Seating & Cargo

The front seats have a litany of power adjustments, including optional side-bolster adjustments. Even with the bolsters and lumbar support dialed all the way back, I found the seats stiff. That's typical in German cars, but in a large SUV I prefer cushier seats. The GL has the kind of seats that hold you in place during spirited driving; expert road manners notwithstanding, I'm not sure many GL-Class drivers are going to carve corners.

I compared seating in a GL-Class, QX56, Escalade and Lexus LX 570 at an auto show, and the front seats of all three competitors suited me better than the GL's. Second-row space in the GL seems on par with the competition — I'm about 6 feet tall, and I had no complaints — but it's the third row that shines. Legroom and headroom in the GL are leagues better than in the others, and the GL's seats sit high enough that passengers aren't staring at their knees. The Lincoln Navigator is perhaps the only competitor that has as much third-row room. As craftsmanship goes, there is no competition: The GL's third row boasts reading lights, overhead A/C vents, a fixed skylight and leather-wrapped armrests. It puts the other SUVs' third-row décor to shame.

All trim levels have a power-folding 50/50-split third row. It folds more or less flat, as does the second row, and the resulting load floor is free of any major gaps. Maximum cargo volume is 83.3 cubic feet, which considerably trails some of the GL's boxiest competitors.
Cargo Volume Compared
Max. seats Behind 3rd row (cu. ft.) Behind 2nd row (cu. ft.) Behind 1st row (cu. ft.)
Mercedes GL-Class 7 14.3 43.8 83.3
Lexus LX 570 7 15.5 41.0 83.1
Cadillac Escalade* 7 16.9 60.3 108.9
Lincoln Navigator* 7 18.2 54.5 103.3
Infiniti QX56 7 20.0 56.7 97.1
*Regular-length models.
Source: Automaker data for 2009 models.

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