We took the GLE and GLE Coupé to Penang for some heart-pounding adventures
Having forged itself a name synonymous with luxury and sophistication over the years, Mercedes-Benz has always been quite literally a class above the rest. But now growing beyond this niche title, a few of their latest models have been sporting sleeker and racier lines; appealing to the thrill-seekers and those in search of adventure – the very theme of the adrenaline-fuelled road trip I’ve just returned from. I joined a small but merry band of media and key opinion leaders in a fleet of their luxury SUVs, the GLE and GLE Coupé, to Penang not only for heart-pumping escapades, but also for the unveiling of the latest addition to its Dream Cars’ series, the C Class Coupé.
Right off the bat, our rides looked a lot hardier and sturdier than the usual designs; translating into a safe and indomitable structure built for long-distance driving. The first impression later proved to be true – I felt safe and steady from the backseat despite the car going at 190km per hour, thanks to its AIRMATIC air suspension with ADS variable damping system. We also experienced first-hand a few of its safety features, such as its frontal sensors (perfect for drive-in parking) and signals that light up on your side mirrors, indicating objects in your blind spots. The car not only serves its functional purpose of delivering you from Point A to B as the interior and finer personal touches reveal the careful thought Mercedes had poured into creating an opulent experience the brand’s loyalists have come to love. And with that, our first checkpoint: Gopeng for white water rafting.
Clambering onto the back of a truck, it was a bumpy half hour’s ride to one of the higher points up the river. Upon arriving, we were briefed before securing on our helmets and fastening our life jackets. A crucial tip to remember: never try standing up if you’re knocked off your raft as you might break your legs against the rocks. While the water was certainly rapid enough to bump a fellow rafter off, we were told that those who wish for the full pulse-escalating experience, should swing by around November, the monsoon season. Fast forward an hour of fun and laughter later, we arrived back at camp – lamenting how it was over so quickly – washed off, ate our fill, and were off to cross the Penang bridge before checking in for a good night’s rest at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa.
The next morning, I indulged myself heartily to a very impressive breakfast spread of sushi, bacon, eggs, cold cuts before tackling the next adventure on the list: flyboarding, also known as the water sport where you channel your inner Iron Man. Strapping on the boots attached to one hover board, which was connected to a jet ski, I was propelled forward. I slowly pushed myself in an upright position, making sure my legs were straight and locked. The one thing I learnt: getting up was easy but staying vertical; even hovering just a few inches off the water was tough! I ended up getting a mouthful of salt water.
If the day had been all about navigating through water (I even tried my hand at jet skiing), the night was all about revolutionising driving on terrain. We made our way down to the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Georgetown for the much-anticipated launch of the C Class Coupé and it wasn’t hard to locate the show-stopping models (in blue and red) as crowds were already gathered around them in admiration. To describe them in the words of Mark Raine, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, “it is sex appeal on wheels”. We couldn’t agree more, especially when it came to the dynamic red.
The third day began at the crack of dawn as we donned our sweats and sneakers; ready to hike up Penang Hill. The first half kilometre saw us huffing and puffing with rivulets of sweat sliding down our skin with the incredibly steep incline. It definitely made for a terrific workout, sentiments clearly shared by plenty of the elderly locals, descending from their daily morning walk. But we were rewarded with views of lush greenery along the way and when we arrived at the top, we were greeted by a panoramic view of the beautiful island of Penang. Not to mention, we stumbled across a most picturesque landscape, reminiscent of an English garden, right in front of David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terraces. Coming down, we gave our legs a break by hitching a ride on the Penang Hill Railway.
After freshening up, it was time to woefully check out of our luxurious hotel as we soldiered on to lunch at China House, passing by plenty of quirky and fascinating street art Penang is known for. Put in the limelight for its beautiful interior where old-meets-new and for a wide selection of cakes, the fusion fare at China House suited our tastebuds quite nicely, although the poor service left much to be desired. At the end of lunch, our group finally disbanded as we climbed into our respective SUVs bound for KL. This road trip has proven why Mercedes-Benz has cemented its spot at the top of the auto industry. Its cars are versatile and of late, edgy, but most importantly, it never compromises on safety and luxury.