Skip to main content

Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Mercedes GL450

Similarly, you can't have a luxury-class face-off without Mercedes-Benz. Fortunately, the German car maker brought two SUVs to take on our Mudfest courses. The first is Mercedes' GL450 4Matic, which sells for no less than $98,165. At that price, the GL450 comes with a lot of electronic goodies, such as active parking assist, a surround view camera, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, forward collision prevention technologies, and more.

Sitting down in the GL450, you're treated to high-grade leather and fancy Dinamica microfiber headliner. But the driver's seat is complex enough to cause confusion. You're overwhelmed by a sea of buttons for as many features. The infotainment system consists of a high-mounted seven-inch LCD, controlled through a knob within arm's reach on the center console. We do appreciate this mechanism for navigating the many options of high-end infotatinment systems, but Mercedes' Command isn't as intuitive as solutions from BMW or Audi, and it took some time to get used to. It also didn’t help that the Command knob is next to two other control knobs that we kept using mistakenly.

Nevertheless, we figured out how to pair our HTC Droid DNA and get it to download the phone book. Apple's fourth-gen iPad was not compatible because Mercedes uses proprietary cables and only supports the 30-pin dock connector. Our Mercedes rep assured us that the Lightning-to-30-pin dock adapter works, and that a Lightning cable will be out soon. 

Mercedes' biturbo 4.6-liter V8 keeps the big crossover moving, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels through the 4Matic AWD system. The torque-vectoring-capable 4Matic can send power to each individual wheel for added grip, but has open-differentials that rely on the vehicle’s traction control system to mimic the functionality of a a limited-slip differential. It’s not as off-road-savvy as a Jeep or the G550, Mercedes' GL450 should be perfectly adequate in the environments it was meant to traverse.

The GL450 is comfortable to drive. It doesn't float like the Buick, and responds well for something that weighs more than 2.5 tons. We got a kick out of the massaging seats as we leisurely made our way around the autocross and dirt courses. The GL450 had no problem handling either of them.

Styling is typical for a Mercedes. The GL450 has smooth, clean lines that create a classy aesthetic. LED running lights are a nice touch, and the giant emblem on the grille lets everyone looking in their rear-view mirror know what you're driving. Other than that, the GL450's style doesn't evoke much emotion from us. It's a good-looking Mercedes Benz.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2014 Mercedes-Benz GL450
Trim levelNA
Engine4.6 L biturbo V8
TransmissionSeven-speed automatic
Drivetrain4Matic
InfotainmentMercedes-Benz Command
Notable featuresmbrace2 telematicsActive parking assistSurround view cameraDistronic PlusBlind spot monitoringActive lane-keeping assistMassaging front seats
Fuel economy14 city, 19 highway, 16 combined MPG
MSRP$98,165
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply