Upmarket

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Source: Mercedes-Benz

From Jeep to Lamborghini, automakers are hedging their bets on the premium SUV segment exploding over the next few years, and while Mercedes-Benz is already a major player in the current market, it’s inching its current range-topping SUV even more upmarket. For 2017, The full-size GL-Class is getting a facelift and becoming the GLS-Class, taking its place above the current GLC- and GLE-Class SUVs.

If the company’s SUV naming pattern sounds familiar to you, that’s because it should. According to Mercedes:

Like the GL before it, the new GLS is setting standards in the world of the SUV as it confirms its position as the “S-Class among SUVs.” The only full-fledged seven-seater in the European premium SUV segment boasts ample spaciousness and combines luxury with impressive levels of comfort, agile dynamics and best-in-class safety.

But while the GLS will reach showrooms as an all-new model, the 2017 will in fact be a refresh of the current GL-Class.

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Source: Mercedes-Benz

That isn’t to say that the GLS isn’t a thorough going-over. On the outside, the upright angles of the current GL-Class (that date back to 2013) have been softened and come closer to the styling language of the recently-refreshed GLE-Class. While the roofline and profile largely carry over from the current GL, Mercedes says that “focus has been placed on a redesign of the front end, while the rear has been modernized around the bumper and with full LED tail lamps.” But like the S-Class sedan, the real story is inside anyways; it’s where the GLS truly becomes the “Luxury liner with outstanding inner values” that Mercedes wants it to be.

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Last winter, we reported on rumors that Mercedes was developing a Maybach-badged SUV based on the GL for 2018 to take on newcomers like the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. By making the GLS the S-Class’s counterpart in its SUV lineup, Mercedes is making the GLS’s leap from Mercedes to Maybach seem that much more realistic.

But before Mercedes adds the triple-M badges to the SUV, the GLS interior will already be something to write home about. All seven passengers get ample head, leg, and elbow room, all while being swaddled in Nappa leather and wood. Other highlights include a new instrument panel and three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, infotainment system with eight-inch screen and touch pad, and the latest version of Mercedes’ COMAND Online software.

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Proving that the GLS leap is more than a cosmetic refresh, the twin-turbo V8 that comes standard in the GLS550 now puts out 449 horsepower, a 20 horsepower jump from the current GL. If that engine and its 519 pound-feet of torque aren’t enough for you, the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 gets a 27 horsepower jump to a healthy 577 horsepower and 561 pound-feet.

Mercedes will unveil the GLS-Class at this month’s Los Angeles Auto Show and will begin taking orders in December, with deliveries starting in March 2016. Its new range-topper may be more evolutionary than revolutionary, but the three-pointed star always sells, and moving the GL up into more rarefied air probably isn’t a bad move. No word on pricing yet, but we expect to see a jump over the current GL’s $61,550 base. That said, we wouldn’t be surprised if that added S equals stronger sales.

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