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Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 review


The S Class of SUVs is giant, expensive, tech-laden and superbly practical. We test the entry-level variant in some of our toughest conditions – a family trip to the Australian Alps

Good points

  • Mammoth cabin space
  • Genuine seating for seven
  • Brilliant air suspension smoothness
  • Handling qualities despite its size
  • Twin digital screen functionality
  • Benz drivetrain brilliance

Needs work

  • Not much fun in the city
  • Missing a few luxury items
  • Service and running costs
  • Almost too much display customisation
  • Needs lighter colour interior
  • Central swipe pad feels superfluous

Size is everything. Sometimes you’ve got to put ‘less is more’ nonsense to one side, forget about awkward carbon footprint stuff and accept that a stonking great luxury SUV is a wonderful way to travel. Exhibit A: The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450.

As Benz proclaims, it’s the S-Class of SUVs. Cue a mighty price tag, reams of luxury and a size so imposing you really want a chauffeur to navigate tight city streets and parking spots for you. At 5.2-metres long, an aircraft hangar seems more suitable than a garage.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 rear 3/4

You get proper adult-sized seating for seven, removal truck-like cargo space when chairs are folded, impressive luxe and features, and it’ll even tow your 3.5-tonne boat.

Merc’s online configurator reveals a GLS 450’s drive-away price is over $180,000 with no options ticked. For reference, the daft Luxury Car Tax (LCT) adds $22,000 to that bill.

Pricey transport that would be wasteful just for the private school run. So how about a proper test? It’s snow season, so we loaded up Merc’s luxo land yacht with toboggans, the winter wardrobe and our oft-frozen children for a few days in the Victorian Alps – blizzards and icy roads included.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 boot lid

Is the GLS 450 overkill? Of course it is. We’ve only got two kids so Merc’s optional seven-seat GLE or five-seat GLC would’ve sufficed, albeit missing our car’s gargantuan load space behind.

But, much like the S-Class limo, the GLS is an SUV to buy if you want to make a statement. “Mine’s bigger than yours,” being the obvious one.

Its mighty size strikes you on first encounter, but this GLS is a handsome whopper sharing numerous styling cues with smaller Benz SUVs. It’s not as in-your-face as the hugely be-grilled BMW X7 and Lexus LX600 rivals, nor is it as polarising (or expensive) as the new full-fat Range Rover.

The US-built GLS 450 blends excess with pragmatism: this isn’t a shouty AMG version where mad power tries to overcome weight – the $290,000 GLS63 has 450kW/850Nm to shift its 2555kg. And it’s certainly no G-Wagen (G-Class) – these large SUVs more the reserve of city gym owners than mountain trekkers.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 side

The third-gen GLS landed in 2019 with cabin space a key attribute: with a 3135mm wheelbase (60mm over the old one), passenger room was never going to be an issue.

Bonnet power bulges and a near-upright radiator grille give truck-like presence, blended with sportiness from the standard AMG Line exterior package with 21-inch AMG alloys.

Ours has an additional Night Package ($1922), bringing 22-inch AMG multi-spoke rims, black design features and privacy glass. It looks the business, but without the need to shout about it.

What are the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450’s features and options for the price?

Our petrol-powered 450 is the cheapest GLS at $171,700 before on-roads. A diesel 400d shares the GLS450’s spec but weighs in at $179,500.

The oil burner offers 243kW/700Nm against the petrol’s 270kW/500Nm, plus a more frugal 7.7L/100km vs 9.2L/100km. The 400d’s the smart choice for towing and long-distance regulars.

If money’s no object and you hate the environment there’s that AMG GLS63, while Bitcoin billionaires can drop $395,500 on the palace fit-out GLS600 Maybach.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 wheel

For something different, I’m going to tell you the stuff the GLS450 doesn’t have. No question it’s positively loaded, but there are some omissions, especially if you’re moving to a GLS from an S-Class. An S450 sedan, remember, is some $73,000 more than the GLS450.

