Mercedes GL I was the german answer to the opulent Range Rover in the sense that if I look up the word “excess” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of this behemoth.

Is there anything more to say about this blinged out behemoth? Maybe just that this was an American car that came to our shores, a sort of Saab 9-7X but more popular. And you can see from space why it’s a thoroughbred American car.

You’d say at first that it’s because of the Lenin Palace-like dimensions or maybe because it comes with engines the size of the Lenin Palace. Then you could also say that it comes with 7 seats standard (the 5 seats version is the lesser ML) and only comes with an automatic transmission because Americans can’t drive manual transmissions. And the smallest petrol is a 4.7 V8 petrol which you can only find in dreams, because the sort of sheikh who could afford such excess would get a Range Rover 5.0 Supercharged anyway.


But the main giveaway that this is a bling car and that the Mercedes GL I is made for Americans is that you could buy a front-wheel drive version. Yep, front-wheel drive on the GL. You’d wonder why you’d buy a Mercedes GL I with front-wheel drive but then you’d get answers like “Florida” or “California” and then you’d realise that you don’t really need 4×4 in California. Or Florida.

The second indicator for this American car lies in the sales figures. In Europe, 24,462 units were sold in the entire production period and in the US they sold 154,636 units. And when you say US you actually mean California, Florida and a couple of other states with lots of money and no notable winter. I would have made jokes about people who haven’t heard of vasectomy and people in bad ties with the law, but the reality is this – the Mercedes GL I is an American car, assembled in the US and sold in few numbers in Europe.


Mercedes GL I Engines


  • 4.7 V8 of 335 horsepower  – The smallest petrol engine for the GL and the engine made specially so that even americans living on welfare can aford, this M273 is on par with its big brother.
  • 5.5 V8 of 382 horsepower – Because if you’re going to spend 100-150 grand at least do it in style, and a 5.5 V8 is the only choice for this 4000-ton behemoth. Sure, being the M273 it suffers from the balance shaft issues, but honestly, for this car and for what it costs, that issue is a minor thing. It may be a pain on an E Class, but on a GL it’s just a minor annoyance.



  • 3.0 V6 of 181, 208, 221 and 261 horsepower – Likewise, for an E Class this engine is fantastic bombastic elastic, for an S Class it’s adequate, for an ML it’s more suitable than beef wellington, but for the Mercedes GL I  it’s like having Graham Norton carrying Steve Harvey on his back while he asks 100 americans which is the best car and the answer is “the most excessive”. Ah yes, there’s no point in talking about the issues it develops when driving around town, like injector seals or EGR.
  • 4.0 V8 of 302 horsepower – GL420 CDI and GL450 CDI are the most suitable European engines because petrols are for americans. Reliable diesel engines, by the way, except they have so much torque that the 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox quits like an employee at a hardware store on annual inventory day.



Mercedes GL I General Issues

  • Who would have thought that the Mercedes GL I is an extremely expensive car to maintain? It’s a big, square and heavy car so you’ll be changing tyres, brakes and suspension on a weekly basis. And if you’ve got air suspension, well, prepare even more money. Ah yeah, the air suspension is standard. 
  • The automatic gearbox unfortunately is the classic 7G-Tronic which isn’t the most reliable thing in the industry, but on the GL it laggs even more. Of course, if you hook it up to a 500 Nm torque 2.2 diesel from Mercedes, it might do it’s job. But when you link it to the diesel engines on the Mercedes GL I and especially the 700 Nm on the GL450 CDI, it’s like Steve Harvey punching Katherine Parkinson. There’d be nothing left of her. It would disintegrate into 1000 pieces.
  • The Mercedes GL I has always been at the bottom, barrel bottom to be honest, in most reliability surveys. You’d consider getting a Mercedes GL because it’s more reliable than a Discovery for example, but the reality says otherwise.
  • Special note on the petrol engines, especially the GL450, which tends to catch fire. 


Mercedes GL I Verdict

So here are the jokes that this is an apartment on wheels and you’ll be hard-pressed to find bigger behemoths in traffic than you. It’s a thoroughbred American car so you have to be very sober when buying this monument to excess on wheels.



What engines do you recommend? For petrol power, I’d straight up recommend the 382 horsepower 5.5 V8 because if you’re going to spend that kind of money, at least go all the way. As for the diesel, definitely the 4.0 V8 with 302 hp and 700 Nm of torque. And no, don’t hate its excess any more than you hate on americans for not knowing where the Black Sea is, this is simply a ridiculously expensive car. I love it.