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…