The GLS450 missed out on massaging seats, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and heated washer jets – all things that would have been appreciated for our snow trip.

Metallic paint costs extra, ‘true’ leather trim is only partial for the seats, doors and dash, and the GLS450 lacks the Active Ride (where it leans into corners) and electronic rear diff of the AMG GLS63.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 interior

But let’s not sound ungrateful. Here’s the goodies that do come with the GLS450:

  • Airmatic adaptive damping air suspension
  • Nine-speed automatic gearbox
  • Permanent all-wheel-drive
  • AMG Line body styling
  • Nappa leather multifunction sports steering wheel
  • Ambient lighting
  • Interior chrome package
  • Artico (man-made leather) dash and doors
  • Black leather seats
  • Front seats heated and ventilated
  • Front seats luxury head restraints
  • Electric second and third row seats
  • Rear USB-C ports
  • Power and memory front seats
  • AMG floor mats
  • Anthracite open-pore oak wood trim
  • Four-zone climate control
  • Adjustable rear climate control
  • Illuminated running boards
  • Logo puddle light
  • Panoramic sliding sunroof
  • Underbody protection
  • Electronic tailgate
  • Twin 12.3-inch LCD screens
  • Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay 
  • Burmester 13-speaker surround sound
  • Communications module (LTE) with Mercedes me connect
  • Digital radio
  • Extended ‘Hey Mercedes’ MBUX functions
  • MB Connect
  • Emergency call system
  • Navigation
  • Head-up display
  • Keyless Go Package Plus
  • Multibeam LED headlights 
  • Parking package with 360-degree camera
  • Active parking assist
  • Front doors soft close

How does the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 drive?

Little surprise it’s supremely comfortably and with refinement in spades. While baby Benzes may fail to deliver the trademark Mercedes experience, live with one of the brand’s large, expensive mileage-munchers and they don’t spare the horses in delivering a drive and ride masterclass.

Presidents, rock stars, dictators and cartel bosses have been choosing big Mercs for decades. Why? It’s simply very hard to buy better.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 driving front 2

As we battle Melbourne’s peak hour traffic, the cabin’s serenity is at first disarming. It’s so very cossetting and silent in here – city sounds almost completed eradicated – you feel dethatched from reality in your lofty, leathery chair.

Until we start navigating tighter city lanes and the GLS really starts hogging the road. Like driving an American pickup, there’s a lot of car to place into tight spots when lane changing and manoeuvring. It’s really not much fun in the big smoke.

Saying that, the raft of driver aids and camera views – combined with the ridiculously lofty driving position – mean visibility is never a problem.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 driving rear

Parking’s a different matter. Our CBD hotel for night one has one of those ludicrously under-sized multi-storey car parks. Turning up ramps is like navigating a kilometre-long container ship through a garden stream.

And parking spots are not made for GLSs. The whole family has to clear out as doors won’t open once in the admittedly tiny spot. I end up driving it in, nose to the concrete wall, and make an undignified escape through the boot. I have to quickly stop the auto tailgate to prevent it bumping the car park ceiling.

No, it’s not a vehicle you make friends with in the city.

Once we’re on the highways and into clean air, the mighty Merc is in luxury yacht mode. The front heated and climate leather seats are supremely comfortable with headrests that pamper your bonce, while the kids in the back have limo-like space with a central armrest large enough to almost qualify as a seat.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 engine

I lean on the throttle to test the grunt and there’s a lovely, easy power delivery from the buttery 3.0-litre straight-six. Its turbocharged and with a 48v mild hybrid helping hand, and its 500Nm torque gives rapid response, belying the size of this thing.

The nine-speed auto flies through the cogs with equal smoothness, and the 100km/h is up in only 6.2-seconds. That’s hot hatch quick, but it’s done in a far more elegant, grown-up manner. Again, I’m blown away with the serenity here. It’s a business class way to cruise.

