2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 First Ride Review

It’s been about two weeks since the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class made its debut in New York, and we’ve already gotten our first bit of seat time in the new biggest Benz. Unfortunately, it’s not the seat we’d like to be in — we’ll have to wait a few more months before Mercedes lets us get behind the wheel. For now, we’ll have to settle for a riding shotgun while Dr. Andreas Zygan, the Chief Engineer Development SUVs, and Stefanie Schmitz, Senior Project Manager Development SUVs, blast around some massive sand dunes and uneven dirt roads about 100 miles west of Las Vegas near the California state line.

Mercedes’ main goal with this event was to showcase the off-road capabilities of the new GLS, including the new four-wheel-drive system and trick E-Active Body Control air suspension that debuted last year on the 2019 GLE-Class. Zygan and Schmitz focused on building an SUV that was as comfortable and opulent as the S-Class sedan without giving up anything in terms of off-road prowess.

The new GLS sends 100 percent of the power to the rear in most scenarios and up to 50 percent to the front when needed.

You also get skid plates underneath. If you get stuck, a special Free Driving Assist mode used the air suspension to bounce and rock the GLS to get it free. One note: tire pressures were reduced to 17 psi on all vehicles.

Other changes to the GLS include a 2.4-inch longer wheelbase to improve space in the rear, optional seating for six with second-row captain’s chairs, the latest version of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, heated seats and USB ports for the third row and available five-zone climate control. It also gets the company’s latest and greatest driver assistance tech. While we didn’t get to test it on the GLS, the GLE we drove to the dunes from Las Vegas had its adaptive cruise control shut off in some extremely heavy rain on I-15.

The initial impressions are promising, but we can’t make any final judgements until we get a chance to drive it ourselves. We’re interested to see if the improved off-road ride translates well to the pavement, and if the extra room and new tech really make this feel like the S-Class of SUVs. Stay tuned for a full review sometime in the next few months.