Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
(2006 - 2012)

  • Serious size and capability wrapped in a Merc suit
  • Dominant and stylish design
  • Genuine luxury features
  • Palatial space inside
  • The list and likelihood of potential serious mechanical and electrical problems is terrifying
  • Build quality can vary wildly from acceptable to shocking
  • Feel huge to drive on suburban Australian roads
  • Cost of ownership can be extreme
Overview

If you believe more is more, the X164 GL-Class is all the Benz-branded metal, glass and rubber today’s reasonable money can buy. Over five metres in length, around 2.5 tonnes kerb, it was, during its 2006-2012 release, a proper adult-friendly seven-seater, unabashedly aimed at the North American market where the luxury SUV was manufactured (in Tuscaloosa, Alabama).

Categorised as ‘large’ or ‘full-sized’ in some markets, the plus-sized GL wagon – and it contemporary GLS successor – is considered ‘upper large’, bigger and more commodious than the old ML (nee GLE) with which it shares technical relation by way of its stretched and widened common platform.

Unlike so many of its ladder-framed competitors, such as the Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX, the Benz GL has unibody construction, offering a sound foundation for genuine luxurious on-road character when paired with air suspension. That said, the GL formula brought reasonably capable off-roading chops via hardware such as ride height adjustment paired with constant all-wheel-drive, a two-speed transfer case and locking centre and rear differentials.

The GL-Class was do-all family-focused Mercedes-Benz, one markedly more capable than the ML-Class. And asked handsomely for it.

Back at its 2006 launch, you could scrape into the basic GL320 CDI diesel for $104k, but if you wanted a fine example you had to loosen the purses strings quite a bit: a reversing camera was an extra $950, power-folding mirrors another $500. And that’s before you ticked options boxes for nice infotainment or genuine leather hide.

Meanwhile, the high-spec V8 petrol-powered GL500 was closer to $150k, with its Nappa trim and (whoo-hoo!) in-dash six-CD stacker, but keyless entry and Distronic cruise control demand extra splurges and fully loaded examples got pricey indeed.

Neither if the initial engines were particularly frugal. The GL320 CDI’s 156kW/510Nm 3.0L diesel V6 carries a 10.0L/100km claim, while the 285kW/530Nm 5.5L naturally aspirated petrol V8 presents a sobering and quite optimistic 13.5L that skyrockets form there around town. Both are backed by seven-speed automatics.

Towing, too, is a prodigious 3400kg braked for the diesels and around 3150kg braked for the petrol.

The X164’s short six-year lifecycle was punctuated by a mid-cycle facelift, in late 2009, bringing mild restyling outside and changes to the variant line-up aligned with some fiddling to the powertrain menu.

The old 320 CDI became the newly rebranded GL350 CDI…with essentially carryover running gear and a higher ($114k) entry point. You could, however, opt for spruced-up, leather-dipped GL 350 CDI Luxury wanting for tidy $127k. However, for MY11, a GL350 CDI Blue Efficiency version was released, at $120k, with measurably higher 195kW/620Nm outputs and a lower 9.2L economy claim.
More oiler goodness? The 225kW/700Nm 4.0L twin-turbo V8 diesel offered overseas to this point finally arrived locally as the GL450 CDI with lusty seven-second performance, a near 12-litre thirst and wanting for almost $170k. The bent-eight oiler sat just a few grand under a new flagship that was a lightly fettled Luxury version of the GL500 V8 petrol.

Clearly formulated for US tastes, the big Benz ultimately failed to the hit the mark with Aussie buyers quite as accurately as either its smaller ML/GLE stablemates or the likes of key rivals such as Land Rover Discovery 4.

It sold in modest and unremarkable numbers. Worse, it got tainted with a ‘soccer mum’ stigma in Oz and perhaps unfairly so on the merit of what the GL-Class offers in the duality of luxury and (reasonable) multi-terrain purpose. And continues to do in the current X167 GLS.

So how does the older X164 generation fare today as a used prospect firmly at the tail end of the ravages of depreciation? Let’s find out…

