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Old 11-24-2007, 02:00 PM
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Arrow Luxury SUV big on bling: Mercedes-Benz GL550

I'm not supposed to use the word bling any more. It has been decreed, from on high, that the phrase is no longer au courant and that its use will render the user, and by extension this newspaper, extremely un-hip. And, Lord knows, I'm all about being hip.

But if I'm not allowed to say bling, how else am I to succinctly describe Mercedes-Benz's new GL550? A marriage of the company's largest sport-utility vehicle and its latest high-tech V8, in consummating the union, Mercedes has bestowed the new top-of-the-line GL with all manner of shiny bits. The grille is festooned with chrome trim as are the foglamp surrounds, the side door trim and roof rails.

The 550 also wears a set of gargantuan 21-inch AMG rims, though I'm assured this is the stock version and not some Mercedes Canada project vehicle to test a warehouse full of accessories. No matter what the editor says, it is fully blinged out.

Of course, what Mercedes really wants you to notice is that the 5.5-litre V8 has 382 horsepower in the spec box opposite engine output rather than the old 4.7's 335. Normally, the addition of 47 extra horses would not be that great a temptation to break out the champagne, but the GL is a brontosaurus of an SUV with a curb weight of 2,465 kilograms and every little bit helps.

It's the big V8's 391 pound-feet of torque -- across a Grand Canyon-wide 2,800 to 4,800 rpm peak -- that gives the GL550 its speedy-for-a-tank passing. Indeed, though its zero-to-100 kilometres an hour time is a substantially quicker 6.5 seconds, the real benefit of all that low-end pulling power is the effortless way it eats up speed. Unless you're trying to keep up with that Corvette up ahead, the 5.5L hardly ever has to venture higher up the tachometer than 4,000 rpm, making for a truly relaxed ride.

Even when it does, however, the double overhead camshaft, four-valves-per-cylinder V8 is much smoother than Mercedes' older-generation, single-cam, three-valve V8.

Keeping those revs low (and hence reducing fuel consumption) is Mercedes' new seven-speed transmission. Now a staple on the three-pointed products, the transmission makes the powertrain all that much smoother by minimizing the dip in revs between gears. Indeed, in most light-throttle situations, one can't feel the slushbox's internal goings-on at all.

Inside, there's a little less bl... (oh, you know what I mean) if only for the fact that much chrome would probably blind the driver. If a little more subdued, it's no less opulent. The 550 version of the GL comes packed to the gunwales with luxury goodies including, but not limited to a heated steering wheel, three-zone climate control, a DVD-based navigation system and a 440-watt harman-kardon Logic 7 audio system and power-folding third-row seats. The only significant option is rear climate control for those aforementioned aftward seats.

The GL can house three rows of tall *****s, making it one of the very few utility vehicles that can mimic the abilities of the common everyday minivan. That third row also easily folds down, liberating an additional 43.8 cubic feet of cargo space and rendering the GL550's rear hatch large enough for everything this side of a herd of Dalmatians.

Source: [url=http://autos.canada.com/news/story.html?id=755710ca-a077-4b56-9b59-74c74c3e5d28]Driving.ca[/url]
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