Mercedes GL 500 (2014)

WOLF retro DESIGN  REVIEW. 3rd June 2024

Surprisingly elegant?

A Retro Review looks at products that are usually at least over ten years old from a present-day WOLF perspective with focus on design and craftmanship. While the technology and fashion of an era influence design, and are taken into consideration, great design ideas will transcend their eras to be timeless.

Interesting and factual information may be provided, but our review aims to deliver insight into the eyes and mind of designer

Introduction

Product description

The Mercedes GL in this review is a 2014 GL500 model. Designated as the X166, the GL is a full-size luxury crossover SUV produced from 2012 to 2019.

Price and Availability.

At the time of this review a good GL500 expects between $40,000 and $70,000 depending on the KM. Above this model in Australia was the GL63 AMG and below were the GL350 BlueTEC models. All are readily available second hand now that this model is superseded by the X167

Additional information

The X166 was the second generation of the GL line and in 2016 had a facelift and was rebadged as GLS. At the time of its production it was one of the few models in the Mercedes range that offered 7-seats.

Review

First impression/ Delight

The GL is a lot of car as expected for a seven-seater, yet there is something rather sexy about its lines, and some of that has to do with those clever eyelids. Despite being a large SUV, it does not appear as masculine or dominating as one might expect. This is an elegant beast, and especially so in black.

Exterior Design Review

The X166 GL was a significant improvement over its first-generation predecessor in every aspect, and we appreciate all the attempts made to soften and reduce what is a very large vehicle.

Although straight lines are generally unavoidable with SUV vehicles, those on the GL are on a gentle angle and tend to change direction at the corners. The surfaces are also rarely flat and all this adds to a car that looks as fast as it really is. The car is well balanced proportionately and points firmly towards the front for a strong sense of speed and aerodynamics.

The front of the car is surprisingly gentle and friendly with curvy shaped headlights blending and merging with the shape of the front grill and bonnet. The indicators are at the top and appear as sexy eyelids. The predominantly red tail lights wrap significantly around the sides and protrude out to a slight point in the corners. The satin black AMG wheels optioned on this car are very sporty and suit the black paint.

Interior Design Review

Internally the GL is as plush and comfortable as it looks, and continues with themes of gentle curvatures. The GL500 in this review has extensive use of genuine leather with coverings both the doors and the dashboard.

The car in this review was specified with Designo options for seats and carpets. We particularly like the off-white piping on the leather seats. Satin metallic trimmings frame the main control console section as well as the air vents. These contrast nicely against the specified black maple wood veneer.

Overall, the interior exudes luxuriousness but is still restrained enough not to feel overly opulent or ostentatious.

Craftsmanship.

The GL is a vehicle of substantial build quality, and as expected for an SUV wearing the three-pointed star. The success of the first-generation GL, also meant that Mercedes could go forth with confidence to bring this model up as an industry leader.

Externally the large slabs of steel are purposefully sculpted by deliberate and strong lines. The car feels firm and solid to touch. Doors close with that solid Mercedes feel and you sense that this is a flagship vehicle. Both the headlights and rear lights are well crafted with quality lenses that sit nice and flush with their surrounding panels. The external stepping boards tend to look rather scruffy and are just not made to last, even on low KM cars. The rubber studs on those boards tend to lift and break off. We also think that the bonnet air vents could have been made out of metal rather than plastic. We also think that the bonnet air vents could have been made out of metal rather than plastic.

Internally there is quality throughout with everything feeling firm and solid. Many Mercedes models over the previous 10 years had a feeling of being cheap for economic purposes, and the X167 sought to re-establish Mercedes reputation for “nothing but the best”.

Perhaps the only downfall with quality is with some of the plastics used. The car in this review has been well cared for but we do note that the chromed plastics used throughout are not long-lasting and tend to peel and flake. The window control buttons also tend to ware quite easily.

Function – Experience.

The GL feels as solid as it looks and despite being spacious, it does feel huge. Inside it is rather cosy with all those curved lines and leather padded surface. The perforated leather seats with diamond patterned stitching was an exciting design ten years ago but does tend to be harder to clean with any trapped dirt.

The speedo clusters have satin chromed frames that extend towards you on the sides. We like this more classic analogue look, now that modern cars tend to have flat LCD screens instead. The center console is well arranged with all buttons and controls clear, easy to read and within comfortable reach. The mouse and dial have a nice tactile feel to it. With everything designed with comfort, quality and luxury in mind there isn’t too much to complain about with the interior.

Desirability – Collectability or Value for money

The 2nd generation GL is unlikely to be collectible anytime soon, but in our opinion is an elegant car, prettier than the facelift in 2016 and even nicer than its X167 replacement. As the prices continue to drop, we think low KM examples will represent excellent value. The GL fills the market space that the G-wagon awkwardly tried to fill, but could not since it was neither affordable or practical as a family car. While not as iconic as the legendary G-wagon, it certainly represents value by comparison and still a capable off-roader alternative, especially if you need more than 5 seats.

The factory car cover is a particularly rare option that is worth having of you don’t have a garage to protect your GL.

WORD OF THE WOLF

It is not often that we consider the original release to look better than their face-lifted variants, and when that happens it is testimony to good design. That is the case with the X166 GL which has a more sleek and sophisticated front face to its successors. Even after a decade the GL500 in this review is still a lovely contemporary SUV.

WOLF DESIGN EXCELLENCE SCORE = 7.1

Disclaimer

The information in this review is intended for informational or educational purposes to provide readers an understanding of how something may be seen from a certain design perspective. In this case it is from the view point of WOLF DESIGNS. As design is subjective this review should only be considered as an independent opinion. Information further to being of an opinion is provided to the best of our knowledge based on our own research at the time of doing the review. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies and reserve the right to change or update any content as appropriate.
The final responsibility of the design resides with the original manufacturer.