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2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec 4MATIC Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Diesel, Mercedes-Benz, SUV, Test Drives


In our modern-day culture where SUVs and Crossover Utility Vehicles are almost as commonplace as smartphones, the world begs for a bold outcast that does its duties a bit different from everyone else. The new 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec is just the vehicle to foreshadow its differences to transport up to 7 passengers in plush luxury and reach new fuel economy heights with its diesel-powered 4MATIC drivetrain.

Making its duties in style, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 gets a diesel powered V6 engine under its sculpted aluminum hood with a modest 240 horsepower but has a pavement-clawing 455 ft-lbs of torque as low as 1,600 rpm. The output is much improved over the outgoing model, which is needed to get the momentum of all 5,835 pounds moving in the right direction.


In the scope of available full-sized luxury SUVs on the market, the list isn’t all that long. Bring up the category of a diesel-powered SUV and the list just about disappears with the exception of a few German counterparts. Mercedes-Benz continues to keep the narrow segment alive and laced with luxury and some efficiency. The new turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine found in the GL350 BlueTec manages to thrust the almost 6,000-pound German ‘Gelaendewagen Leicht’ (GL) to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds and finish a quarter mile in about 15.8 seconds. Sure, it is no easy feat as the Benz GL350 BlueTec hugs the road with such grace. I would say your driving style for the 3.0-liter V6 diesel places everything you learned on a different path of adaptation when compared to virtually any gasoline powered SUV or crossover.


The powerband, much subdued at the mercy of its turbocharger, has a touch of lag off of the line and expectantly does not stretch too far past 3,600 rpm. Fortunately, Benz tends to remap its proven 7-speed automatic transmission to meet the diesel engine’s brief grunt of torque. The 7-speed automatic transmission adapts well to your driving style even if you need to make mental adjustments to compensate for the short bursts of forward thrust from the narrow-banded turbo-diesel engine.


If you are ever lucky enough to chauffer a large group to the opera, the show tends to start after the push-button ignition is pressed to great you with a full array of optional entertainment and comfort features to astound 3 of your 5 senses. When equipped with the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system as in my GL350 test vehicle, you will take delight in an ear-sauna defined by crisp highs and dignified lows no matter what seat you choose in the vast open cabin. The optional front massaging, perforated, ventilated and heated seats make those 680-plus mile trips between gas stations all worth the while. Yes, 686-mile trips are a possibility considering the 2013 Benz GL350 BlueTec having a 26.4 gallon tank and an EPA estimated 26 mpg on the highway. During my drive of the Benz GL 350 BlueTec 4MATIC I averaged a decent 23.7 mpg and was able to get 26.5 mpg on the highway. In the city with an abundance of stop and go, the GL 350 BlueTec still delivered about 20.3 mpg, which is slightly better than its EPA estimated 19 mpg. You can say fuel efficiency of the GL 350 left me in amazement considering its shear size and weight.


The Mercedes-Benz GL 350 BlueTec’s weight and size start to give you an initial impression of sloppy handling but quickly proves you wrong due to its advanced air suspension system and active dampers. Mercedes-Benz is known for their highly praised Active Body Control (ABC) suspension systems and the new GL 350 takes much of that tech and adapts it on a larger scale to handle the GL’s mass with assurance. It is such an assurance that you literally feel like you are riding on air, which you technically are. The GL surprisingly handles itself well for such a large and heavy vehicle. At times pushing the GL a bit to hard will constitute it being at the mercy of its 19-inch tires, which quickly lets you know with extreme howling when the lateral limits are about to be reached. Of course no one wants to ever think about reaching the handling limits of a 5,800-pound vehicle. Still, the air suspension and active dampers quickly adapt to road conditions and allows you to choose a comfort or sport mode where sport mode lowers the vehicle for even better stability. Traveling at highway speeds the vehicle automatically lowers in any mode. A high-height mode gives you ample clearance, as much as 12-inches of ground clearance, for navigating off-road paths. While on the off-beat paths the Benz GL 350 BlueTec allows you to use the review camera combined with a set of cameras (front, sides and rear) for a virtual down-angle-view of the vehicle’s surroundings up to around 20 mph. The virtual around-view also makes maneuvering the large GL into tight areas and parking spots a cinch.


Luxury appointments are expected when you step into a cabin of vehicle sporting a three-pointed star emblem -and that is just what you get in the GL-class. The GL 350 BlueTec is nothing short of the rest of the GL line when properly equipped. The fact that most options are available on the GL 350 as on the GL 450, GL 550 and performance-oriented GL63 AMG, is a benefit in itself for those who want the whole shebang and still do wonders for the green earth by coming clean with diesel. The front seats are well-bolstered with multiple adjustments combining lumbar, bolsters and 10-way adjustability. The second row of seats has back-adjustments and can be cleverly folded out of the way to provide access to the 3rd row. The folding action is actually powered to effortlessly move and fold the second-row seat forward, and even motoring the front seat out of the way to make room for its robotic folding fashion. The rear doors open wide enough that your entry and exit of the 3rd row is among the easiest for any 7-plus passenger SUV.


An optional rear DVD entertainment system, equipped on my test vehicle, adds to the rear-seat appeal to keep all rear-seat occupants entertained. Rear ac and heater controls, part of the third climate zone, are accessible from the 2nd row while the 3rd row gets their own set of adjustable vents. Rear cargo room, cut down to just 16 cubic feet in the back when all seats are in place, is low enough for sliding in heavy items after opening or closing the large power liftgate. 3rd row seats can be power-folded and put in place all at the touch of a button to open up additional space in the rear cargo area.


Mercedes-Benz attempted to leave no stones unturned when it comes to transporting up to 7 passengers in true luxury comfort and safety. In Mercedes-Benz fashion, the GL 350 gets a complete package of active and passive safety features that basically place another set of eyes on the road for you, such as the blind spot and lane-keep-assist, Active Curve system (automatically tightening anti-roll bars in the suspension system) and collision alert.


As a diesel vehicle, the Benz GL 350 provides the most efficient option of the GL class but may easily match the pricing scale of the rest of the line. At an as-tested price of $94,440, it is a hard bill to foot unless you are a seasoned Mercedes-Benz consumer that is accustomed to living in excess. Never will anyone who pays the price of admission for a new GL 350 really be concerned about footing the bill for $100 fill-ups at the pump. The GL 350 BlueTec more of a feel-good factor in knowing you are doing your little part to ‘conserve’ earthly resources or stay on the destination path for 680 miles at a time. Nevertheless, the new GL 350 BlueTec pushes and pulls the envelope for excess and really fulfills the case for ultimate SUV luxury class with plenty of toys to keep everyone engrossed on whatever road is ahead.

Copyright: 2013


  • Price: Base GL 350 BlueTec $62,400/$94,440 as tested
  • Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC Diesel V6 24-valve 240 horsepower @ 3,600 rpm / 455 ft-lbs. torque @ 1,600 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 121.1 inches
  • Total length: 201.6 inches
  • Total height: 72.8 inches
  • Track: f/r-64.8/65.5 inches
  • Headroom: f/r-41.2/40.0 inches
  • Legroom: 40.3/40.3 inches
  • Total Cargo volume: 93.8 cu.ft. rear 2nd row and 3rd row seats folded
  • Curb weight: 5,835 pounds
  • Maximum towing: 7,500 pounds
  • Fuel capacity: 26.4 gallons
  • Turning circle: 40.7 ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 19 mpg/city, 26 mpg/highway

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