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The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class appeals to drivers who want the off-road and towing capabilities of a full-size SUV with the comfort and maneuverability of a car-based crossover, and preferably one with a three-pointed star on the hood. The GL-Class is a full-size, seven-passenger luxury crossover SUV. Larger than the BMW X5, the Mercedes GL-Class is the same length as the Audi Q7. It’s the biggest Mercedes available in the U.S. and it’s built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
New for 2011 is a refreshed front grille and bumpers on the Mercedes-Benz GL550, including LED taillights and daytime running lamps. Also, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class gets an optional blind spot monitoring system, which can help the driver spot a vehicle in the next lane.
All Mercedes GL-Class models come with a 7-speed automatic and 4MATIC full-time all-wheel drive, which distributes power to front and rear wheels equally. All GL-Class models employ air suspension for good ride comfort on a variety of surfaces and level attitude regardless of load. A full suite of safety equipment is standard across the GL-Class.
The GL-Class shares its basic platform with the M-Class and R-Class. (Don’t confuse the GL550 with the venerable G550 Gelandewagen designed for rugged terrain because the GL-Class shares nothing in common with the utilitarian G-Class beyond the engine and transmission.)
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is large and surprisingly capable off road yet we found it feels reasonably car-like on the road. That car-like feeling comes in part because it is built around a unibody architecture instead of traditional body-on-frame construction. The 2011 GL-Class is rated to tow up to 7500 pounds, but we recommend an American pickup truck for anything approaching that much weight.
Competitors of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class include Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX56, Lexus LX570, and Range Rover. The GL-Class offers a compelling argument of efficiency, space and features, including the ability to carry adults in the third row. Options quickly drive up the price, however.