Cabin Quality

If the cockpit in a Cadillac Escalade or Infiniti QX56 feels like a roomy lounge, the GL550's cabin is eminently more carlike. Don't expect massive armrests and a tall dashboard — rather, the wraparound dash and narrower seats could pass for those in a luxury sedan. Quality is good: Upper portions of the dashboard come wrapped in leather, and wood and chrome inlays effectively offset the lower panels. Nearly every surface is soft to the touch, including areas the driver's and front passenger's knees might knock against. Fit and finish is respectable, save an unsightly gap around the glove compartment. A more ergonomic steering wheel has replaced last year's ill-fitted one, whose audio controls were too easy to press by accident.

The center controls look and feel high-quality, and it's nice to see Mercedes has stuck with black plastic where other carmakers have painted theirs a tacky-looking silver. The navigation system has also been enormously improved over its predecessor, with the latest rendition of Mercedes' Comand interface. Gone are last year's tacky graphics and annoying smart-key interface; now there's a handy directional keypad with shortcut keys to zoom in or out or go back a screen. The graphics, too, are first-rate.

Blind-spot visibility is generally good, but most Cars.com staffers who drove the GL thought the tiny side mirrors were a joke.

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