A bit of music now would be perfect, a soundtrack to match this amazing world opening up before my eyes. I just say: “Hey Mercedes.” A voice asks: “How can I help?” To my left, a chain of majestic cliffs passes by. I run the seat back a little and say: “Radio, please.” The voice in the infotainment system wants to know what station? I answer: “Sixties music.” Seconds later, a surf hit from The Beach Boys fills the silence, followed by a Jimi Hendrix track.
Our author enjoying the scenery in the new GLS.
Through the wilderness: cacti in the Fishlake National Forest.
I’ve never had such a relaxed drive. The new GLS masters the asphalt almost by itself as the assistance systems do their job efficiently and unobtrusively. Interstate 15 stretches south ahead of me, an unravelling ribbon disappearing into the distance. It takes you on an indulgent pleasure cruise through the state of Utah, to Arizona, towards the canyons. Straight ahead: the USA’s wild west fills the windscreen. The rocky outcrops of the Fishlake National Forest nudge their way into the picture. All that surrounds me is hot land pocked with prairie grass and cacti. I cruise through the deserted landscape in the new GLS. Another spectator – yet right in the midst of it all.
The scale of this natural landscape is huge, too huge for the human mind to grasp. It is the result of billions of years of relentless erosion and extreme climate. Major canyons, pinnacles of rock, prehistoric sediment waves. The history of the earth, live.
The GLS projects all the relevant trip data conveniently on the head-up display in the driver’s field of vision. Your speed, the current speed limit and all key navigation information. How long has this force of nature been hurtling towards me? The navigation voice interrupts my thoughts, telling me we have to take Highway 89 south of Salt Lake City.
Two blue arrows on the screen show the route to take at an intersection.
Expanse, space. The mountains were once the only border this land knew. Watching over the lives of the natives, the old settlers, a myth later consolidated in Western films. But this is no film. Supported by the off-road functions of the GLS, I am cruising through the here and now. The Rocky Mountains to the east are majestically crowned with snow, even in the middle of summer.
Supported by state-of-the-art assistance systems he starts exploring the almost impassable Utah desert.
Driving through this region in one of the most innovative cars of our time is an inspiring juxtaposition: I am surrounded by archaic, primeval nature, but I am experiencing it with the help of the latest technologies. The GLS is loaded with state-of-the-art sensors and cameras. When my hand moves towards the touchscreen or touchpad on the centre console, the media display changes to show individual elements. I can call up all the vehicle’s data and functions with just a swipe.
The large touchscreen lets you operate the comfort features from the driver’s seat and, over time, the MBUX infotainment system’s artificial intelligence learns more about the driver’s preferences and habits. Mine, too. The screen suggests my favourite radio service, Sirius XM. The perfect soundtrack for my Arizona road trip.
Current outdoor temperature: 35 degrees Celsius, and not a sliver of shade to be seen. Inside, the GLS is pleasantly cool, though, and I activate the massage function via the touchscreen. Then the head-up display signals: 40 miles to go. Through the windscreen, monoliths of limestone, table mountains and the Pennsylvanian Laramie Formations, 300 million years old, lift up in front of me. Welcome to Monument Valley.
The GLS sets the standard: “Let’s go for a ride.”
At the famous stone sculpture Mexican Hat, under the fierce sun, I see Joe standing in the distance. Joe is a member of the Navajo Nation. He lives here, sells silver jewellery and collects old trucks. I stop for a chat. Joe loves cars. Revolutions, horsepower. He eyes the GLS, checking out the leather seats, the cockpit, the bonnet.
“How many?” he says. “Eight,” I say. His gaze wanders over the bonnet, the eight cylinders forming in his head. Then Joe says the only thing that could do the moment justice, the iconic words: “Let’s go for a ride.”
He gets in. The hot wind blasts through the window as we leave the road following Joe’s directions. I switch the driving programme to “off-road”. E-Active Body Control is currently the only active suspension system on the market that individually regulates the spring and damper forces on each wheel. You feel it straight away: although we are driving through rough terrain, the bumps in the track are smoothed out. We explore Joe’s home, leaving a cloud of dust in our wake. It’s 2019, but this is still the Wild West. With one difference: it was never as comfortable as it is in this GLS.
Even surrounded by the desert, the GLS looks powerful and confident.