Stuff like this doesn’t come along every day. There I was, in possibly the most expensive passenger vehicle in the whole of Kashmir, driving up one of the highest motorable passes on the face of the earth. With oxygen levels diving, not to mention temperatures, we made our way up through the rocky, slushy and constricted rollercoaster of a pass to the top. 17,590 feet. In a Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG. Blimey. Mild panic occurred when a few people from the plains read the army sign proclaiming that this was the third highest motorable pass in the world. Or when they were told the oxygen here was half of what it is usually. We weren’t the only ones puffing while doing seemingly facile things — the G55 AMG had its share of breathlessness too, with only 10.9 per cent oxygen in the air.
Piping hot tea finished with, we started descending and it was then that we discovered what Mercedes-Benz really meant when its German engineers declared that ‘zis iz really capable off-road’. All the buttons that earlier gathered dust in the plains suddenly became all too relevant. Nature threw in rocks, ruts, snow, ice patches, giddying cliff edges and generally back-breaking terrain. While the G55 AMG relies more on solid old-school engineering to duel with the terrain, the other vehicle in our convoy - the heavyweight GL350 — relied on electronic brains. The GL is loaded with downhill speed regulation, off-road ABS, ESP and an air ride system that makes it stand tall, providing a huge 307 mm of clearance. If all the artificial intelligence fails, the GL just pummels its way through with sheer weight, like a hippopotamus. The G55 is more focused — three hardcore diff-locks and er, that’s all you can fiddle with. It stands out — like Rambo at Kim Kardashian’s house — hardcore, to-the-point, a bit bonkers and ludicrously capable. In these unforgiving upper reaches of the world’s road network, you truly realise what a Mercedes-Benz SUV is capable of. In this terrain, the Geländewagens come to life.
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