2008 Mercedes Benz GL

Nobody likes to be labeled a size-queen, but let’s face it: bigger is better. Alas, many a lavender letter has been pinned to the chest of Mercedes-Benz owners forced to switch brands for their seven-passenger SUV needs. To stop loyal clientèle leaving the family, Mercedes-Benz developed the first full-size luxury SUV to wear the “Made in Germany” label: the GL. Larger than the well-regarded ML but not as ponderous as the iconic G-Class, the GL’s modest dimensions accommodate six passengers (seven in a pinch) while also fitting comfortably into most garages, a claim not many Cadillac Escalade EXTs can make.2008 Mercedes-Benz GL

From behind the steering wheel, the GL feels much like the smaller ML. Easy to maneuver and park, the tight and controlled handling instills a sense of confidence rarely attributed to vehicles of this size. Standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive, center and rear- locking differentials and the Airmatic air suspension ensure the utmost in off-road ability, while safety features such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and three-row side-curtain airbags ensure the best possible outcome should the unthinkable happen.2008 Mercedes-Benz GL

And then there are the little touches only Mercedes-Benz seems to remember, like a front passenger seat that automatically glides forward when the second-row seatbacks are folded down. The second and third-row seats are quite comfortable on long trips, as are the wonderfully contoured front buckets. Perhaps the most appealing thing about the GL is its lack of overly-complex controls for the audio, navigation and ventilation. Everything is fairly intuitive, although we never did figure out how set the climate control to simply plumb in fresh air. Having the third-row seat in place leaves a modest cargo compartment, and God knows if there’s one thing we gays can’t do its pack light. So with six passengers onboard, the GL’s tour of duty is limited to day trips. A Ski weekend in Aspen with your partner and another couple, not to mention everyone’s gear, is what this big Benz does best.2008 Mercedes-Benz GL

The GL distances itself from the competition with a choice of three engines; two V8s and one V6 turbodiesel. The latter is highly unusual in the American market and showcases the latest developments in clean diesel technology. With an MSRP starting around $54,000, the GL320 CDI is not only the least expensive GL, it also produces less greenhouse gas emissions than its gasoline counterparts, has more torque than either of the two V8s (all important for towing and passing) and returns an EPA fuel economy rating of 18 city/24 highway.

Of course if diesel isn’t your thing, the V8-powered GL450 offers much of the same standard equipment and costs just $3,000 more. The GL550 bumps the asking price into the high $70,000 range and features a 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 engine, unique front end punctuated by a massive three-point star emblem and just about every creature comfort available in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio. Available features on the GL include DVD navigation, a power glass sunroof with a fixed rear glass panel, heated rear seats, Harman/kardon logic 11-speaker audio, Parktronic parking assist, rear backup camera, full leather seating (GL450), Keyless Go, rear seat DVD entertainment system, power rear quarter windows and the list goes on.

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