2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 First Drive Review


This isn’t our first time in the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, but it’s the first time we’ve actually driven one.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580

A month or so back, we were relegated to the passenger seat while Mercedes’ engineers had all the fun. But now we’re in the drivers’ seat, and we’ve traded Nevada’s sandy terrain for the green, snow-capped mountains and rocky trails east of Salt Lake City. After a day and a half and hundreds of miles behind the wheel, we can say this: the new GLS is one of the best Benzes in production today.

Mercedes is calling the GLS the S-Class of SUVs. Its engineers wanted to capture the S-Class’ ethos, combining luxury, technology and design in a quiet, comfortable and refined package. With the GLS’ new all-wheel drive system and off-road package, it’s all of that in a go-anywhere package.

The third-gen GLS is slightly larger than before. Its 2.4-inch longer wheelbase has an inch on its nearest competitor, the 2019 BMW X7, and it’s even longer than the long-wheelbase Range Rover. Passengers in the second row are treated to a copious amount of legroom. A new six-seat variant swaps a second-row bench for two captain’s chairs. With the seats slid all the way back, legroom is up 3.4 inches. Third-row space has increased, too, with enough room for a pair of adults to sit comfortably, at least for short distances.

Even the shifter and turn signal stocks have received some attention, so it doesn’t look like a parts bin special inside. But more importantly, the highly adjustable seats with optional massage functions keep bodies from becoming too fatigued after hundreds of miles between stops. If you’ve been in any recent Mercedes product, it will all be immediately familiar, but no less impressive for it.

A small electric motor is placed between the engine and transmission and performs a variety of tasks, from smoothing out shifts to mitigating turbo lag by supplying a bit of low-end power while exhaust gasses spool the turbos.

All GLS models send power to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s smooth and unobtrusive like any good automatic should be, and it’s right there with ZF’s seemingly ubiquitous 8HP 8-speed automatic in terms of refinement.