Young Drivers of Canada Rates Your Ride at the AJAC TestFest 2016
What better way to test drive a vehicle than to be taken on an off-road course designed by the team at Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) annual TestFest 2016. The car, a 2016 Mercedes-Benz 350 GLE class crossover – one of the entries for the Automotive Journalist’s Association of Canada Car of the Year Awards was made available to Young Drivers of Canada by Gary Grant, Co-Chairman of the awards committee. The venue, was located in Bowmanville. Ontario.
Although we were not able to drive the vehicle, Gary provided us with an incredible display of the capabilities of this crossover vehicle. From the outset, the vehicle was a pleasure to drive in. Getting into the vehicle, I realized how bright and spacious the interior of this cross over vehicle is. There was plenty of headroom and our Young Driver’s cameraman who is over six foot tall sat comfortably in the back seat while he taped our test drive. An infotainment screen located in the centre of the dash was positioned so that the driver and passenger had full access to the display, a great feature allowing the passenger to operate the display, leaving the driver to focus on the road.
We began our test drive on what Gary referred to as, “A sort of advanced cottage road, to evaluate what an SUV or crossover owner might experience on their way to the cottage.” Starting out somewhat unchallenged, on straight grass and dirt roads, the landscape of the course quickly changed with severe ruts visible on hard packed dirt. Although the ride was bumpy, the Mercedes took it all in stride. The vehicle handled superbly. There appeared to have been an interior balance to the vehicle that stabilized the inner motion of the crossover as we navigated through the ruts in the road.
We then moved onto a portion of the course that was still damp from severe rain experienced several days earlier. I was prepared for a challenge as we climbed up the embankment since the road surface was wet and muddy in several areas. To my surprise, without any adjustments or pushing of buttons, the Mercedes handled the mud course and steep climb with ease. There was no noticeable slip or slide from the vehicle, and we never lost any momentum as we climbed to the hill’s apex.
Later on, the course surprised us with another steep climbing hill. This Mercedes was up to the challenge and took the hill as if it was a small knoll in the road. There was no resistance from the vehicle as it made its way up to the crest of the hill. No change in speed was felt and there was definitely no strain on the vehicle, as it made its way up the steep embankment. This vehicle really shocked me. It’s performance on what I consider to be the extreme of a country road and more is unbelievable, especially for a vehicle designated as a crossover.
Young Drivers Of Canada Rates the luxury suv’s Performance
Next was a steep decline and on the way down the Mercedes’ performance was no different. Despite the front end sensors protesting (the sensors thought we were going to crash as they picked up the road surface below) the rocky decline didn’t even cause this luxury vehicle to sweat. After several sharp and intricate turns which demonstrated the precise handling of this Mercedes, our last challenge was a soft sandy portion of the course which the vehicle drove through like a breeze. Notably, the full course was executed on all-season tires!
To give our readers some background, the new GLE Class is Mercedes’ re-vamp of its M-Class SUV vehicle, originally introduced to the car market in 1997. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350, that I test drove in was a 4 door new Coupe version. It had a dramatic swept back look. To top it off, did I say it had a diesel engine? You wouldn’t know it as the vehicle was perfectly quiet and composed.
A special Thank you to Gary Grant for taking us on an unforgettable drive on a unique cottage road!