by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte
e-mail: mercedesbenzblog@gmail.com

The new Mercedes-Benz GL-Class: Body design and interior - Dynamic appearance, striking interior

At the very first glance, the GL-Class 2012 can be recognised as a typical member of the Mercedes-Benz SUV family. The new interpretation of the first generation is very impressive with its pronounced dynamic strength and sporting elegance. At the front, the design is dominated by the GL's typically upright radiator grille with its central star and the clear, high-quality design of the headlamps with their LED lights. In particular, the standard Intelligent Light System headlamps on the GL 500 4MATIC BlueEFFICIENCY give a high-quality, exclusive and innovative impression. The difference lies in a light wave conductor for the position lights, LED technology indicators and the practical Night View Assist PLUS which is available as an option. The daytime running lamps, also in LED-technology are integrated in a chrome clasp in the bumper and underneath the radiator grille the large underbody panel in chrome look rounds off the self-confident appearance of the front.

The well-balanced proportions of the side view (length 5120 mm, height 1850 mm) and the long wheelbase (3075 mm) underline the vehicle's on-road emphasis, but at the same time the short body overhang at front and rear together with the vehicle's great ground clearance point to its suitability for off-road travel. The high upper edge of the body typical for SUVs with its high-quality chrome trim, the dynamically rising line emphasising its character and the chrome casing round the windows underline its superior appearance. In the standard version the GL stands on attractive 18 inch alloy wheels designed with 10 spokes, as an option wheels up to 53.3 cm (21 inch) are available. The rear with its two-piece LED rear lamps using light wave conductor technology, a large roof spoiler and the bumper with its modern "wing design" with the large chromed area of the underbody panel completes its appearance as befits the social status of this luxurious full-size SUV. In the petrol-driven models, chromed ends to the exhaust pipes complete the standard package.

For the first time there is an extensive AMG exterior sport package available for those GL customers who find it increasingly important for their vehicle to have a sporting and dynamic appearance. In addition to the front and rear aprons typical for AMG, the package also provides special side flaps which are clamped over the 53.3 cm (21 inch) AMG alloy wheels with their five double-spokes design. Aluminium running boards with courtesy lights are just as much part of the package as perforated brake discs and brake calliper covers with Mercedes-Benz lettering.

Inner values: The GL-Class offers First Class automotive quality

Elegant and dynamic interior decoration, high-quality materials and great attention paid to details, perfect ergonomics and a generous amount of space – the interior of the GL-Class conveys the feeling of well-being typical for the Mercedes-Benz brand. Extensive trim elements in various kinds of wood or in aluminium, controls in silver-chrome and upholstery in perforated ARTICO man-made leather material with decorative topstitching on the seams in a contrasting colour all go to underline the overall impression of high-quality. The 2-3-2 seating arrangement provides plenty of room for seven passengers.

As a standard feature, the luggage compartment can be enlarged by folding down the third row of seats electrically – either from the two rear doors or from the luggage compartment – and putting them up when required just by pressing a button. Another innovation is the EASY-ENTRY system on both sides for the second row of seats – also with optional electric controls – to give better access to the third row of seats. The middle row of seats has a great variety of adjustments, making the use of interior space much more variable as for instance with a "cargo-position" to enlarge the size the luggage compartment. It then provides a volume of 680 to 2300 litres which is greater than the high capacity provided by its predecessor.

In comparison with its predecessor, the passengers have a great deal more elbow and headroom at their disposal in all three rows of seats. For all the other classic standards for a comfortable ride such as the distance between the rows or the width allowed for shoulders, its predecessor already was the best in its class.

The following table shows a detailed comparison of the body and interior measurements of the new GL-Class with those of its predecessor:

These measurements clearly show the degree of comfort: The space provided by the new GL-Class is even more generous than before. In particular in the third row of seats the available space is also outstanding. The easy access is also very impressive. Passengers can get into the interior easily due to the wide opening angle of the doors at front and rear and the high edge of the roof which is typical for SUV vehicles. Loading the luggage compartment is also simple due to the height of 1.95 m under the open tailgate.

