A specially curated drive gives a closer look into the stable of a German automobile marque.

From the home of Crazy Rich Asians’ Nick Young filmed at Carcosa Seri Negara in Kuala Lumpur, to the lap of luxury of Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat in Ipoh, it was an effortless drive all the way, thanks to Mercedes Benz.

The Mercedes Benz Luxury Drive was a golden opportunity for the media to get acquainted with the German global automobile marque as we could pick any car from its portfolio of vehicles for this journey of specially curated experiences.

According to Mark Raine, vicepresident of Sales and Marketing for Passenger Cars at Mercedes- Benz Malaysia, the event served “to showcase the pinnacle of luxury, the immaculate drive and enjoyment of a car like the S class”, which he described as the definitive statement of luxury in its purest form.

“The E-Class, on the other hand, carries the modern luxury hallmark and exclusivity that speaks of the Mercedes-Benz craftsmanship,” he added.

I confess it has been a long time since I have been gotten behind the wheel on an unfamiliar car for a test drive. Out of force of habit, I kept reaching for the gear stick on my left, as opposed to the hand gear on the right of the steering wheel. Calling it a ‘handbrake’ is really a misnomer as it is now just a button on the right. Fortunately, my drive partner Young was a patient man, if not slightly bemused at my temporary disorientation.

Cruising along the North-South highway was, in truth, speeding at 160km, easily achieved with just a slight tap on the pedal of S Class, the brand’s flagship automobile. The S 450 L is powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine, paired with a 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission, capable of 367 hp with 500 Nm of torque for a 0-100km/h time of just 5.4 seconds.

Thanks to the Active Distance Control DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist, we could steer safely as speed was adjusted automatically ahead of bends, junctions or roundabouts.

The fully digital widescreen cockpit offered virtual instruments for easy handling, and a central display above the centre console featured three different display styles (”Classic”, “Sporty” and “Progressive”) as well as touch sensitive Touch Control buttons on the steering wheel for control of the infotainment system.

Our first stop was the STG Tea House Café where lunch was prepared. STG, which stands for Sabah Tea Garden, lies within a lovely refurbished colonial double-storey bungalow in Chateau Garden, Ipoh.

Arriving just after lunch at the resort, it seemed like the perfect day for a spin in one of the Mercedes Dream Cars or for a dip in the pool, for that matter, as the afternoon sun was beating down so mercilessly, it felt like an egg could cook on the car hood. There was the GT 63; C 63 S; and GT 63 S; and the fiery red GT C was particularly inviting – the 4.0- litre roadster is pure power and designed to thrill, with its sculpted aerodynamic body and sport seats, able to reach a top speed of 316km/h in literally seconds.

In character with tropical weather, however, the sky suddenly turned dark and poured, leaving the obvious choice of enjoying Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat’s spa facilities that offer traditional massages and therapies for a full-body pampering.

The five-star health and wellness retreat boasts an exclusive 25 villas built on the 9.2ha property, to ensure that guests are sheltered from the outside world in a relatively untouched natural surrounding.

Magnificent limestone hills, lush rainforest and mysterious caves provide the backdrop to the main attraction here, the geothermal hotsprings, which provide healing and rejuvenation. Bathing in the hot mineral waters is touted to give a slew of health benefits such as soothe tired muscles, promote better skin and even reduce arthritic symptoms among others. And if one prefers more privacy, every room comes with a personal jacuzzi fed with the geothermal hotspring water on tap.

That evening, we dined from the signature selection of an eight course gourmet set menu in the breathtaking cave interior of Jeff’s Cellar, a one-of-a-kind award-winning restaurant.

During a short conversation with the outgoing VP, it was heartening to see Raine still brimming with enthusiasm for the brand after four years of game-changing the car market and spearheading a number of successful campaigns in Malaysia. One notable development was how he has managed to change the younger set’s perception of the marque by organising targeted and edgier events.

This message was especially apparent with the release of the GT 63 S, a four-door coupe that
can deliver 630hp and 900Nm of torque thanks to its nine-speed automatic transmission, with the ability to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in mere 3.2 seconds.

Unfortunately, the rain persisted the next morning as well, so it would have been foolhardy to
push the capabilities of the AMG 4.0-litre V8 biturbo powerhouse in such conditions. Slated to be both a performance and luxury car, replete with an exquisite interior to match, this beauty comes with a cool price tag of almost RM1.8mil.

We also drove the rugged Mercedes-AMG G 63 which had a completely modern interior with its widescreen cockpit, redesigned centre console, new multifunction sports steering wheel and a whole lot of state-of-the-art features. The G-Class is dubbed the godfather of SUVs, with the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine G 63 peaking at 585hp and 850Nm of torque.

The SUV is said to perform even better off-road with five Dynamic Select on-road modes: “Slippery”, “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Sport+” and “Individual”. The characteristics range from efficient and comfortable to very sporty. While going through some of the narrow housing back lanes in the outskirts of Ipoh, the vehicle was surprisingly agile.

The ride home was with the premium executive limousine Eclass, that was no less impressive in terms of class and performance. The E350 comes with the new turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder engine under the hood, and has the Driving Assistance Package, a safety package of several safety technologies, and Dynamic Body Control suspension.

If there was one thing more that I could have wished for during this trip, it was that I could have taken one the Dream Cars, heck, any of of the cars, home with me!

The Mercedez Benz Dream Cars displayed at the main courtyard of Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, Ipoh

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