Another test drive: MB GL320 CDI

Posted By on August 12, 2007

MB GL320 CDI badgeAt the premium end of the new diesel vehicle spectrum is the 2007 Mercedes Benz GL320 CDI (MB Stock photos) … and with MSRP starting at $54,000 or a nicely equipped (as driven) vehicle of $65,000, the new U.S. built Mercedes is not for everybody. My first impression is that the GL320 CDI has Mercedes Benz pedigree to live up to, so the bar has been set pretty high for a newish plant in Alabama. The vehicle’s significant heft and size is enough to fill most garages and empty most wallets, but also from a quick walk around realized that the GL-class is sizable enough to replace the love/hate relationship many Americans have with the minivan.
EPA Mileage sticker GL320 CDIThe 6-cylinder diesel powered GL320 CDI offers an impressive blend of luxury, hauling and towing capacity, all-wheel/all-weather safety and decent economy. EPA fuel efficiency numbers are an impressive 20 city and 25 highway. (I’ve heard reports of 30 mpg highway)

2007 MB GL320 CDI FrontLG 2007 MB GL320 CDI Rear LG

This big SUV has the same basic engine that is used in several vehicles including the recently posted Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD. The cast-iron V-6 is a 24 valve 2,987cc turbocharged diesel that produces 215hp at 4000rpm and torque of 398 lb-ft down as low as 1600 rpms. With full tank of fuel, 26.4 gallons of ULSD, the family plus gear hauler can travel well over 600 miles on a tank of fuel. If need be, it can also pull a trailer up to 7500 pounds … and do it in impressive luxury.

Drivers LG Cargo LG
All photos all taken with Palm Treo 700p Cellphone PDA

I had a chance to have a few of the creature comforts shown to me; first because it was a 90+ degree day the salesman pushed the remote to open all the windows and sunroof. The rear hatch was opened and the one of the things I noticed was the amount of space behind the 3rd row seat … nice. The hatch can be closed with a push of a button and we moved around front for a quick look under the hood.

under the hoodWhen the time came for a test drive, there was no comparison to the 40+K Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD that I drove last week. The GL started with a hush … and if you didn’t know it was a diesel, it was difficult to detect. Several of the unique feature on the GL were quickly apparent. From the tiny R-N-D stalk which engages the transmission. The GL also has a one-button off-road program which allows driver to simultaneously engage programming recalibrations of the traction system, ABS, engine management, and automatic transmission. According the Mercedes, “Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) Driver-activated DSR automatically modulates the throttle, brakes, and ABS to maintain a preset crawl speed when descending hills. Speed is preprogrammed at 4 mph but may be adjusted between 3 mph and 10 mph via the multifunction steering wheel. DSR can be used when the gear selector is in Drive or Reverse. Driver can override DSR by pressing the accelerator or switching DSR off via its console-mounted switch.” On my test drive I didn’t test the adjustable ride height, or any of the off-road capabilities. One of the items that bothered me was that “Hill-start assist.” It prevents unwanted vehicle rollback for hills starts, but is noticeable on about every stop when trying to accelerate.

As for power, the 3.0 liter diesel is very capable. I never noticed a lack of power and felt this diesel was excellently mated to this vehicle. The GL was very smooth and handled like a much smaller vehicle. It was solid, quiet and very smooth. I was able to pilot the seventeen feet of vehicle precisely around corners and in to parking spots as easy as my small Jetta, and was even helped by both backup and forward ‘non-beeping’ sensors. All in all, if I were buying my next vehicle, could justify the extra dollars and didn’t have a image problem in front of my customers… I’d buy the GL320 CDI and replace both my VW TDI and Honda Pilot.


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