MB raises bar on flagship model

IT MUST have been pretty tough on the designers of what is arguably a leader in the SUV segment (having won the 2007 Sport Utility of the Year Award as judged by Motor Trend magazine) to then be told shortly after delivering the vehicle to improve it.

IT MUST have been pretty tough on the designers of what is arguably a leader in the SUV segment (having won the 2007 Sport Utility of the Year Award as judged by Motor Trend magazine) to then be told shortly after delivering the vehicle to improve it.

But that's exactly what happened with the Mercedes-Benz GL.

First launched in 2006, the GL has quickly become one of the flagship vehicles of the group and with the launch last week of the new generation range, the bar has been raised just that little bit higher in terms of luxury and performance.

Yes it's big, no, actually imposing, with the capacity to easily fit seven adults in comfort. And with its fat wheels (21-inch) and tinted windows, it definitely has a "gangsta look" to it but will primarily be bought by those who have seven-figure bank accounts.

Driving down to Clarens in the Free State in the GL 350 was a treat. The interior has enough comfy leather to make the journey that bit more enjoyable and with a wide assortment of infotainment available, it makes the kilometres fly by for passengers and driver alike.

From a driver's point of view, the 7-speed automatic gearbox also adds to the driving pleasure, while for those in the middle row of seats, individual air-conditioning vents are easily accessible.

The differences between the GL 350 CDI (R860000) and the GL 500 (R990000) - apart from the obvious discrepancy in engine size - is largely down to the features that are inclusive in the latter and optional in the former.

Electric sunroof, surround sound (Harman Kardon) and heated 1st row seats are just a couple of examples of what you can expect in the more expensive model but will have to fork out for in the GL 350.

Though its off-road capabilities are impressive, as we discovered during a particularly stormy afternoon, I can't imagine too many people in their right mind wanting to take such a prestigious vehicle off the beaten track.

New features added to the GL range from the previous generation include modernised bumpers, a new radiator grille, fog lamps and day time driving lights. Two new colours - tenorite grey and palladium silver - ensures 10 colours are now available.

Towing a trailer can turn into a nightmare if it starts swinging back and forth, but with the GL range, trailer stabilisation comes as a standard feature. How this works is the electronic system senses when a trailer starts moving about the road and automatically applies the correct amount of braking pressure to rectify the situation.

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