Giles Smith reviews Mercedes GL 420 CDI | Technology | The Guardian

17 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Giles Smith reviews Mercedes GL 420 CDI | Technology | The Guardian
Mercedes GL 420

Merc truck

Mercedes GL 420 CDI

Price #163;63,075

Top speed 142mph

Acceleration 0-62 in 7.6 seconds

Consumption 23.9mpg (combined)

Eco rating 0/10

At the wheel Peter Andre

Top gadget Back-seat recliners

In a word Inflammatory

With its bulging bodywork and thigh-high tyres, the new Mercedes GL-Class sits just shy of the point where family cars end and monster trucks begin. It gives every appearance of having been built to patrol trouble spots under the flag of the United Nations, but, given that it is a seven-seat luxury off-roader, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be pressed into service mostly to ferry the children of bonus-flushed bankers to and from the prep schools of Surrey.

What an extraordinary moment to whip the covers off a bungalow-sized, up-tempo Land Cruiser with a grizzly, greedy engine (even the diesel version is about as frugal as Roman Abramovich) and town-bothering dimensions all round. Just when some sort of political consensus is building regarding the general wisdom, or otherwise, of sports utility vehicles and the sociability of their use in cities, Mercedes appears to have thought, I know – let’s wind everyone up by landing a really big one on them.

Mercedes GL 420

As a result, one scratches one’s head to think of a more deliberately obnoxious car. On the road, and even in places where SUVs are rife, it appears comically out of scale – a Corgi to everyone else’s Matchbox. It flags up its indifference with a rare, nose-thumbing glee.

Being an SUV, the GL offers its driver the traditional, contradictory amalgamation of lofty views and A-pillar blind spots in which you could practically conceal entire towns. And being a Mercedes SUV in particular, it has the usual prestige suspension – caramel-smooth at pace, but bouncy as a Kiddie Castle on speed bumps, pitching and yawing like a ferry in a choppy channel.

Yet, above all, what one feels is expensively protected. Aloft in your leather cabin, and working the steering wheel like a novice bus driver, it certainly eases the mind to believe that your little ones would be spared not just the effects of an unfortunate suburban side impact but also the worst of a ground-to-air missile attack.

At the same time, the chrome Mercedes badge on the GL’s grille is frying pan-sized and, cutely, right at the height where the head would generally be on a standing four-year-old, so you’ll have to square that with your conscience as best you can.

Remember, also, that if Mayor Livingstone has his way, you won’t be able to drive a car like this in the centre of London without someone running ahead of you, ringing a bell. And fair enough, really. In the wide open spaces of Montana, perhaps, I probably wouldn’t want for anything smaller. Or even in areas of Britain where it might occasionally be necessary to clear a crouching sheep.

In the rat runs of south London, though, I wanted to shrivel into my multi-adaptable electronic seat with embarrassment.

No amount of high-end German cladding will prevent you from feeling, as it radiates in through the windows, the heat of resentment from your fellow road users. I toyed with hoisting a banner from my mean black GL’s rooftop – Just Testing. Those in the back were all right – saved from shaming exposure by tinted privacy glass which, I now see, has its uses.

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Mercedes GL 420
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