2020 Mercedes GLS vs. 2020 Ford Explorer

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Mercedes GLS have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Ford Explorer doesn’t offer pretensioners for the middle seat belts.

The GLS’ pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Explorer doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

To provide maximum traction and stability on all roads, All-Wheel Drive is standard on the GLS. But it costs extra on the Explorer.

Both the GLS and the Explorer have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras, rear cross-path warning, driver alert monitors and available lane departure warning systems.

The Mercedes GLS weighs 732 to 1356 pounds more than the Ford Explorer. The NHTSA advises that heavier vehicles are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts.

Warranty

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The GLS comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Explorer’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 13th in reliability, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Mercedes vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Mercedes 1 place higher in reliability than Ford.

Engine

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The GLS has more powerful engines than the Explorer:

Horsepower

Torque

GLS 450 3.0 turbo 6 cyl. hybrid

362 HP

369 lbs.-ft.

GLS 580 4.0 turbo V8 hybrid

483 HP

516 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 2.3 turbo 4 cyl.

300 HP

310 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid

318 HP

322 lbs.-ft.

Explorer Platinum 3.0 turbo V6

365 HP

380 lbs.-ft.

Explorer ST 3.0 turbo V6

400 HP

415 lbs.-ft.

Fuel Economy and Range

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The GLS has 5.8 gallons more fuel capacity than the Explorer Hybrid’s standard fuel tank (23.8 vs. 18 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The GLS has 3.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Explorer V6 Turbo’s standard fuel tank (23.8 vs. 20.2 gallons).

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Mercedes GLS higher (6 out of 10) than the Ford Explorer (5). This means the GLS produces up to 6.9 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Explorer every 15,000 miles.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the GLS’ brake rotors are larger than those on the Explorer:

GLS

Explorer

Explorer ST

Front Rotors

14.8 inches

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

Rear Rotors

13.6 inches

12.4 inches

13.8 inches

The GLS’ standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs standard on the Explorer ST are solid, not vented.

Tires and Wheels

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The GLS’ tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Explorer’s standard 65 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the GLS has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Explorer. The GLS’ optional 23-inch wheels are larger than the 21-inch wheels optional on the Explorer ST/Platinum.

Suspension and Handling

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The front and rear suspension of the GLS uses air springs for a smoother, controlled ride than the Explorer, which uses coil springs. Air springs maintain proper ride height and ride more smoothly.

The GLS offers an available adjustable active suspension system, which counteracts cornering forces actively, limiting body roll and improving handling and stability. Ford doesn’t offer an active suspension on the Explorer.

The GLS has a standard driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Explorer’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The GLS has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The GLS’ height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The Explorer doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the GLS’ wheelbase is 4.3 inches longer than on the Explorer (123.4 inches vs. 119.1 inches).

For greater off-road capability the GLS has a 2.2 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the Explorer (10.1 vs. 7.9 inches), allowing the GLS to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The GLS Off-Road Package’s minimum ground clearance is 3.4 inches higher than on the Explorer (11.3 vs. 7.9 inches).

Passenger Space

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The GLS has 2.9 inches more rear legroom and 2.4 inches more third row legroom than the Explorer.

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the GLS’ middle and third row seats recline. The Explorer’s third row seats don’t recline.

Towing

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The GLS’ standard towing capacity is much higher than the Explorer’s (7700 vs. 3000 pounds).

Servicing Ease

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The GLS uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Explorer uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than Ford. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in service department satisfaction. With a 59% lower rating, Ford is ranked 24th.

Ergonomics

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Unlike the driver-only memory system in the Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum, the GLS has standard driver and passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat, steering wheel position, suspension setting, power steering assist, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The GLS offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Explorer doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The GLS’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Explorer’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

The GLS’ rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Explorer’s standard intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

When the GLS is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The Explorer’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The GLS has standard heated front and optional heated second and third row seats, which keep the driver and passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Ford doesn’t offer heated seats in the third row of the Explorer.

Optional air conditioned the front and second row seats keep the GLS’ passengers comfortable and take the sting out of hot leather in summer. The Explorer doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats for the second row.

Both the GLS and the Explorer offer available massaging front seats. The GLS also offers optional massaging second row seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging second row seats aren’t available in the Explorer.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Mercedes GLS has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console and one for the rear passengers. Only the Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum offers wireless charging.

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