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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
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