And then there’s one which claims to offer the best of both: the GL-Class. There are very few super-luxury SUVs that can seat seven fully-sized adults, and it’s the only one that can do so whilst offering a properly dynamic drive on road as well as extreme capability off it. This second generation version is smarter, plusher, more refined and even more appealing.
It’s that third seating row that’s always set the GL apart in a luxury 4x4 market that rarely offers this option - or if it does, often restricts practical use of the extra seats to children. Not so here. And the sleeker shape clothes a GL-Class that’s cleverer, more comfortable, quieter and more efficient.
Not everyone is going to feel comfortable piloting something of this size but provided you do, then GL-Class motoring is a pretty fabulous way to view your everyday world. The great all-round visibility you get from your lofty perch behind the wheel makes manoeuvrability a lot more straightforward than you might expect and in any case, other road users tend to scatter as you bear down upon them.
Mercedes has specified its AirMATIC air suspension system with ADS Adaptive Damping as standard on all UK models, enabling the ride quality to be varied between ‘Comfort’ or ‘Sport’ modes.
It’s got permanent 4WD of course, an ‘intelligent’ 4MATIC system with a 50:50 torque-split front-to-rear and a ‘4ETS’ electronic traction control set-up that includes an off-road button you press to activate a special off-road driving programme. You also get Hill Start Assist to help you start off up steep slopes you can then more easily descend from using a Downhill Speed Regulator that’ll ease you to the bottom.
What’s most astonishing though is the sheer silence as you cruise along on pillows of AirMATIC air. Mercedes reckons that, thanks to the sleeker shape, an acoustic windscreen and minutely detailed NVH engineering, cabin refinement now rivals that of their S-Class limousine, which is astonishing for something so big and boxy.
There’s nothing quite like a GL-Class, buying this Mercedes must seem like a no-brainer. This side of the Atlantic, it’s also a pretty simply choice, provided that you’re in the unusual position of wanting a huge 7-seat super-luxury SUV that can climb the lower slopes of Snowdon, then stop by Sainsburys on the way to an evening at the Ritz. If a car that can do all that is somewhere on your wish list, then you won’t be disappointed with this one.
But then, that much we already knew about this Mercedes. The thing that’s changed with this second generation version is a broadening of its appeal.
This GL-Class in second generation form provides a far more dynamic personality. It offers far more car for much less money. Which means that in your SUV search for the biggest and the best, you shouldn’t overlook it.