The real test comes in the mountains. After a few hours of the easy life the family’s still feeling fresh, and the cavernous 890L boot has easily swallowed our two large cases, four hand luggages, plus our four rented toboggans.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 wheel

What you need in these parts is your car to feel safe. First job is to rent some snow chains – mandatory for many of the routes we’ll travel, even if roads are cleared of the white stuff.

After a decent delay, the hire shop manages to dig out some truck snow chains (really) as they’re the only things that’ll fit our 22-inch wheels. The shop owner suggests we buy some winter rims and tyres. Noted.

Over the next few days of snow sports, conditions are often treacherous. They do a good job of quickly clearing roads in this expensive snow sports region, but with the dash’s thermometer registering negative numbers, the threat of ice on the roads is ever present.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 driving rear 2

The big GLS never once falters. I expect the traction/stability control light to flash warnings on tighter hairpins, but even when carrying decent speed into turns the smart permanent all-wheel-drive and the tyres’ giant footprints prove unfazed.

If there’s a great deal of electric and mechanical wizardry at work keeping everything tidy, the driver is none the wiser.

Importantly, this meant all remained smooth, calm and feeling very safe: just what you want when driving the family on frozen roads with deathly drops to one side. The air suspension mops up even some giant imperfections with cushiony softness, then settles quickly.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 driving front

The GLS’ remarkable body control also defeats another sworn enemy: car sickness. On a 30 kilometre twisty route to reach to top of Mt Buffalo, the SUV’s balance and bump absorbing talents result in no demands from the offspring to quickly pull over and lose their breakfast.

There are plenty of all-paw Subarus, utes and Jeeps in these parts, but I note I’m confident carrying more speed into turns than most locals. If there’s any fault of the big Benz, it’s that it makes you forget its size and mass in corners – and these icy roads aren’t the place to get complacent.

What is the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450’s interior and tech like?

Space. That’s what hits you. If luxury in your mind means serious room to move – aided by a giant panoramic roof flooding the light in – the GLS is ultimate champ.

But ours still feels a bit too dark and austere. It has dark ash trim to go with the abundance of blacks – lighter materials would really lift it, but of course, wouldn’t be as family-use friendly.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 first row

How the digital driver display and infotainment merge under a single piece of glass is superb, while the barrage of air vents, vast centre console arm rest and easy-access proper physical climate buttons make things user-friendly and classy.

There’s perhaps too much going on button-wise on the steering wheel. Its thumb swipe pads, plus the central touchpad – which takes up too much space – feel like tech too far, and I reckon some of the silver trim (especially the door speakers) are a bit too chintzy.

The 12.3-inch driver display is mightily customisable, but set aside an afternoon to get to grips with it. Seemingly anything and everything can be set in your view – backed up again in the head-up display – and it can overwhelm with info.

Best to find a simple layout that works for you and stick with it. Trying to navigate all the menus through buttons and swipe pads means lots of time with eyes off the road.

Connectivity on our trip proved faultless, with Apple CarPlay running wirelessly with quick connection at each start-up. Unlike some rivals (hey, Porsche) Benz has fitted wireless charging too, and has cleverly placed it at an angle so your phone doesn’t move around on the move. Oh, and the surround sound audio is properly pumping.

The split-fold centre armrest has cavernous storage space plus cup holders, while storage door bins are mighty. But not carpeted? That doesn’t help its ‘S-Class of SUVs’ claim.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 second row

A nice touch is the ambient lighting changing from red to blue when you lower or raise the temperature. Just say ‘Hey Mercedes, I’m cold’ and it raises temperature for you. It was also fun asking it to open the panoramic roof in the middle of a snow storm, just to make sure the kids were paying attention.

The second and third row of seats adjust electrically – forward, back, recline and even the headrests. Folding the seats also happens with electrics, but it pays not to be in a hurry. Kudos to the button in the boot that folds all the seats flat with a single button tap. Very useful.

