We were back in Pune for the second edition of the Mercedes-Benz Bloggers Meet. Time flies fast and it does not seem long since the last Bloggers Meet was conducted where we had a chance to rev up the 6.3-litre AMG tuned V8’s and also got an insight on the manufacturing process in the state of the art Mercedes facility in Chakan. This time around, we will be putting the Mercedes-Benz SUVs to test at the Star Off-Road Experience, a specially built test track to showcase the agility and prowess of Mercedes-Benz SUVs. Amongst other things, the German manufacturer also launched the Mercedes-Benz Performance Drive Program, a program which consolidates all the events like Stardrive, AMG Driving Academy, Star Off-Road Experience and Young Drivers Program under one umbrella.
2013 is a very important year for the inventor of the automobile. With a strong product offensive on the anvil, the German automobile giant is looking strong to catch up with the folks from Bavaria and Ingolstadt. We had a chance to catch up with the man himself, Eberhard Kern, the new CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, who seems to be extremely focused to get the ‘Star’ to new heights in the coming year. We have already mentioned earlier that the A-Class and B-Class diesel will be coming to the market by June this year. The A-Class will be simultaneously launched in both petrol and diesel trims.
Other models to be launched include the G63 AMG, E-Class facelift and new GL-Class. The CLA is slated to come in next year. Besides bringing in new models, the focus will be on few other key points such as bringing down the cost of ownership. Mercedes-Benz will be offering numerous value for money packages to benefit the customers. Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer to offer a 3-year warranty with no mileage limitation, it can be extended for a fourth year for a nominal amount of money. The Star Ease package gives you a defined amount for basic and comprehensive service packages, which is a good thing since you know the exact amount of money needed to service the car before you buy it. The company also offers Road Side Assist complementary for the first three years across India which can be upgraded to the fourth year by paying Rs. 3500/- only. The German car maker will also focus on drive experiences and dealer expansion as a part of their strategy.
Before we got to the Off-Road Track (situated inside the Chakan Plant), we were ferried in the E350 to showcase the Pre-Safe feature and importance of ABS and EBD. Pre-Safe is a feature which kicks in when the car senses it will lose control (just before a crash). The mechanism kicks in and shuts all windows and the sunroof (leaving a bit open to neutralize the pressure difference in case airbags are deployed), tightens the seat belt around the occupants. In case of an accident, the active headrests (front seats only) move forward to minimize injury due to whiplash.
On our disposal was the mammoth GL350 CDI, waiting to be taken around the off-road track, which has been designed to truly showcase the ability of the German SUVs. The track involves a 45 degree steep descent, ascent, axle twisters and driving on a 45 degree incline. It’s a bit scary to sit as a passenger while the vehicle is in action, get behind the wheel and the GL immediately knows how to make life simple for you. First stop is the descent. We activate the DSR (Downhill Speed Regulation) switch and adjust the descent speed to 4 km/hr.
The GL-Class gives you a range between 4 – 18 km/hr. To avoid the bumper from scraping the ground while leveling out, we raised the ride height to the third level (three levels are available). Once you have set the speed, gently push the accelerator and the GL will glide down with ease without you having to dab the accelerator or the brake, so that you can concentrate on the steering wheel instead.
Climbing up is as easy as getting down, switch off the DSR and push the low ratio switch, the GL-Class will happily climb at only around 1600 RPM. If you stop for any reason, the GL will not roll back. It will give you about three seconds to get onto the accelerator and drive. It may look tough from the outside but is extremely easy once you are driving.
The GL-Class gives you an option to the lock the differentials manually. It can be done by flicking a switch. On the Axle Twisters, the locked differentials made life easy and we were past in a jiffy. The scariest part was driving on the 45 degree incline. As the photograph may suggest, the passengers were literally leaning out but you have to give it to Mercedes-Benz for making a superb SUV. The entire exercise was a walk in the park for the GL Class. The new SUV track will help Mercedes-Benz showcase the superior technology which goes into their SUVs and customers can also use the track to experience the same for a sum of Rs. 20,000/- for the entire day. They can also bring in their own Mercedes SUV and experience the immense capability of their machine.