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NY LIVE: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS

by Drew Johnson

The new GLS gets more room and hybrid tech.

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its next-generation GLS full-size luxury SUV at the 2019 New York auto show.

Billed as the S-Class of SUVs, the 2020 GLS boasts several improvements over its predecessor. The most obvious is size -- the GLS is a couple inches longer than the previous model, thanks in large to a wheelbase that has grown by 2.4-inches.

Mercedes turned that extra length into more cabin space. Mercedes says second-row legroom in the GLS is up by as much as 3.4-inches, while the SUV's third row has been made large enough to comfortably accommodate two adults over six-feet tall. All three rows in the new GLS are electronically adjustable.

In an effort to further increase the comfort of all passengers, the GLS can be equipped with three-, four- or five-zone automatic climate controls. The GLS' third-row seats includes two USB power ports and, for the first time, a heated seat function.

If backseat passengers require even more comfort, the GLS can be equipped with Mercedes' optional Executive Rear Seat Package, which replaces the GLS' standard second-row bench with a pair of captain's chairs. The package also includes a number of other upgrades, including a larger center armrest, available climate controlled and massaging seats and a 7-inch Android tablet to control the GLS' MBUX infotainment system.

The GLS will initially be offered in two different trims -- the entry-level GLS 450 and the range-topping GLS 580. Both models will come standard with Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, a nine-speed automatic transmission and a 48-volt mild hybrid system.

The 450 model is powered by an inline-six gas engine that develops 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque on its own. The mild hybrid system adds another 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque over short periods.

The 580 gets a gas V8 rated at 483 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Again, the mild hybrid can provide an extra 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque when needed.

Included in the GLS' standard all-wheel drive system is an electronically controlled transfer case that can send up to 100 percent of the engine's power to a single axle. The GLS 580 can be further outfitted with an upgraded transfer case that includes a multi-plate clutch and a reduction gear for off-road driving.

In order to further improve the GLS' off-road prowess -- along with its on-road comfort -- all models are fitted as standard with Mercedes' AIRMATIC air suspension system with Adaptive Damping Plus. One neat new trick of the system is a Carwash function that automatically raises the vehicle, thereby narrowing its track to make it easier to drive into an automatic carwash.

An E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL system is also available as an optional upgrade. Operating on a 48-volt system, E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL can control the damping and spring forces on each individual wheel. The system also has a CURVE function that, like a motorcycle, leans the GLS into turns to help improve cornering. A ROAD SURFACE SCAN is also bundled into the package and can ready the suspension for any road imperfections detected ahead.

Mercedes wrapped all that new hardware in attractive new sheetmetal. Despite looking far more modern than the vehicle currently sitting in showrooms, the 2020 GLS still sports classic SUV lines, thanks in large to an upright windshield and traditional roofline. But despite its chunky proportions, the new GLS is actually more aerodynamic than its predecessor.

Inside is where the GLS shows the most improvement. The SUV's interior has been given a thorough overall that includes a pair of 12.3-inch screens, grab handles on the center console and buttons with haptic feedback. There's also an optional MBUX Interior Assistant that uses a camera system to allow for gesture controls of certain vehicle functions, such as turning on the map lights.

And being the S-Class of SUVs, the 2020 GLS is crammed with the latest driving assistance technologies. There's the normal semi-autonomous stuff like adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and also more advanced systems like a LiveTraffic function that can automatically slow the vehicle if it detects a traffic jam upcoming.

Pricing information hasn't been announced, but Mercedes says the 2020 GLS will go on sale by the end of the year.

Live photos by Brian Williams.

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