HOCHGURGL, Austria -- With its freshened and renamed GLS going on sale next year, Mercedes-Benz aims to stay on top of the large premium SUV segment in the U.S.
The 2017 GLS, which replaces the outgoing GL, has more power, greater fuel efficiency, a new nine-speed transmission, upgraded suspension and design changes for both the interior and exterior. Mercedes-Benz executives say they hope that's enough to maintain the seven-passenger SUV's sales momentum in the second half of its life cycle.
"Hopefully, with the new model, we will even increase the market share," said Hendrik Hummel, head of product management for the GLS, at a media event here. He declined to give volume targets.
Halfway through its second generation, sales for the outgoing GL rose 7.1 percent through the first 11 months of 2015 to 24,858 vehicles. The GL has topped the large premium SUV segment since 2010, though it would be outpaced by the Cadillac Escalade nameplate if sales of the regular model and the extended-length ESV model were combined. The same is true of Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models.
The new GLS models -- there are four, including an AMG performance version -- go on sale in April in the U.S. Pricing will be announced later, but Hummel acknowledged a "small price increase" is coming. But because the GLS will come with more standard equipment, he said, the new models will represent a value improvement for buyers.
Mercedes-Benz isn't yet releasing fuel economy ratings, but executives said the GLS is more efficient than the outgoing GL.
Exterior changes include a new front end and rear bumper and full LED taillights. The inside has a redesigned instrument panel and media display, new multifunction steering wheel, modified center console with touchpad controls and new trim options.
Mercedes-Benz also brought the GLS' safety systems up to the levels of the current flagship S-class sedan, Hummel said, with more active safety driver-assistance systems included as standard. A new slippery mode is included for driving on slick roads.
"The GLS fully lives up to the S in its name," said Axel Heix, Mercedes-Benz director of product projects for SUVs and sports cars.
Horsepower has been increased for every model, now covering a range of 255 hp for the diesel-powered GLS350d up to 577 hp for the Mercedes-AMG GLS63. The engines in the diesel model and the gasoline-powered GLS450 and GLS550 are paired with Mercedes-Benz's 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission. The GLS63 sticks with a special AMG seven-speed automatic transmission.