There was a turning point, you’ll remember. When the SUV went from market curiosity to all-out driver infatuation: they were bigger, roomier beasts with satisfying elevated seating and offered an elusive feeling – the feeling that you can go anywhere in this thing. And, amongst the rise-and-rise of the ultra-luxe SUV, Mercedes-Benz has meticulously built-out a line-up that’s worthy of at least one spot in the garage.
This cast of mesmerising characters all have the DNA you’d expect from the three-pronged star: stylish, sporty, handsome. They all come with the MBUX, the brand’s bleeding-edge, wildly intuitive infotainment system, which is replete with controls varying from touch to voice, a personal assistant, and artificial intelligence that will dutifully remember everything from your favourite music playlist to your daily commute. “The best or nothing,” and all that. But together, they offer no short supply of diversity.
Take, for instance, the achingly cool, stupidly handsome Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupé. All at once, it’s an (admittedly superpowered) mid-size four door. But then, you take in the signature AMG design cues, like the distinct radiator grille. Then, you look past the comfort and sport modes and realise that you have options marked “trail” and “sand”, too – and you remember that, yes, this beast can indeed go off-road.
Then again, maybe you’re more of a family person – the kind who might want a no-compromise SUV with boatloads of style and versatility. OK, fine. Meet the Mercedes-Benz GLB, and get acquainted with a 7-seater that doesn’t come with any of the traditional drawbacks of the third row. Available on request, the two extra seats are blissfully uncompromised – they have two drinks holders between them, and two stowage compartments that hide a USB charging port. In the Mercedes-Benz GLE – something of a trendsetter in the modern SUV category – the optional third row is even more appealing, thanks to what the brand dubs an “easy entry” function in the fully electrically adjustable second row. Access matters, after all.
But all this practicality and style wouldn’t be what it is without smarts. Take, for instance, the DISTRONIC system, which is available in the UAE, Oman and Kuwait, amongst others. Say you’re driving the Mercedes-Benz GLC. Say that, unbeknownst to you, there’s a traffic jam a few kilometres ahead. Naturally, it’ll let you know – that’s thanks to the help of information from the LiveTraffic system. If, for whatever reason, you choose not to take an alternate route, DISTRONIC will pre-emptively reduce speed close to the jam, all while features like Active Lane Keeping and Active Emergency Stop remain ready to lend a hand.
And sure: we appreciate smarts. We appreciate convenience. But every now and then, you need to be reminded that you’re driving something with a little grunt. In those moments, you’ll want to reach for, say, the Mercedes-AMG GLA, and its optional personal racing engineer, AMG TRACK PACE. Woven right into the MBUX, it’s something of a racing coach, ready to offer analysis and improvement of your (we’re sure already competent) driving skills. The system is aided by the GPS and data like lateral and longitudinal acceleration, pedal positions and steering angles. Well-known race tracks – think Nürburgring or Spa Francorchamps – are already stored. But, if you’re one for individuality, it’s possible to record your own circuits, too.
But maybe after all of this, you want to go back to where it all started: the reason SUVs went from an experiment to an all-out obsession – size, power, style. For that, we’d direct you to the Mercedes-Benz GLS: the literal S-Class of SUVs. The latest model is, miraculously, even larger than its predecessor.
Call it the king of interior comfort…even for those in the third row. Every seat is electrically adjustable. There are five zones of climate control. If you opt for the rear comfort package, a 7-inch tablet (which has its own docking station) will be ready and waiting for the rear seat rows. Not enough? You can opt for luxury seats with a lumbar massage function.
Lest we get carried away even further from, you know, driving, it’s worth remembering that the GLS is not lacking. It welcomes off-road, even when off-road is less than welcoming. Here, you’ll appreciate the intelligent suspension. Bogged down in a sand dune? No sweat. Recovery mode will automatically raise and lower your suspension level several times, modulating the ground pressure of the tyres to gain traction. The GLS essentially rocks itself free.
And if all of that free-spirited riding leaves the car a little dirty, you’ll find a final moment of magic in an unexpected place – the carwash. Press a button, and the suspension will move to its highest position, helping to remove any last bits of sand or dirt from the last off-road trip. The exterior mirrors fold. The sunroof and side windows close. Inside, climate control silently switches to air-recirculation mode, to keep things fresh. Everything just feels right. And, if for a second you’re thinking that all of this is a little excessive? We respectfully disagree.
Because, if we’ve learned anything from this line-up, it’s that not even a car wash needs to feel ordinary.
Need to know
Mercedes AMG GLE 53 Coupé
Engine: 3.0L inline six-cylinder with 48v
Output: 435hp with EQ Boost