I’m loving the comfort of the G 350 d: heated front and rear leather seats, heat insulated glass, ambient lighting, and a resonant Harmon Kardon surround system. The 8-inch colour infotainment display is easy to reach and the cabin feels luxurious. I was very surprised by the superb suspension, having half-expected to feel every bump and grind, but the G dealt with the course like a pro. I was always comfortable – and warm. And visibility was superb.
From the traverse, we climb through woodland – so lovely to hear and see the birdlife – before descending slowly into a large man-made lake. The water level nearly reaches the bonnet, but the G takes it in her stride with barely a splutter. Exiting with a splash, we go round again, then head for the tethered logs and the finale – 11 ditches covered in water. The G-Class is a natural off-roader.
After lunch, I’m back out in the fog – this time cocooned warmly in the GLE and GLS classes. Both SUVs perform well around the off-road course and tackle every obstacle with gusto. However, they lack the earthy engagement with the terrain that I experienced in the G. Negotiating the course here was more electronic and less involving – and surprisingly the suspension much harder.
This time I did feel every lump and bump. But let’s face it, most Mercedes SUV owners will rarely venture deeply off-road. Motorway and town driving will be its main territory for which it is superbly equipped, with sufficient grunt, control and stability to get you where you need to go.
The GLEs and GLS are also head-turners. Muscular and imposing, the new GLE boasts some striking design features, including substantial air intakes, wraparound LED headlamps and power domes.
Inside, the spacious cabin has a luxurious feel with miles of leather and smart wood finishes coupled with a wealth of high-tech gadgetry. This includes an 8” GPS display, the COMAND Online entertainment and navigation system, and the intuitive touchpad controller. Safety features highly with the GLE and GLS: The optional Driving Assistance Package Plus includes Active Brake Assistant with cross-traffic function, which usefully optimises braking in hazardous situations, even when the driver fails to react.
It can even detect crossing traffic or pedestrians at junctions and react accordingly. I experienced this in the GLE on a previous test drive, when the seatbelt engaged abruptly after a pedestrian leapt into the road without warning. A useful feature but I was almost winded in the process. Slightly less aggressive is the Active Lane Keeping Assist, which not only warns you if you’re straying out of your lane but can autonomously intervene to correct the situation. Especially useful if you’ve been driving without a break.
Quite honestly, whether you’re sliding down a 60ft drop at Millbrook or reversing out of a parking space at Waitrose, Mercedes’ SUV range is an absolute pleasure to drive, combining superb performance and style with superb safety features the brand is renowned for.
Mercedes-Benz – Where and How?
Mercedes-Benz UK Limited, Delaware Drive, Tongwell
Milton Keynes. Buckinghamshire, MK15 8BA
+44 (0) 207 660 9993 | www.mercedes.co.uk
Millbrook Proving Ground, Station Lane, Bedford MK45 2JQ
+44 (0) 1525 404242 | www.millbrook.co.uk