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What goes wrong?
  • There are reports that on early models and some high kilometre later models, the door look and tailgate locking mechanism can completely fail, either locking you out of the car or just not locking at all.
  • Models with powered tailgates can have issues with the automatic opening and closing just not opening or closing on command.
  • There are quite a few reports of the tail lights dimming or failing all together. This can be down to rust/oxidation on the circuit board but that can also alter the input of certain lights, for example the Fog lights can come on when the brake pedal is pressed.
  • The sunroof (both of them), can leak which eventually leads to the electronics and mechanics of the sunroof failing. Repairing this can quickly add up in price as genuine Mercedes Benz parts do ask a premium.
  • The GL is heavy so therefore puts a great deal of stress on the tyres. The issue is that a GL Class really should be fitted with premium tyres and they will be expensive and these expensive tyres, obviously depending on how you drive, can wear out quickly.
  • The air suspension can fail and the entire air suspension system can be hugely problematic. This results in the GL sagging to one side or just sitting incorrectly. As the GL is quite heavy,  it puts a load of stress on suspension components and while the air suspension system is beautiful when it works, it’s not proving to be reliable.
  • The shocks themselves can leak oil, compressors can have issues and level sensors can fail. Repairing it with genuine Mercedes parts can cost thousands of dollars and luckily there are alternative repairs available but how it rides and handles obviously will depend on what parts are fitted, but it’s important to know, cutting corners financially will show.
  • There are many reports that the infotainment systems, no matter which generation or model of this GL Class, can become glitchy and are slow to respond to commands and in some cases, will just stop working.
  • There are quite a few reports that the air conditioning can either not heat or cool or work on command at all. To repair this commonly requires the entire dash to be removed which will cost a substantial amount of money.
  • There are also reports that the power steering pump and steering rack in general can have major problems on early models.
  • It’s quite commonly known that the battery tends to drain way faster than expected across the entire range.
  • Because the GL is fitted with many of sensors, over time and kilometres on our harsh Australian roads, these sensors are beginning to fail and that may light up your dashboard like a Christmas tree.
  • We also found plenty of reports regarding various switches and controls like the power window switches failing and not working.
  • Engine wise, the diesel GL Class models suffer from many of the same problems seen in other modern diesels: EGR valves and cooler issues, DPF related problems, leaking injector seals and choked up inlet systems.
  • Terrible transmission shudder and delayed gear selection issues are quite common. This can be the result of failing control modules or at times mechanical or other electrical faults within the gearbox itself. Regardless of the fault, repairing with genuine Mercedes Benz parts will be expensive when compared to other brands.
  • Hub and wheel bearing issues are becoming more common over time, generally caused by loose driveshafts, sometimes ending in catastrophic wheel bearing failure.
Model range, pricing & features

GL 320 CDI

  • Price when new: $103,900 - $123,600
  • Price used: $10,500 - $29,000

The GL 320 CDI is the base model in the GL range, featuring a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine, 7-speed automatic transmission with a permanent 4WD drive system and air suspension as standard.

With the first series of the GL-class, the engine designation were also the spec level, and so buyers could either upgrade to the more expensive and more powerful GL 500 model or choose from a variety of options available to the GL 320, so when looking at GL 320’s, it is important to ask the current owner of any options or accessories fitted to the vehicle.

The GL 320 was given an update with more luxury features in October 2008, and then was replaced by the GL 350 CDI as part of a revised model (X164.II) introduction in December 2009.

Standard Features:

18-inch alloy wheels
Chrome grille
Body coloured bumpers
Body coloured door handles
Skid plates – front and rear
Roof rails
Courtesy lamps in doors – front and rear
Automatic headlights
Front and rear fog lamps
Power steering
“4Matic” permanent four-wheel drive system
“Airmatic” air suspension
Adaptive Damper System
8 airbags: front driver and passenger, front and second row side impact, full-length (all three rows) curtain airbags
Seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters for front seats and outer second row seats
Active front seat head restraints
“Pre-Safe” system
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Brake assist (BA)
Electronic stability control (ESP)
Traction control (TC)
Trailer stability control
Central locking
Cruise Control
Speed limiter
Rain-sensing wipers
Electric windows with global open and close
Electric mirrors
Dual-zone climate control
Ten-way electrically adjustable front seats
Synthetic leather upholstery
Multi-functional steering wheel
Height and reach adjustable steering wheel
8-speaker sound system
Six-disc CD changer
Phone preparation
Cup holders in all rows
12V auxiliary power socket

October 2008 update:

19-inch alloy wheels
Power-operated tailgate
Electrochromatic rear view mirror
Power adjustable steering wheel
Stereo system with MP3/WMA compatibility
AUX inputs
Four-zone climate control (removed for the GL 350 CDI)
Bluetooth connectivity

GL 350 CDI

  • Price when new: $114,900 - $120,200
  • Price used: $16,500 - $38,000

The GL 350 was introduced as the base model as part of the X164.II revision released in December 2009. Additional comfort and convenience features were introduced as was the COMAND infotainment system.

The GL 350 CDI also rolled back some features that were previously available on October 2008 GL 320 CDI models, which were offered on a higher spec GL 350 CDI Luxury model.

The GL 350 CDI was available either with the standard GL 350 turbo-diesel engine or the GL 350 Blue Efficiency turbo-diesel engine.

Adds:

Daytime running lights
LED tail-lights
Nappa steering wheel
Dual-zone climate control
COMAND infotainment system
6.5 inch colour display
Bluetooth connectivity
4GB hard-drive for music storage

GL 350 Luxury

  • Price when new: $126,900 - $132,500
  • Price used: $19,500 - $47,000

The GL 450 CDI Luxury was introduced as a V8 twin-turbo diesel offering as part of the X164.II revision released in December 2009.

