Differentials locked, the G55 started climbing and the windshield soon showed only the icy blue Ladakh skies. With 507 horses and 71.3 kg (!) of torque, it’s virtually a battering ram with generous clearance. A rather tight and tricky bit comes up – huge dip to the left, elevation and rock face to the right, all in a track as narrow as the G-Wagen. Gingerly, I entered the trap and the whole axis skewed, as one set of wheels dropped elevation and the other gained some. Wheels were losing traction and were starting to spin, but all it needed was a few seconds for the electronics to figure out where the traction was and wasn’t. The power was transferred accordingly and with a V8 rumble from the pipes, the G got out. On the part coming down a rutted, sandy descent, it didn’t need any fancy electronics — I just let it slide easily and corrected when necessary. Impressive! The AMG version might be The Beverly Hills SUV, but don’t for a moment think it’s lost its gut.
But to tell you the truth, more than the boxy, hardcore appeal of the G55 AMG, the GL is the one that’ll surprise you. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you come to expect performance from the G-Wagen, not so much the GL350. To give you an idea, here’s a mammoth 7-seater which is 16.7 feet in length, 7.12 feet in width and weighs two and a half tonnes. Loaded to the roofline with electronics and an Off-Road package, it will do most of the things the G55 AMG does. It feels like you’re taking a small apartment down a 35 degree descent! Jacked up on its air-suspension kit, the clearance is a massive 307 mm, and the massive SUV making its way up unreasonably steep gradients is a sight. In fact, it’s more comfortable too, on and off the road, with the various assists on call.
So, it comes down to this. If your sole purpose of buying an SUV is the extra seating or looks, stuff like this isn’t for you. The road-focused part of the development will suffice, but if you want to discover and appreciate what the rest of the development — the off-road part — is focused on, you’ll need to kick up some dust. Trust me, you’ll not only appreciate your three-pointed star more, but you’ll also have a jolly good time.
The writer was invited by Mercedes-Benz to drive the off-roaders in Ladakh