DRIVEN: New Mercedes GLS is supremely luxurious, especially the ‘bouncy’ Maybach

Published Apr 9, 2024


There used to be a time when the Mercedes-Benz S-Class was the pinnacle of success, status and luxury. Well, at least for us older types.

Subsequently, their German cousins BMW and Audi entered the fray and seeing the gap, Toyota with their Lexus brand also joined the party and let's not forget Range Rover.

Still, even today with the proliferation of options, there’s something special about driving a big three-point star car.

And because the world insists on driving SUVs, Merc have now updated their GLS to cater for the famous and affluent.

There’s nothing radical about the update - you have to be an aficionado to notice the exterior and interior changes. They’ve also added a 48-volt mild hybrid system with an Integrated Starter Generator that adds 15kW and 250Nm.

There are three versions on offer: the ultra-luxurious GLS 600 Maybach, petrol GLS 580 and GLS 450d, which we drove on launch.

They’ve added what Mercedes calls a more striking radiator grille with the four louvres galvanised in high-quality (what else?) Silver Shadow and a more prominent bumper with integrated air inlet grills. At the back they’ve changed the lights, which are now three horizontal blocks and they’ve fixed on an underside guard and increased the ground clearance by 30mm for those who feel the need to take it offroad.

All of this stands on impressive new 20-inch light alloys in Himalayas grey with a high-sheen finish.

Inside, the standard seven-seater GLS has had a couple of tweaks with revised trim finishes including MANUFAKTUR glossy black flowing lines piano lacquer previously only found in the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4Matic.

The updated MBUX infotainment system has been installed with classic, sporty and discreet options for the driver and if you venture off the beaten track there’s Off-Road Mode.

It shows gradient, lateral inclination, compass and steering angle while the 360-degree cameras offer a “transparent bonnet” to better see obstacles under the car.

Talking of the bonnet, under it is Merc’s lovely 3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder turbo diesel with 270kW (+15kW and 250Nm new energy) and 750Nm coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels.

As the S Class, it’s on top of the triangle, well, technically just under the Maybach, you would expect the kind of refinement and comfort that R2,304,700 buys and you would not be disappointed.

The interior is cavernous and supremely comfortable, and with myriad seating settings you’d have to be an overweight basketball player not to find the ideal driving position.

The second row of seats, should you be chauffeured, provides ample space and can shift forward and backwards and also recline, while there’s an independent climate control unit that can be adjusted separately.

The ride is supremely comfortable as it wafts along, and despite the large 20-inch wheels, the suspension makes short work of the many road imperfections towards Hartbeespoort dam on temporary sections where roadworks are taking place.

Driving around the Cradle of Humankind, the big hulk was surprisingly nimble, but keep in mind, it doesn’t come badged as an AMG and behaves like a luxury Mercedes-Benz SUV would.

It’s no slouch though, and when you give it a bit of right foot, it doesn’t leap forward but instead quietly gets on with it and will easily get to its top speed of 250km/h should you have a good lawyer and bail money.

The reality however is that something about the GLS says it’s somehow wrong to be thrashing it.

Still, body roll is minimal when you carry a bit of speed into a corner, and as I said, the seats provide perfect support.

But back on the highway you know it’s at home cruising along effortlessly to the next meeting to make another deal and at just under 9l/100km over the launch route, it’s frugal too.

While the GLS certainly makes a statement, if you really want to turn heads and have R4,500,000 you’re not sure what to do with, then go for the Maybach with its epitome of luxury, opulence and grace.

Apparently there are a handful of buyers a month who do.

We were treated to its bouncing mode or Free Driving Mode which looks very gangsta-like, but is actually used to free itself out of the sand when those oil-producing country owners send it up the dunes on the valve limiter.

The Mercedes GLS range comes with a two year unlimited kilometre warranty and a five year 100 000km maintenance plan.


GLS 450d: R 2 304 700

GLS 580: R 2 840 600

Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600: R 4 500 000