18 February 2020
18 February 2020
Some music right now would be perfect; a soundtrack to complement the amazing scenery opening up in front of me. I just say: “Hey, Mercedes.” A voice asks: “How can I help?” To my left, a chain of majestic cliffs passes by. I run the seat back a little and say: “Radio, please.” The voice in the infotainment system wants to know what genre. I answer: “Sixties music.” Seconds later, a surf hit from The Beach Boys fills the silence, followed by a Jimi Hendrix track.
I’ve never experienced such a relaxing drive. The new Mercedes-Benz GLS masters the asphalt almost by itself as the assistance systems work efficiently and unobtrusively.
Interstate 15 stretches out ahead of me, an unravelling ribbon disappearing into the distance. It takes you on an indulgent pleasure cruise through the state of Utah, towards the canyons of Arizona. Straight ahead, the USA’s wild west fills the windscreen; hot land pocked with prairie grass and cacti. The rocky outcrops of Fishlake National Forest nudge their way into the picture.
Navigating a prehistoric landscape
The scale of this natural landscape is huge, too huge for the human mind to grasp. The gaping canyons and rocky pinnacles are the result of billions of years of relentless erosion and extreme temperatures.
The GLS projects all the relevant trip data conveniently on the head-up display in the driver’s field of vision. Your speed, the current speed limit and all key navigation information. The navigation voice tells me to take Highway 89 south of Salt Lake City. Two blue arrows on the screen indicate where I should turn at an intersection.
Driving through this region in one of the most innovative cars of our time is an inspiring juxtaposition: I am surrounded by raw, primeval nature, but I am experiencing it with the help of the latest technologies.
The GLS is loaded with state-of-the-art sensors and cameras. When my hand moves towards the touchscreen on the centre console, the media display changes to show individual elements. I can call up all the vehicle’s data and functions with just a swipe.
The large touchscreen lets you operate comfort features from the driver’s seat and, over time, the MBUX infotainment system’s artificial intelligence learns more about the driver’s preferences and habits. Mine, too. The screen suggests my favourite radio station, which offers the perfect soundtrack for my Arizona road trip.
Outside, the temperature is currently 35 degrees Celsius, and there isn’t a sliver of shade. Inside the GLS it’s pleasantly cool though, and I activate the massage function via the touchscreen. The head-up display signals that there are 65 kilometres to go. Through the windscreen, 300-million-year-old sandstone monoliths loom before me. Welcome to Monument Valley.
Under the fierce sun at the famous Mexican Hat stone sculpture, I see Joe standing in the distance. Joe is a member of the Navajo Nation. He lives here, sells silver jewellery and collects old trucks. I stop for a chat. Joe loves cars. Revolutions, horsepower. He eyes the GLS, checking out the leather seats and the cockpit.
His gaze wanders over the bonnet, the engine forming in his head. Then Joe says the only thing that could do the moment justice: “Let’s go for a ride.”
He gets in. Hot wind blasts through the window as we follow his directions. I switch the driving program to off-road. E-Active Body Control is currently the only active suspension system on the market that individually regulates the spring and damper forces on each wheel. You feel it straight away, smoothing out the bumps on the rough terrain.
We explore Joe’s home, leaving a cloud of desert dust in our wake. It’s 2020, but this is still the Wild West. There’s only one difference: it was never as comfortable as it is in this GLS.
This article was originally written and published for Mercedes-Benz AG. Information provided and images may include overseas models and features not available in Australia.
By Marc Bielefeld