With little change expected, is the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS still a top crossover choice?

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS

What changes will make the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS different?

Higher asking prices and maybe a new paint color or two will keep changes to a minimum following a significant model-year 2017 refresh. That refresh included a name change, from GL-Class to GLS. It also updated the styling and powertrains and improved fuel economy.

The changes didn’t fundamentally alter a vehicle design that debuted for model-year 2013. Part of Mercedes’ plan to align its crossover designations with those of its cars, the rebadging identified this full-size seven-seater with the automaker’s flagship S-Class sedan. Shoppers responded positively, with the GLS defending its sales leadership in the full-size premium-SUV class, ahead of such rivals as the Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, and Land Rover Range Rover.

Check Out Our 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS Review and Pricing for the Latest Info

Why should I wait for the 2018?

You shouldn’t, given the slim chance of significant content updates but the near-certainty it’ll cost more. You’d also be a model year closer to a full redesign – likely for 2020 – that’ll render this-generation GLS a little stale. Furthermore, very high rollers may want to delay until 2020 or so because the next-generation GLS will be the basis for Mercedes’ new ultra-luxury crossover. That full-sizer will wear the Mercedes-Maybach badge and likely cost more than $200,000. It’ll compete with the likes of the Bentley Bentayga and upcoming Aston Martin DBX and Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

As for the 2018 GLS lineup, expect it to reprise the V-6 GLS450, V-8 GLS550, and high-performance V-8 GLS63, the last again tuned by Mercedes’ AMG arm. The diesel-powered GLS350d could return, but as of April 2017, it hadn’t been approved for sale by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pending the EPA’s investigation into emissions compliance.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Absolutely. Full-size luxury crossovers get no better than the Mercedes-Benz GLS. All versions are rock solid, delightfully fast, surprisingly nimble, highly versatile, and available with enough high-tech gadgetry to satisfy the most demanding shoppers. This is the German automaker’s larger alternative to the five-passenger GLE midsize crossover and the family-friendly option to its military-vehicle-turned premium-lifestyle bangle G-Class SUV.

Buyers of premium-class SUVs tend not to be very price-sensitive, so don’t expect much of a deal on the ’18 GLS, even at model-year clearance time. That goes double for the GLS63, which is in high demand with limited supply, despite its $125,000-plus sticker price.

Will the styling be different?

Other than maybe a new color choice, no. As part of its model-year 2017 freshening, the GLS received a new grille with a large Mercedes-Benz logo, reshaped headlights, and a broader tail. That won’t change for ’18. And, beyond the badging, about the only way to differentiate the models will again be wheel size: 19-inch alloys on the GLS450, 20-inchers on the GLS550, and massive 21s on the GLS63. Despite its performance bent, the GLS63 will retain a very subtle look. Aside from the larger wheels, its distinguished only by a deeper front fascia and quad (versus dual) exhaust pipes. Overall, the GLS is not as ostentatious as an Escalade or Range Rover, but it’s still plenty upscale.

Passenger room is baronial in the first and second seating rows. There’s good comfort for three across on the second-row bench. Even the two-passenger third row is adult-friendly, with reasonably easy access, although grownups back there ride with knees slightly elevated. Cargo space basically mirrors that of the Escalade, with 16 cubic feet behind the third-row seat, 49.4 behind the second row, and 93.8 with both rear rows folded

The control layout is Mercedes typical: brand loyalists will feel right at home; newcomers may need time to decipher some of the myriad controls and their not-always-obvious identifying markings. Cabin materials are first-rate, as you’d expect from such a pricey vehicle. You might, however, expect the GLS63 to feel a little more special, given its station.

Any mechanical changes?

Unlikely. All 2018 GLS engines will again use turbochargers; the gasoline engines in fact have two, while the suspended diesel used one. Every engine will also return with a fuel-saving engine-idle stop/start function that automatically shuts it off when the vehicle is stationary and instantly restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal.

The 2018 GLS450 will again have a 3.0-liter V-6 that should retain 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The GLS550 will reprise a 4.7-liter V-8, again with 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Both will continue a 9-speed automatic transmission. Expect the ’18 GLS63 to again pack a 5.5-liter V-8 with 577 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque and to again link it with a 7-speed automatic transmission. All models will retain steering-wheel paddle shifters and should again be available with a $575 Class IV trailer hitch to achieve a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds.

Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator should remain the only entries in the segment to offer a choice of rear-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Every ’18 GLS will again come with Mercedes’ 4Matic (AWD) system. Ground clearance is a generous 8.5 inches, but the basic 4Matic system isn’t really designed for serious off-roading. However, again available by special order on the ’18 GLS450 and GLS550 will be the Off-Road Package. Expected to cost between $2,050-$2,850, it includes underbody skid plates, hill-descent control, extra ride-height settings for the standard adaptive suspension, and a two-speed transfer case with a low-range gear set.

Also returning as standard on all ’18 GLSs will be Mercedes’ Dynamic Select, which allows drivers to customize transmission, throttle, and suspension calibrations among Normal, Comfort, Slippery, and Sport modes. There’s also an off-road setting on some models, while the GLS63 includes a Sport+ setting. The automaker may well consider some recalibration within these modes. As it is now, most buyers are best served leaving Dynamic Select on Normal. Comfort makes the ride a bit too floaty. Sport and the GLS63’s Sport+ trigger touchy throttle response, making smooth acceleration difficult in city and suburban traffic.

Will fuel economy improve?

Unlikely, and it won’t suddenly become a priority in this class. Expect the 2018 GLS to repeat 2017 EPA ratings of 17/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined for the GLS450, 14/18/16 for the GLS550, and 13/17/14 for the GLS63. All models will again require premium-grade 91-octane fuel.

Will it have new features?

Mercedes may make some previously optional equipment standard, but is highly unlikely to introduce new features to an already packed GLS line. For example, the ’17 GLS450 came with MB-Tex upholstery, a very nice leatherette material, but not leather. Mercedes could make leather standard instead of optional on the ‘18 GLS450, matching the GLS550 and GLS63. More important, we’d urge Mercedes to make blind-spot alert and lane-maintaining automatic steering standard on the GLS450 instead of including it in a costly option package.

Returning standard amenities should include heated front seats, driver-seat memory, a power rear liftgate, and power-folding third-row seat. Forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and Mercedes’ Attention Assist drowsy-driver alert should return as standard on all models.

We hope the company sees fit to make blind-spot alert and lane-keep assist standard across the board rather than just on the GLS550 and GLS63 (they’re optional on the GLS450). While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not rated the GLS-Class, all these driver aids would make it eligible for the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’ll be higher, but probably marginally, given the expected paucity of changes. Estimated prices in this review include Mercedes’ destination fee, which was $925 on the 2017 GLS.

Expect the volume-leading 2018 GLS450 to start around $70,000 and to again be available with a number of options packages. The $1,200 Appearance Package would include illuminated running boards and upgrade the wheels to 20-incher. Full LED headlights with adaptive high beams would be part of a $1,400 Lighting Package. If the GLS450 continues to come standard with MB-Tex, getting leather would run from $1,600-$4,900, depending on the grade of leather you prefer. Upgraded woodgrain trim would cost about $200.

With no change to the GLS450’s options policy, blind-spot alert and lane-keep assist would again be part of the $3,900 Premium 1 Package. Expect that package to also gain add LED interior lighting, illuminated door sills, keyless access with pushbutton ignition, front-passenger seat memory, embedded GPS navigation, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay support. Hands-free parallel parking and a surround-view camera would be part of a $1,200 Parking Assist Package.

Estimated base price for the 2018 GLS550 is $95,000. Its $1,375 Driver Assistance Package ($2,250 on the GLS450) would again add radar-based adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set following distance from traffic ahead. For an extra $2,900 on the GLS550 and $3,700 on the GLS450, you’ll likely be again able to add Mercedes’ Active Curve System, which helps mitigate body lean during spirited cornering. At an estimated base price of $126,000, the ’18 GLS63 will come with most every above-mentioned feature as standard.

Again among standalone options for all models should be a heated steering wheel ($250), heated second-row seats ($620), and a power-adjusting second-row bench ($400). Rear DVD entertainment would be about $2,000. A high-end Bang & Olufsen audio system would tack on a hefty $5,400-$5,800.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS should be during summer 2017.

Best competitors

Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX 570, Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Land Cruiser

What change would make it better?

Standard leather upholstery on all models, along with the reassurance of blind-spot alert lane-keep assist. Hopefully, Mercedes will have its diesel ducks in a row and begin selling that powerful and efficient model in the U.S. again.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]