Fastlane
Mercedes-Benz GL 450
By Alex Taylor III, Fortune senior editor

(FORTUNE Magazine) -- Backstory: With gasoline at $3.20 a gallon where I live, who needs another seven-seat SUV? Mercedes loyalists, for starters. Many with growing families have been bailing out of the five-seat ML-class for the roomier Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. At $2,380 less than the Escalade, this Mercedes rig is practically a bargain.

Test drive: If you really need a vehicle that weighs more than 2½ tons and costs as much as two Ford Explorers, what's not to like in the GL?

Mercedes are seldom anything but tasteful, and the clean, modern design makes the GL look smaller than it is. The interior is luscious, with creamy leather set off by high-gloss maple accents, and the controls are instantly familiar to anyone with a Benz background.

Options include the by-now-obligatory two-screen DVD player for back-seat passengers at $2,630. On my test roads, the ML felt light on its feet for a big vehicle - even when loaded with a family and a week's worth of groceries.

With 335 horsepower and a claimed zero-to-60 time of 7.4 seconds, the GL was capable of passing almost everything on the road - except, as the old joke goes, a gas station.

Price: As tested: $68,075  Top of page