2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS development drive: Sand ridin’

This was a development drive, but we did get some preliminary numbers. The GLS580 will deliver 483 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and it felt easily faster than the outgoing non-AMG model and maybe as fast as the one from Affalterbach. The GLS450 will get a 362-hp, 369-lb-ft turbocharged I6. This bigger-engine GLS came with the off-road package, which features fully variable all-wheel drive and a low range, a center locking differential that allows for 0-100 percent of the power to be sent fore and aft, hill-descent control and special algorithms for the ABS, traction control and 4Matic.
It also comes with a special control panel in the center console and two additional driving modes: off-road and off-road-plus. Off-road is for light terrain like sand while off-road-plus is steep and difficult terrain like rocks and stones. Additionally, buyers get an underguard for the entire body. Like the GLE with the optional E-ABC system, it can rock itself out of deep sand. All GLS models get air suspension but not all have E-ABC.
But the one I’m riding shotgun in does. Creeping down a bumpy sand trail in between sand dunes is even more of a magic carpet ride than usual. I’m staring at the central screen which shows the vehicle and all four dampers AND what they’re experiencing by way of a little line that bumps up and down like a heartbeat monitor. A little jiggle in the front right, a little hill on the monitor. A big bump in the left rear reads as a big spike. All of this, including ride height, angle and more are not only being translated to the driver and passenger, but to the computer and to each other, so the system can decide the best way to coddle passengers.