First Drive: New Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 SUV

This rugged Benz tackles the highway as easily it does dirt roads.


While they make a pile of four-wheeled vehicles in every imaginable type, Mercedes-Benz is not know for big SUVs – at least not in the U.S. market.

An American buyer is more likely to think Lincoln Navigator or Cadillac Escalade before a Mercedes. Even in Europe, it’s safe to say buyers with enough cash in the market for a full-size, luxury seven-seater usually look to Land Rover first.


Beautiful beasts like the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 SUV should shake that up quite a bit. Every bit a full-size SUV at 205-inches long by 77-inches wide by 72-inches high, those are fresh dimensions including increased length, width, wheelbase and track width.

The GLS 580 rides on new-for-2020 23-inch wheels, and it takes an also updated 4.0-liter, V8 bi-turbo engine, capable of 483 horsepower, to get all of the German engineering moving in the right direction.


To keep everyone comfortable, safe and entertained this inside powerful, stately people carrier, Mercedes-Benz packs on an all-inclusive electronic infotainment and security suite. I played with many of thee adjustable features via the center console and its 12.3-inch screen with gesture control. While testing all of the bangs and whistles, I put together a list of onboard tech features. It would require a deep breath to read it out, but typing it all out isn’t such a trial.

For your $98;800 purchase price; you get a Burmester Surround Sound System; 64-color ambient lighting; AM/FM/Bluetooth/SiriusXM radio; inductive wireless charging; a 115-volt AC power outlet; nine USB ports; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; Blind Spot Assist; Active Brake Assist; Attention Assist system; augmented video for navigation; head-up display; five-zone climate control and massage seats.


Those are for starters. The more advanced equipment includes the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC system — a cruise control feature allowing the SUV to follow a vehicle in front at a pre-selected distance. The Active Stop-and-Go Assist lets the GLS 580 to recognize traffic jams and to drive itself in stop-and-go traffic up to about 37 mph. Finally, Active Steering Assist maintains your lane by actively stepping in even when road lines are unclear or non-existent at speed.

That all adds up to an accurate image of road-going royalty — a big, comfortable, luxurious, safe machine built for daily use or grand touring for people of means. Still, there’s another aspect to the GLS 580. There must be, if it’s going to compete with anything over at Land Rover. This Mercedes-Benz needs to go off-road, handling dirt, mud, snow, etc. To muscle up to that duty, the automaker includes 4MATIC variable torque on demand All-Wheel Drive and E-Active Body Control.


The latter gadget is a new-for-2020 suspension system in which the springs and damping forces can be controlled at each wheel. Designed exclusively by Mercedes-Benz, E-Active uses artificial intelligence to enable the Road Surface Scan and a Curve Inclination Function to allow the car to adjust its ride for maximum comfort.

The result of all these fancy buzzwords is European-built SUV that serves just as impressively on the highway as on dirt roads. Time will tell if high-end buyers looking for such a machine look to Germany or England for their rides,