Mark Keohane reflects on a weekend escape to the Overberg in the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, one of the most luxurious and comfortable cars one could hope to hit the road in.
For a work weekend that I was able to combine with my birthday weekend, I retreated with my family to my safe space outside of Cape Town. Arniston. At the wheel of a wonderful birthday gift from Deon Joubert Racing, it was only right that we took the chance to visit as many of our favourite spots in the Overberg as possible. Long stretches of tar become the equivalent of a first-class Emirates flight when you’re inside a Mercedes-AMG GLS 63.
The start of the trip was far from smooth sailing though.
We left Cape Town and the weather came in hard. Ascending Sir Lowry’s pass in the pelting rain and virtually no visibility because of mist, with my two-year-old daughter strapped into the baby seat at the back next to my partner, was one of the more nerve-wreaking driving experiences I’ve had. The GLS proved its worth immediately. The all-wheel-drive system kept us grounded on the slippery surface, and it was reassuring to be at the helm of such a safe and capable car.
We made our pitstop at the Peregrine Farmer’s stall, for the mandatory pies (whenever we drive through Elgin) and also some reprieve from the conditions. The warm bustle of the roadside market was a stark contrast to the continuous downpour outside. Crazy to think Peregrine has been offering this homely refuge to road-trippers since the 1960s.
We cruised on through Napier on the way to our wonderful Arniston Hotel base, which we always combine with the Huisie at 15 on Pratt. The Huisie is particularly special as it has been in my partner Gillian Caroline’s family for close to 100 years, and those who visit Roman Beach often will be familiar with the warmth and ongoing waves of whoever is sitting on the outside green bench. By the time we reached the hotel, the rain had ceased, and my favourite seaside town was bathed in the distinctive glow of clearing skies. The GLS, after adeptly handling the rain-lashed highway, seemed just as comfortable on Arniston’s small streets.
On Friday afternoon we headed to Willeen’s in Kassiesbaai, the old fisherman’s village in Arniston. It is one of our favourite spots in the town, and we ordered every piece of seafood available on the menu. As tempting as it was to drive there, the walk is unmatched, and just five minutes from the hotel.
Throughout the weekend, the car made the travel time on our trips as enjoyable as the places themselves. On Saturday my son arrived, and we took a quick drive to Bredasdorp to grab some meat for the braai. Red Hot Chilli-Peppers blaring on the Burmester sound system was the backdrop to our little round-trip, and with just the two of us in the car we could open the throttle a bit and put that insane AMG engine to the test. That engine, by the way, is a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol that puts out a whopping 450 kW and 850 N.m of torque. The GLS 63 AMG is the first SUV to get Merc’s 48V EQ Boost hybrid system. Given most of our travel was open-road driving, the engine was really allowed to come into its own over the weekend.
Struisbaai, which in the past has also been a base for us, delights me more in the summer than the winter and when the sun is out one of our favourite lunch spots is the Sea Shack. The area is famous for sightings of Southern Right whales, mostly between June and December. On this early June Sunday, we unfortunately saw none.
Our breakaway from city life was just four days, leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday, so Sunday was also dedicated to a visit to the Lighthouse in L’Agulhas, which is the village by Cape Agulhas, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet at the southernmost point of Africa.
We go there often but it never gets boring and while the wind can be disconcerting, we had great sunshine and enjoyed fish and chips at L’Agulhas Seafoods on Main Road. The service is great and the staff’s generosity complements the quality of the food.
So Sunday was a far more relaxed drive, and our trip to L’Agulhus allowed the family to enjoy the space of the seven-seater SUV, and the comfort of the air suspension on a leisurely cruise.
Inside the GLS, the thoughtful design and quality materials stand out. The leather-wrapped steering wheel, the heated and cooled AMG leather sports seats, and the carefully laid-out dashboard make long-drives, like I said, akin to a first-class flight. The massage function, a luxury touch indeed, is both unnecessary and awesome, and everyone took a turn in the passenger seat at some point over the weekend (except the little one of course).
The GLS is formidable in both size and performance prowess, but with this of course comes a higher fuel consumption. We clocked around 15.70 L/100km, but my feeling is that if you are in the fortunate position to drop three-bar on this cruise-liner of a car, petrol prices are not a primary concern for you.
By the end of our trip, I couldn’t help but appreciate the GLS 63 just for what it is: an absurdly impressive, luxury SUV that effortlessly combines comfort, performance, and safety. While its price tag may seem astronomical, one must remember what a unique car it is. You won’t see it on the road often, but know that the ones you do see are capable all-weather, family-friendly vehicles with eye-watering levels of luxury and performance.
What a birthday treat to be able to take my family around in one of Mercedes’ most magnificent vehicles to date.
GLS 63 AMG at a glance:
Price: R3 178 120
0-100 km/h: 4,47 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Power: 450 kW
Torque: 850 N.m
For other great travel packages, make sure to visit Daddy’s Deals