2009 Mercedes GL320 BlueTEC Review | Buyer Guide


GL Diesel Now Accepted in 50 States

Diesel technology has come a long way in recent years. Most of the disadvantages of early diesels heave been eliminated, or at least minimized. Diesel odor and soot are no longer an issue. Engine clatter has been greatly reduced, and turbo charging has improved performance.

In 2006, when clean diesel fuel became available in the U.S., Mercedes offered diesel power in their GL, ML and R series SUVs. However, the engines in these vehicles could not meet the strict emission standards in states, like California or New York. The difficulty was that they emitted an unacceptable level of Nitrogen-oxides (NOx). Now for 2009, Mercedes has solved that problem, and these cars are now for sale in every state in the union.

The latest Mercedes diesels are called BlueTEC. They use a urea-based fluid, called ADBlue, which is injected into the exhaust stream to neutralize the NOx. The process has no negative effect on the performance of the engine. According to Mercedes, the 8.5-gallon tank in my GL test car would hold enough fluid for 10,000 miles of driving, before it would need replenishing.

Mercedes applies the ADBlue technology to its 3.0-liter, turbocharged, V-6 diesel. This power plant generates 210 horsepower, and a whopping 398 lb-ft of torque. It is teamed with a seven-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. Acceleration to 60 is not as quick as that of the gas-powered GL450, but the fuel economy is better— 17-23 mpg, versus 13-18 mpg for its sibling. And the diesel will still tow 7200 lbs. In everyday driving, the only quirk I noticed was that the diesel hesitates for an instant at launch, but then makes up ground right away.

In other respects, the GL320 is similar to its gas-powered stablemates. Mercedes introduced the GL class in 2007 to compete with luxury SUVs, like the BMW X5 and the Acura MDX. But the styling is not as sporty. In fact, the GL is a rather blunt-looking vehicle. The interior is more attractive, especially with the optional pebble-grained leather, with contrasting stitching.

The GL seats seven passengers. Those up front get 10-way seat adjusters. Passengers in the second and third rows sit a little higher, and have decent, but not abundant legroom. The cargo area behind the third seat is just 10.6 cu-ft, but of course, the rows ahead fold flat for additional storage.

Mercedes equips the GL with a plethora of high-tech gadgetry, like and an electronic gear selector, keyless remote entry, an anti-skid system and hill-ascent and hill-decent controls. Buyers can also add options like, a navigation system, a DVD player, parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.

On the road, the GL delivers a comfortable and well-controlled ride. Its AirMatic suspension can be adjusted to three different settings, from “comfort” to “sport” by pressing a button on the dash. I found that the middle setting provided just the right combination of compliance and control in everyday driving.

The Mercedes GL320 BlueTEC has a base price of $56,750, and it qualifies for an $1800 federal income tax credit.

Snapshot Review

Seating For Seven
Refined Diesel Engine
Better Fuel Economy
Tax Incentive

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