Road test: Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 proves a tech-heavy ride

They call this vehicle the Premium Plus, and frankly that’s not a bad description at all

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Mercedes-Benz is not a brand you’d associate with anything old-fashioned, despite the fact its history stretches back almost a century.

Similarly, it isn’t a company that would forge ahead with barely tested technology, leaving drivers with cars that either don’t work properly or have a whole series of gizmos you’d never want or need.

Neither is the case with the GLS 580. Innovation, though, appears to be imprinted into its very DNA, if that isn’t pushing an allusion too far. Suffice to say the model's proverbial bells and whistles have evidently all been tested and seem to have a purpose. Cue communal sighs of relief.

The GLS 580 is another contender in the big, luxury SUV sphere, combining “first-class indulgence” with “first-in-class innovations”, says Mercedes. It is also, the marketing men and women say, “the S-Class of SUVs, and then some”.

These are big claims, though anyone who has driven a GLS 580 might have to admit they’re not a continent’s distance from the truth.

The GLS models had a complete redesign a couple of years ago, and it certainly shows in the 580. This is the most powerful of the range and, as you’d expect, the effect of speed when you’re giving it the beans is minimal. Something to bear in mind, of course, when you’re in a vehicle that can hit 100 kilometres per hour in just over five seconds.

Seven people can comfortably sit in the cabin and, unless you’re giving The Rock and a few of his gym buddies a lift, no one will feel crowded. Even if they were, they’d appreciate the back-massaging seats (that’s one of those bells and whistles we talked about, and very effective a feature it is, too).

In fact, you feel rather magnificent rolling around in a GLS 580. Surely that's the case with all big, luxury SUVs, I hear you say. Some give nowhere near the ride experience we’re talking about here.

The Premium Plus 580 gives you plenty. It’s a hybrid, which is always a positive these days, and all the features fit together incredibly nicely. It has all the driver aids you can think of and screens litter the interior, which has been decked out in macchiato beige fabrics with oak-wood trim.

The GLS 580 also has a series of autonomous driving functions

Almost everything in the car can be controlled via the Mercedes me app. This bit of kit has been around for a while, but you could argue the GLS 580 (along with the S-Class) really utilises the online tool’s various features.

The app sends you messages if, say, you’ve forgotten to lock the car, allowing you to do so from anywhere in the world (as long as you’ve got a phone signal).

You can also start the vehicle, open the sunroof or windows, get it to sing like Peter Rosalita (America's Got Talent contestant from Abu Dhabi) … well, not that last one, but almost all the actions you might choose to carry out when you get behind the wheel are controllable via the app.

The GLS 580 also has a series of autonomous driving functions that, no matter what naysayers claim, are an indication that fully self-driving cars are likely to be available sooner rather than later.

All this is not necessarily unique to Mercedes, or indeed the 580, but in this case the various features are superb additions to an already noteworthy product and might be the deciding factor if you were on the fence.

Let’s face it, the luxury SUV market offers plenty of options. You wouldn’t be unhappy if you went with the GLS 580 Premium Plus, though, and making it do things remotely is probably going to be entertaining for weeks, at least. Like we said, nothing old-fashioned here, and it shows.

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre V8 biturbo with EQ Boost

Power: 483hp

Torque: 700Nm from 2,000rpm

Transmission: nine-speed automatic

Top speed: 250kph

Updated: October 02, 2021, 3:54 AM