Multicontour seats with seat cooling using reversing seat fans and COMAND-adjustment

The optional multicontour leather seats for driver and front passenger also have – as an additional option – a reversing seat ventilation which considerably improves seating comfort in summer especially when the interior of a vehicle overheats after being parked in the blazing sun. Four mini-fans pro seat are fitted in the driver and front passenger's seat cushions and backrests so that they suck air out of the interior of the vehicle. This is then pumped into the upper layer of the seat cushion and distributed evenly under the leather cover. The defined airflow passes through the perforated leather cover and draws off any moisture left on the passengers' body or clothing. The response time is much more efficient with reversing fans. In the first few minutes after the seat ventilation has been activated, the fans suck up the hot and humid air through the perforations and increase the effect of the air-conditioning – in comparison with the blowing function, the surfaces of the seats cool down appreciably faster during the first 30 seconds.

As usual in Mercedes-Benz vehicles, basic seat adjustments for legroom and backrest angle can be made using the buttons in the interior door panel showing a stylised seat which is easy for both driver and front passenger to use. What are new, however, are the fine adjustments of the multi-contour functions such as the depth of the seat cushion, the side supports of the seat and backrest or the lumbar support. These adjustments can now be made easily and clearly using the COMAND controller on the centre console. After selecting the appropriate menu using the button on the centre console, the graphic on the COMAND display shows a multi-contour seat and the areas selected for adjustment are visualised in colour. Compared to the keyboards next to the seats used up to now, this procedure clearly simplifies the adjustment procedure. The massage function is also new: Both driver and front passenger can have the luxury of a back massage individualised according to intensity and speed.

Always in view, everything under control: Dashboard and centre console

The dashboard covered in ARTICO leather continues the optical emphasis on width in the interior of the vehicle. The two modern round instrument clusters are clearly designed and easy to read, and situated between the instrument hoods the large 12.2 cm (4.8 in) photo-realistic colour display has a very appealing high-quality charm. Next to them, the centre of the dashboard is dominated by the large main COMAND colour screen. The operating and display concept has undisputed advantages for the user: Infotainment, navigation and communication can all be used easily and very simply with the COMAND controller positioned on the centre console in a metal casing. The multifunctional steering wheel covered in nappa leather is standard and fitted with gear shift paddles and 12 buttons with various functions.

Below the central armrest with its integrated pad for the ball of the thumb there is a large stowage tray and in front of it are the controller and various switches, for instance for the ON&OFFROAD package, air suspension AIRMATIC or the COMAND system. Also integrated here are the two optional heatable and coolable cup holders which can be covered with a high-quality wooden blind. The standard USB interfaces and the AUX-IN jack are also to be found on the central armrest. The decorative elements found on the dashboard are also reflected in the striking decorative seams of the door linings. As an option, the designo Exclusive-Package is available: This includes top quality designo nappa leather, extremely stylish decorative seams and exclusive diamond-patterned quilting on the seats and door linings.

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG High-End Sound System

As another first for a series model SUV, Mercedes-Benz is offering an optional sound system for the GL-Class from the well-known Danish manufacturers of high-fidelity systems Bang & Olufsen. The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG High-End Sound System with 14 high-end loudspeakers, a total output of 1200 W and B&O ICE power Class D Technology enhances the listening pleasure in comparison with other known sound systems and transforms the interior of the car into a concert hall with breathtaking acoustic. The equipment allows the user to select either the high-end studio sound "Reference" or wide-reaching spatial surround sound. Furthermore, the sound fields can be directed exactly toward the driver's and front passenger's seats or centrally. All the functions are easy to operate using a special Bang & Olufsen menu in the COMAND infotainment system.

As the driver and front passenger in a car practically never find themselves in the ideal position between the speakers, the distance between each of the loudspeakers and the passenger's ear is inevitably different and also this involves a different time lapse. This means, for instance, that in a left-hand drive vehicle the sound waves take longer to travel from the right high-frequency tweeter to the right ear of the driver as from the left high-frequency tweeter to the left ear. This delay due to physical reasons is compensated by the digital sound processor (DSP) – and even individually for each of the fourteen loudspeakers. Special software has been developed to provide very precise sound tuning and this is stored in the DSP for every individual seat. This means that passengers are able to select the required seats in the Bang & Olufsen sound menu. The virtual sound stage is perceived as being directly in front of the passengers and thus corresponds to the natural human listening habits when enjoying music. Every type of instrument – guitar, strings, wind section, piano or synthesisers – is convincingly natural, fresh and dynamic. The same is true for the various types of voice: Singing from both men and women sounds just as authentic as pure voice reproduction, for instance in news programmes. It also does not matter what the personal musical tastes of the passengers are or what the source is: The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG High-End Sound System reproduces every type of music perfectly from classical music to blues, jazz, pop, rock and electro to hip-hop, irrespective of whether it is from a CD, DVD, TV/Video, mp3 player or the radio.

