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January 27, 2013

Mercedes-Benz GL350 Blue TEC is big and luxurious

The first thing you notice about the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 Blue TEC is how big it is as in minivan big or giant SUV big.

The second thing you notice is how luxurious this vehicle is as in Rolls-Royce or Bentley luxurious, though it’s with Mercedes’ optional $4,300 Designo interior.

The third thing you notice is what you don’t notice at all -- that it’s powered by an oil-burning diesel engine. Mercedes engineers have so managed the usual diesel engine clatter that you can’t distinguish it from a silent-running gasoline engine.

It’s also the one thing that makes the GL almost reasonable, despite its 5,467 pounds, a base price of $63,305 and, with a load of options that cover about anything you can imagine in a modern vehicle, a tested price of $93,040.

The GL350 V6 engine delivers 18/24/20 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption cycle. That compares to 14/19/16 for the GL450 and 13/18/15 for the GL550, which are powered by V8 gasoline engines.

Of course, being a diesel with two fewer cylinders, the 240-horsepower GL350 is more than two seconds slower to 60 miles an hour than either of the gas burners. But you won’t notice it because of the diesel’s enormous torque of 455 pounds-feet, which translates into -- among other things -- the capability to tow up to 7,500 pounds.

Despite the manufacturer’s acceleration rating of 8.2 seconds to 60 miles an hour, which is in economy car territory, the GL350 never seems compromised. It is strong off the line and feels as if it could outrace anything. The top speed is rated at 130 miles an hour.

Of course, you don’t buy a machine like this to go out drag racing with 20-somethings. It fundamentally is a family hauler, albeit for families with big bucks or those who can somehow manage the bank or lease payments.

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