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Luxury Production Vehicles: Mercedes-Benz GL350

Testing the GL350 to stand up to the rigors and specifics of shooting video

by Greg Stefano in Design on 04 January 2013

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After years of producing video behind the wheel of everything from a 15-passenger van to a cube truck, and shooting out the windows of innumerable Caravan and Town & Country minivans, we thought it might be interesting to see how some of the luxury-brand vehicles we often feature in front of the camera would perform in a production setting. Our latest major Cool Hunting Video outing took us all along the coast of California and into Las Vegas where we met some great characters, from the passionate entrepreneurs of Back To The Roots to the enthusiastic curator of the International Banana Museum. Stay tuned for more great videos to come from the adventure but in the meantime, check out how the Mercedes-Benz GL-350 stood up to 10 days of rigorous travel and shooting.

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Our initial impression of this diesel beast was skeptical, it felt purposed toward a suburban family and it was unclear how that would play while shooting. But it soon became apparent that the cavernous rear (93.8 cu ft) and automated folding rear seats were exceptionally handy for moving around with gear. With the push of a button the rear passenger seats in the GL flip forward and transform themselves in a nice, flat cargo area. There was ample room for all of our gear and extra space to set up a mobile work station to dump footage and backup cards. With plenty of area to set up a tripod or high-hat to shoot out the sides and back, the GL stood up to any minivan for follow shots or just capturing beautiful landscapes on the move.

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When you are essentially living out of a car for an extended period of time comfort is key. The GL didn't disappoint and for the entire 900-mile trek we rode in style. Taking advantage of the large sunroof and extremely comfortable seats—with both heat and ventilation for the varying climates we passed through—it beat out any shoot car to date. Despite its large size the GL also delivers on performance—with a rating of 26 mpg on the highway and a monstrous 26.4-gallon tank, stops at the gas station were few. The 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 engine has a lot of guts and it handled beautifully on back country roads and highways, as well as through the city.

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We were equally impressed with the technology on the GL. While parallel parking the 201.6-inch, seven-passenger SUV seemed daunting at first, the PARKTRONIC system in the car made it a breeze getting the lengthy vehicle into tight spaces. The DISTRONIC PLUS system was even better. DISTRONIC PLUS is an adaptive cruise control measure that lets you set a preferred speed, so using its radar the car will automatically slow you down or speed you up depending on obstacles in front of you. After you overcome the initial shock of how precise and effective the DISTRONIC PLUS is, it becomes an essential part of the driving experience, especially when you are a highway for more than five hours at a time.

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While initially the idea of using a high-end luxury vehicle for production purposes might seem absurd, in actuality many of the features are exceptionally suited for this kind of work. The space, comfort and safety measures take a lot of the pressure off in what can be high-stress and exhausting scenarios. Keep your eyes peeled for more tales of how other performance cars stand up to the test.

Images by Greg Stefano

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