The Bang & Olufsen ICE Power® amplifier (ICE = Intelligent, Compact, Efficient) serves as the perfect addition to the 14 loudspeakers and the DSP. The amplifier converts about 93 per cent of the input energy into performance and is closely linked to the DSP.

A very important contribution to the outstanding listening pleasure is due to the dynamic compensation for driving noises during very varying traffic and environmental situations: The microphone integrated in the overhead control panel constantly supplies data on the current noise levels within the car and their influence depending on the frequency. The digital sound processor analyses all the wavebands and raises the volume as required individually for each loudspeaker and for the varying frequencies. In this way, very varying sources of noise can be compensated. One extreme example: If the GL has to stop at traffic lights right next to road works using an asphalt cutter, the DSP modulates the system so that the noise input is compensated for as far as the limits of physical laws allow. Compensation is also made for "normal" noises such as those from tyres, wind, engine, gears or even rain.

One optical hint pointing to the remarkable performance of the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG High-End Sound System are the striking illuminated oval tweeters with "Acoustic Lens Technology" in the mirror triangle as well as the impressive Bang & Olufsen "Silver Shadow" aluminium covers for the door loudspeakers.

Calm despite the storm: The new GL is the quietest vehicle in the whole of the SUV world

As the very first car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz has researched the psychoacoustic qualities of vehicles to find out more about aeroacoustic.Here both high frequencies of wind noise as well as the contribution of low frequencies, and in particular the audibility of voices was examined and optimised. During their research, the engineers devoted themselves intensively to the airflow around the vehicle body, the sealing systems on windows and doors as well as the body-in-white. The main focus of such work is not just on the absolute sonic pressure (dB (A)). The aim is rather to generate acoustic which is as homogenous and harmonious as possible, where neither definite frequency ranges nor individual vehicle components or sectors are dominant, as from a speed of about 120 km/h the wind noises are the dominant acoustic quantity. Tyre or engine noises are relegated to the background. Individual aeroacoustic measures taken:

- optimised A-pillar and housing of outside mirror

- reinforcement of the underbody to avoid low-frequency noises

- acoustic front windscreen and optional acoustic side windows made with multilayer glass technology to provide great noise insulation

- use of improved sealing systems with optimised lip seals

- additional aeroacoustic sealing levels in rear compartment

- improved clamping for door windows


Just how successful the aeroacoustic engineers were in tuning the GL "resonance box" can be seen by a comparison with the S-Class: The objective and subjective impression of noise lies at the same pleasant level for both vehicles. However, achieving these top results with the GL requires a great deal more effort than with the luxury saloon. On the one hand because of its typical SUV shape and the large front surface.

On the other hand, the full-size SUV provides excellent acoustic for seven passengers sitting in three rows even under unfavourable conditions as the off-road vehicle can be used in a much wider variety of situations than a saloon – also including travelling in remote areas far away from sealed roads.

Clear proof of the importance of aeroacoustic for Mercedes-Benz is shown by the development of new testing plants. Normal wind tunnels have reached their physical limits as far as the further optimisation of aeroacoustic is concerned as here the interference from the testing equipment is superimposed on the test results. To put it briefly: Mercedes-Benz vehicles like the GL-Class now run so quietly that innovative developments using the present testing equipment would require a great deal of effort to achieve. That is why at the moment a revolutionary interference-optimised wind tunnel is being built at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre (MTC) in Sindelfingen. The testing installation will be opened in 2013 and is a guarantee for future automotive development that the company will continue to retain its lead in aeroacoustic over its competitors.























Credits: Daimler AG

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