Welcome to Ministry of Interior Affairs, a new feature that highlights the interior design and functionality of some of the most popular vehicles available in Canada.
Here’s a bold claim: I think that what we’re looking at here, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS, might just be the most beautiful interior you’ll find in any three-row SUV on the market.
Of course, this comes with some caveats. Number one: at a list price of $133,500 with options, it’s certainly not for the faint of wallet. Number two: every single one of the men who looked at this disagreed with me. The leather fitted here is a gorgeous, rich dark grey as opposed to black, the laser-cut Burmester speaker grilles are some of the prettiest you’ll find anywhere, and vast expanses of open-pore wood are far classier than glossy finishes, but these details were lost on them. They like lots of contrasting colours and shiny things, it seems.
In a lower-priced SUV, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, mainly because the alternative tends to be a bland black-on-black motif. But by the time I’m spending six figures on a vehicle, I want it to feel like arm candy, like an attractive man in a well-fitted suit. And the redesigned, third-generation GLS fits the bill.
But just as importantly, it also happens to make good use of its ample space and translates it into practicality. In the rearward cargo area, 355 litres will fit behind the third-row seats, which is just enough to position our trusty jogging stroller upright and still get the hatch closed. Beneath the load floor, there’s a spare tire and a convenient spot for tonneau cover storage. Two sets of buttons drop both of the rear rows at once or each individually: doing the latter opens up 1,380 litres of space behind the second row and 2,400 litres behind the first. While the third-row seats fold nicely flat, the second-row seats don’t get to quite as tight a fit.
The third row is easy to access, as long as you’re patient with power function while holding down the button on the second-row seatback. These seats are meant to shift with an installed child seat in place; we found this finicky in our testing as the car seat’s high back kept catching on the headrest, so car seat design could be a factor here.
Once you’re into the third row, you’ll find two comfortable and roomy seats with plenty of head room, each with a cupholder and not one but two USB-C connections. The leg room back there worked for me, but our taller observers banged their knees somewhat. Both third-row positions have the hardware necessary to install forward-facing LATCH-equipped child seats, meaning that the GLS can support up to four car seats in total.
This test unit has the $5,600 Premium Rear Seat package equipped, which turns the second row into elite seating. With this add-on, both second-row outboard seats are heated, ventilated, and equipped with a massaging function. There’s an impressive middle-armrest setup with a tablet that can be used to control the MBUX infotainment system, mounted alongside a wireless phone charging pad. There are power adjusters for both seats, the window shades, and the large panoramic sunroof. The latter has a fabric cover that lets through pinholes of light, which is a minor detail but may not be a preference for buyers at this price point.
Head room in the second row is a generous 1,021 mm, and leg room is 1,064 mm at the maximum setting. These aren’t captain’s chairs, though that option is available, and there aren’t a lot of cupholders – really only one and a half on the centre console above a 115-volt plug and two USB-C ports (there are no old-style USB ports at all, so get ready to upgrade your cables), plus some very large pockets in the doors.
For the front row, the amenities are similar: heated, ventilated, and massaging seats, a wireless charging pad, three more USB-C ports, and a 12-volt plug. There are two cupholders in the centre and a larger space in each of the doors, but other than a small storage compartment beneath the clamshell-style centre console, there’s no additional storage space.
One of the most dramatic updates with the 2020 model year’s redesign is the pair of 12.3-inch screens, one behind the steering wheel for the fully digital gauge cluster, and a second offset to the right that houses the MBUX infotainment system. This system isn’t yet entirely perfect, but I’m a fan of its looks and functionality. Flicking menus back and forth on the touchpad can be fiddly at times, but the steering wheel mounted buttons are handy, and being able to say, “hey Mercedes, change the interior lighting to blue” is a fun party trick.
Were there any one feature that could be considered a disappointment, it’s the stalk-mounted shifter to which Mercedes-Benz has remained so loyal. An owner would get used to it over time, but when compared to, say, the etched crystal shifter in the BMW X7, the Mercedes version is simply not special enough.
However, as a complete package, the elegant finishes and attention to detail in the GLS make this a top choice for the well-off and style-conscious family.