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There’s nowhere better than Schöckl Mountain when it comes to putting Mercedes’ latest SUVs to the test. Situated just outside Graz, in the Styrian region of Austria, this 1,445 metre high limestone-and-crystalline mountain has been the private playground of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class for almost four decades. And it’s easy to understand why.
The fabled 4x4 is built – largely by hand – in Graz, little more than 10 miles away, and the legendary status of this vehicle as one of the world’s most capable off-roaders can, in part, be attributed to the thousands of days it has spent ascending and descending Schöckl on a G-class special test track. So where better to head for with the new GLC, GLE and GLE Coupé?
These three SUVs are the most authentic expression of what a Sports Utility Vehicle is all about: quick, comfortable and brilliantly equipped for everyday use; safe, capable and a whole lot of fun when you choose to head off-road.
With 36 years of G-Class expertise to call upon, Mercedes-Benz has been able to incorporate genuine 4x4 capability into each SUV, while giving each its own clear personality.
The GLC combines car-like sports handling with true SUV performance; the GLE has all the space and ability of an SUV, without compromising driving enjoyment; and the Coupé is a real sports performer, with its own individual sense of style.
In short, there’s something for everyone. Whatever your lifestyle, whatever practical purpose you have for an SUV, and – crucially – however much you enjoy driving, this new Mercedes-Benz range has got it covered.
To make the most of the opportunity to put these three new SUVs to the test at Schöckl, an experienced team of Mercedes-Benz Test Engineers signed up for driving duties.
Lead driver, Mario Summer, has 25 years experience of putting the G-Class to the test on Schöckl. Unsurprisingly, he’s an unashamed fan of both.
“For me, this is the only car you can drive hard on a mountain, that is so comfortable on-road. And it’s all so easy, too.” Mario can also see how the spirit of G-Class can be found in the latest SUV line-up.
“The new cars look great and all four vehicles feature a permanent 4WD system. I believe there’s no better basis for a contemporary Sports Utility Vehicle.”
Schöckl to the system
The history of the G-Class – also known as G-Wagen (short for Geländewagen, or cross-country vehicle) – is part of the myth of Schöckl. The legend of the mountain is that it is home to witches who possess the ability to conjure up hail storms, a belief that prompted farmers to hurl scythes and pitchforks from their barns to chase the crones and the bad weather away.
The legend of the G-Class is rather more robust, and the tracks and trails of the mountains have been a perfect proving ground since 1979. The G-Class is almost unique, as a passenger car, to feature three fully-locking differentials, one of the main reasons it’s so capable on inclines and surfaces that most vehicles close to.
Originally developed as a military vehicle, the most remarkable reality of a contemporary G-Class is the way it combines incredible off-road capability with genuine luxury. If fording water more than half a metre deep and ascending mountains in leather-trimmed, air-conditioned comfort are what you’re after, this is the only place to look.
The almost unrivalled, extreme off-road abilities of the G-Class have helped Mercedes-Benz to develop this new range of SUVs. The 4MATIC permanent 4WD system on each new model (GLC, GLE and GLE Coupé) is designed to optimise the steering, braking and acceleration inputs that transfer to the road through the tyres, combining smooth handling with enhanced safety on more challenging surfaces.
Both the GLC and GLE can be specified with an optional off-road package, a switchable series of modes, from incline to slippery, designed to cope with the widest range of driving conditions and terrains. On the road, the standard Dynamic Select feature of all three SUVS provides five settings, from Comfort to Sport+, offering the driver a package of transmission, steering and suspension settings, from relaxed cruising to all-out, quick-shift performance.