There’s still a very useable 355L of boot space with all seven seats up, rising to 890L with third row down, and then giant 1470L with just the two front seats in place. If you load to the roof, that final figure goes to a van-like 2400L.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 third row

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 boot

Good news for large families is this is a genuine seven-seater. An adult can fit in the third row of seats. I’m six-foot and have ample headroom and reasonable legroom, and the seats themselves are surprisingly comfortable. The only grumble is the headrests need a strong pull to get into position.

You sit high in the third row of seats, with a good view through the middle. You won’t struggle with claustrophobia thanks to good sized windows and the glass roof. Sling the noisiest kids back here and you’ll soon forget about them.

It’s simply an indulgent, luxury-packed and cavernous place to travel. While smaller Benz SUV offerings would have been up to our task, the GLS is a truly special way to travel.

Is the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 a safe car?

The GLS hasn’t been crash tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, its high price and low volume the likely cause.

The next-size-down GLE scored five stars with ACNAP in 2019, while all Mercedes-Benz models that have been tested in recent years have returned the maximum award.
Safety is mighty, as expected, so we must safely assume the GLS450 is indeed a very safe offering.

Standard safety equipment includes:

  • Distronic radar cruise control
  • Lane change assist
  • Steering assist
  • Stop-and-go assist
  • Adaptive highbeam assist plus
  • Driver’s kneebag
  • Pre-safe system
  • Pre-safe for detected side collisions
  • Exit warning function
  • Automatic re-start in traffic jams
  • Route based speed adaptation
  • Rear side airbags
  • Traffic sign assist
  • TPMS
  • Window airbags

Positively, the driver aids proved very well calibrated during our test. Mercedes’ lane keep assist used to be incredibly harsh, but the GLS450’s worked in a far smoother, progressive manner.

Radar cruise control also worked without fault, while just knocking on your indicator on the highway and the car changing lane for you (when it’s clear) is lazy brilliance.

What are the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450’s ownership costs?

If you rack up the kilometres each year, Benz’s annual/25,000km service intervals will work in your favour.

But the service plan bills match the hulking SUV’s size. A three-service plan costs $3620, while the first five equal a chunky $7225.

Quoted combined fuel use is 9.2L/100km, rising to 11.4L/100km in town. Our mix of highway, town and mountain climb driving over 1000km averaged 11L/100km. Fair use, but let’s not pretend filling a 90L fuel tank with the demanded 95 RON was a fun experience.

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 badge

And while the 7.7L/100km average of the GLS400 diesel would have been preferable, at least we didn’t have to faff with Alpine diesel in these cold conditions.

If the computer was to be believed, the GLS450’s mild hybrid system gave a bonus 85.5km over 1000km. The data’s shown in an ‘EQ Charge’ section in the digital dash, and if the gain really was close to ten percent, the system’s benefits are certainly worthwhile.

As with all new Benzes, your warranty’s five-years/unlimited kilometres – par for the course for most prestige brands.

The honest verdict on the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450

It’s a glorious indulgence, this GLS 450. Excessive in practically every way, but so unquestionably suited to its task of luxury, cosseting transport for up to seven.

Could you make do with a Benz GLE 450 with seven seats? Most likely. With the same engine it’s some $30,000 cheaper than our GLS 450, but what about that cavernous interior and outrageous road presence?

Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 2023 front 3/4 far

Purchase price, mighty running costs and difficulty to live with in the city are its key negatives, but all else feels very special indeed.

The GLS 450 nails the luxury, tech, serenity and superb drivability remits, and you’d struggle to find anything to touch it for a snow escape tool par excellence.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs

Variant tested 450 4MATIC (HYBRID)

Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

2999 cc
270kW at 5500rpm
500Nm at 1600rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
90 litres
9.2L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
978km (claimed)
All Wheel Drive
5219 mm
2030 mm
1823 mm
Unoccupied weight
2656 kg

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