Mercedes-Benz Discover 2014
It was 5 am and as I struggled to get out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, thoughts raced through my mind; would the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen be as good as it’s hyped to be? What would the ML-Class be like to drive? What would the rest of the SUV line-up be like? Well, one thing was for sure, I’d have to make my way to Zero Gravity at Sky Dive Dubai to find out.
Split into three activities, the Mercedes-Benz Discover 2014 experience covered a demonstration of the Active Parking Assist feature; a drag race at the Dubai Autodrome; and a short stint in the desert to experience the off-road capability of the entire range.
As the convoy of G500’s, ML500’s, GL500’s and GLK350’s left the area, it wasn’t a sight to miss. Resembling the entourage of a celebrity, we made our way to the Royal Mirage and even though the roads were blocked and traffic was at a standstill due to the Boat Show, I was behind the wheel of a G500 and wasn’t going to complain.
Everything from the seating position to the road respect in the G500 was commanding. It was all quite unique really, the driver and front seat passenger seatbacks were fitted with speakers, the rear seats were equipped with seat heaters, and the gear shifter was smaller than the average human palm. Though the rear seat passengers were bickering about it being cramped, with the rumble of the V8 engine, thankfully it was drowned out.
Powered by a 5.5 litre V8 engine, the G500 sent a respectable 387 horsepower and 530 Nm of torque to all four wheels and ensured we heard it with an absolutely cracking exhaust note. Once Sports mode was active, the steering got significantly stiffer and it demanded that little bit of extra muscle to navigate through the twisties. Claimed to sprint from 0 – 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds, I for one, would not challenge that time.
The Active Parking Assist demonstration showcased how the car senses empty parking spaces and maneuvers itself into the spot while the driver is required to only operate the gears and pedals. With a buffer of just 1 meter in front of the vehicle and 1 meter behind the vehicle, the Active Parking Assist nails parallel parking in the first shot itself, making the driver look like an absolute pro!
Following this, it was time to head to Dubai Autodrome, but only after giving up the keys to my G500; obviously, it was done unwillingly. Oh well, it wasn’t all bad because it was now time to hop into the ML500, the car that has aged wonderfully and looks better than ever. Claimed to be the most sold SUV in the brand’s line-up, the ML500 was exceptionally smooth and by no means a slouch. The 4.7 litre bi-turbo V8 engine propelled the SUV from 0 – 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and though it was quick, the drive was dull and quite disengaging.
At the Autodrome, it was time to go head to head against a fellow motoring journo in a test of reaction times and the highlight was the GL63 AMG. It was big, wait, I take that back, it was MASSIVE, had seven seats, and was known to be the ‘World’s Fastest 7 Seater’ SUV. Powered by a 5.5 litre bi-turbo V8, the GL63 generated 557 horsepower and 760 Nm of torque. All that power translated to a 0 – 100 km/h time of just 4.9 seconds; something that could put a few well established sports cars to shame. With the throaty exhaust note resonating across the drag strip with every gear shift, it was difficult to contain a smile even after losing the race.
For the last activity of the day, it was time to get into the desert past the Dubai Cycling Course and kick some sand around. With all the potent monsters already taken, there stood a vacant GLK350, a compact crossover that looks petrified after just hearing the word ‘desert’. But I guess they say “never read a book by its cover” for a reason. A simple click of the off-road switch and the GLK adjusted its electronics to deal with the terrain. Pulling through dunes that the G500 had issues with and crests that the ML500 sank into, the GLK350 handled them brilliantly. With power coming in from a 3.5 litre engine that produced just 306 horsepower, keeping momentum and a steady foot were extremely vital. Ground clearance was no issue whatsoever either. Quite simply, I was stumped after driving the GLK off-road and kept wondering what the ‘K’ in the GLK stood for, was it ‘Kapability’?
At the end of the day, it was pretty clear that each SUV in the line-up possessed something that made it unique. Either its engine, off-road capability, or styling, each one was a king in its own way.