Short Take Road Test: 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL550
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Tony Quiroga of Car and Driver
Some of us go car shopping armed with the credo “Always get the biggest engine.” Mercedes is only too happy to oblige these buyers, and certainly, the GL550 will satisfy the need for all things great and big. For everyone else, dare we say even us this time, the GL550 is serious overkill.
Don’t get us wrong. We think the GL is a spectacular sport-utility and have named it to our 5Best Trucks list for two years in a row. From its huge, handsome interior to its refined driving experience, the GL-class continues to rule its segment. A GL450 won its last comparison test, and the GL320 CDI in our long-term fleet makes us all warm and fuzzy whenever we calculate its 20-plus mpg.
But we don’t feel that jacking up the displacement of this V-8 and juicing the horsepower from 335 to 382 makes for a better GL. Yes, it’s quicker—0 to 60 falls to 5.9 seconds from the GL450’s 6.6-second time, and 100 mph arrives two seconds sooner—but worrying about 0-to-100 acceleration in a full-size sport-utility is like being wigged out about the towing capacity of a Lotus Exige S.
With a $77,750 base price, the GL550 outstickers a base GL450 by more than $20,000. Before you fall off the porcelain, we should tell you that a comparably equipped GL450 would cost roughly $70,000, and you can’t get the GL550’s 21-inch wheels on the GL450 (feel free to keel over now). So, give or take a few bucks, the GL550 costs $7000 more. Are 47 horsepower, 52 pound-feet of torque, and 0.7 second shaved off a 0-to-60 time worth that much? In a sports car, we might say yes, but this is a sport-ute. And we shouldn’t forget that the larger engine will cause chronic wallet emptiness at the fuel pump.
Although the GL550’s EPA numbers are only 1 mpg worse on the highway than the GL450’s, the GL550 we tested only returned 15 mpg versus 18 for the GL450.
To those who simply must have the biggest badge numbers on the back, the choice is an easy one. For the more rational—including us!—the smaller the number after the letters GL, the better.
C/D TEST RESULTS: