Truthfully, from a ride perspective, the GLS is a wee bit of a letdown. Well, when you pitch a car as the S-Class of SUVs, you’re potentially setting yourself up a fall.
On uneven, rough country roads, the GLS struggles to keep itself from jiggling and wobbling about. Perhaps this is down to the need for stiffer anti-roll bars to help keep its frankly massive 2.5-tonne body in check, but the heightened level of headtoss is nonetheless a source of frustration.
It makes a bit of a point of thumping over ruts and bumps, too. In any case, the X7 doesn’t falter quite so much in this respect, although that might come down to the fact it comes on 21in alloy wheels, as opposed to the standard 22in set of the GLS.
Still, vertical body control over more uniform undulations is very good. There’s a pillowy softness to the way the GLS steams through compressions that, encouragingly, doesn’t then result in heightened float on the way back up again. It contains its mass reasonably well through corners, too, although you’re never going to forget that you’re at the wheel of a very, very big car.
Grip is good, if not exactly endless, but the manner in which the stability systems pitched in to correct the meandering front end on the slick, cold roads of our test route was impressively sympathetic. The steering, meanwhile, is accurate and sensibly weighted, and it has quite a nice sense of elasticity about it as you add on lock in Sport mode. Given that Sport also firms up the suspension, further compromising the ride (I’m not sure why you’d want to drive this car in a sporty manner anyway), the presence of configurable Individual mode is a welcome fallback.
Where the GLS really shines is in how it stops and goes. Here you see its S-Class aspirations shine through far more convincingly. Step-off is impressively smooth, the 2.9-litre V6’s immense torque reserves allowing you to gracefully surge forward before its distantly muscular rumble gradually ebbs as you come off the throttle. It’s barely audible at a cruise, although the 22in alloys do generate slightly more road roar than you’d ideally like.
The brakes, meanwhile, are excellently calibrated. The pedal provides good feel, and its longer travel allows you build up resistence in a gradual, controlled fashion.