With the exception of the engine differences to the GL 500 Luxury, the GL 450 CDI Luxury offered the same features standard, with a range of optional features and accessories that could be added.

Adds:

20-inch alloy wheels
Power-operated tailgate
Directional bi-xenon headlights
Headlight washers
Power adjustable steering wheel
Electrically folding and heated side mirrors
Four-zone climate control
Memory settings – side mirrors, front seats, steering wheel and door mirror positions
Privacy glass

GL 450 CDI Luxury

  • Price when new: $169,800 - $171,200
  • Price used: $37,000 - $75,000

The GL 450 CDI Luxury was introduced as a V8 twin-turbo diesel offering as part of the X164.II revision released in December 2009.

With the exception of the engine differences to the GL 500 Luxury, the GL 450 CDI Luxury offered the same features standard, with a range of optional features and accessories that could be added.

Adds:

21-inch AMG alloy wheels
Power sunroof
Proximity key
Nappa leather
Neck-Pro comfort head restraints
Ventilated seats
Heated seats – front and second rows
12-speaker Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound system
DVD satellite navigation
CD/DVD player
Digital TV tuner

GL 500 / 500 Luxury

  • Price when new: $146,900 - $174,600
  • Price used: $20,000 - $80,000

The GL 500 is the top of the range in the GL range. With the X164.I series, the GL 500 was a engine and spec upgrade over the GL 320 CDI model, and was updated in October 2008 with additional features such as 20-inch alloy wheels, four zone climate control and bluetooth connectivity.

With the X164.II update released in December 2009, the GL 500 became the GL 500 Luxury and offered the same standard features as the GL 450 CDI Luxury, with the main difference being the V8 petrol engine.

Adds:

19-inch alloy wheels
Power-operated tailgate
Power sunroof
Directional bi-xenon headlights
Headlight washers
Front and rear parking sensors
Tyre pressure sensor
Tri-zone climate control
Electrochromatic rear view mirror
Electric folding side mirrors
Power adjustable steering wheel

Multi-contour front seats
Nappa leather
Heated seats – front and second rows
12-speaker Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound system
COMAND infotainment system
DVD satellite navigation
CD/DVD player
AUX inputs

October 2008 update:

20-inch alloy wheels
Four-zone climate control
Bluetooth connectivity
MP3/WMA compatibility

December 2009 update (GL 350 CDI Luxury plus):

21-inch AMG alloy wheels
Proximity key
Neck-Pro comfort head restraints
Ventilated seats
Digital TV tuner

Should you buy it?

We understand why you’d want to buy a used GL Class, a used example selling for tens of thousands of dollars less than what they were when new seems like a bargain, but chances are, it isn’t.

If the GL retained their value at all and the chances of mechanical or electronic issues arising were slim to none, then maybe you should buy one, but it’s near impossible to financially justify buying a car thats value will continue to depreciate at near catastrophic levels, while it’s maintenance and possibly repair costs continue to go up, again at what could be catastrophic levels.

Yes there are examples out there that are faultless but, even if you can afford or are happy to ignore the financial risks and are mentally prepared for the potential mechanical nightmares, while it generally is a good car, it’s not a stand out, amazing or some phenomenally special SUV in anyway. Even when in mint condition, it’s just, acceptable.

If you just have to have the biggest Mercedes Benz SUV and you can comfortably afford the potentially stupid maintenance costs and can somehow justify the extreme depreciation, sure why not, it’s financially dumb but if you’re happy to take on this risk, you possibly have more money than sense.

However, if you’re buying a GL Class because you think it’s a bargain and you can only just afford the car itself, or you’re a fan of making money instead of throwing it away, absolutely not, you should not buy a GL Class.

Remember the old saying, the most expensive car in the world is a cheap Mercedes.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 years/unlimited kilometres

Servicing:

Every 12 months or 20,000kms

Tech specs

Body Style:

5-door SUV

Engines:

3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel (GL 320 CDI, GL 350, GL 350 Luxury)
3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel (GL 350, GL 350 Luxury)
4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel (GL 450 CDI Luxury)
5.5-litre V8 petrol (GL 500 Luxury)

Power:

165kW – 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
195kW – 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
225kW – 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel
285kW – 5.5-litre V8 petrol

Torque:

510Nm – 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
620Nm – 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
700Nm – 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel
530Nm – 5.5-litre V8 petrol

Transmission & drivetrains:

7-speed automatic transmission, 4WD

Fuel Consumption:

9.2 – 13.5L/100km (depending on engine and variant)

Length:

5088mm

Width:

1920mm

Height:

1815mm

Kerb Weight:

2443 – 2505kg

Towing (Unbraked/Braked):

750kg/3150 – 3405kg (depending on engine and variant)

Disclaimer

Information correct as of January7 , 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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