Mersedes SUV Manuals

Off-road driving

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class / Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Owners Manual / Driving and parking / Driving tips / Off-road driving

Important safety notes


If you drive on a steep incline at an angle or turn when driving on an incline, the vehicle could slip sideways, tip and rollover. There is a risk of an accident.

Always drive on a steep incline in the line of fall (straight up or down) and do not turn the vehicle.


If the vehicle level is high, the vehicle center of gravity is raised. This could cause the vehicle to tip over more easily on uphill or downhill gradients. There is a risk of an accident.

Select the lowest possible vehicle level.

When driving off-road, sand, mud and water, possibly mixed with oil, for example, could get into the brakes. This could result in a reduced braking effect or in total brake failure and also in increased wear and tear. The braking characteristics change depending on the material ingressing the brakes. Clean the brakes after driving off-road. If you detect a reduced braking effect or grinding noises, have the brake system checked in a qualified specialist workshop as soon as possible.

Adapt your driving style to the different braking characteristics.

Driving off-road increases the likelihood of damage to the vehicle, which, in turn, can lead to failure of the mechanical assembly or systems. Adapt your driving style to suit the terrain conditions. Drive carefully. Have damage to the vehicle rectified immediately at a qualified specialist workshop.

Do not switch to transmission position N when driving off-road. You could lose control of the vehicle if you attempt to brake using the service brake. If the gradient is too steep, drive backwards in reverse gear.

General notes

Read this section carefully before driving your vehicle off-road. Practice by driving over more gentle off-road terrain first.

Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of your vehicle and the gear shift operation before driving through difficult terrain.

The following driving systems are specially adapted to off-road driving:

Off-road ABS  AIRMATIC package (vehicle level)  DSR (Downhill Speed Regulation)  Observe the following notes: Stop the vehicle before starting to drive along an off-road route.

For vehicles with the AIRMATIC package: select a vehicle level that is suitable for the off-road terrain. To avoid damaging the vehicle, make sure there is always sufficient ground clearance.

Check that items of luggage and loads are stowed safely and are well secured  .

Always keep the engine running and in gear when driving on a downhill gradient.

Activate DSR  .

Always keep the doors, tailgate, windows and sliding sunroof closed while driving.

Adapt your speed to the terrain. The rougher, steeper or more ruts on the terrain, the slower your speed should be.

Drive slowly and at an even speed through the water. Ensure that a bow wave does not form as you drive.

Drive with extreme care on unfamiliar offroad routes where visibility is poor. For safety reasons, get out of the vehicle first and survey the off-road route.

Look out for obstacles, such as rocks, holes, tree stumps and furrows.

Check the depth of water before fording rivers and streams.

When fording, do not stop and do not switch off the engine.

On sand, drive quickly to overcome the rolling resistance. Otherwise the vehicle's wheels could become stuck in loose ground.

Do not jump with the vehicle as this will interrupt the vehicle's propulsion.

Always keep the engine running and in gear when driving on a slope.

Do not shift the automatic transmission to transmission position N.

Do not use the HOLD function when driving off-road, on steep uphill or downhill gradients or on slippery or loose surfaces.

The HOLD function cannot hold the vehicle on such surfaces.

Checklist before driving off-road

If the engine oil warning lamp lights up while the vehicle is in motion, stop the vehicle in a safe place as soon as possible.

Check the engine oil level. The engine oil warning lamp warning must not be ignored.

Continuing the journey while the symbol is displayed could lead to engine damage.

Engine oil level: check the engine oil level and add oil if necessary.

When driving on steep gradients, the engine oil level must be sufficiently high to ensure a correct oil supply in the vehicle.

DEF tank (BlueTEC vehicles): check the fluid level and, if necessary, refill to the maximum (13 l)  .

Wheel-changing tool kit: check that the jack is working and make sure you have the lug wrench, a robust tow cable and a folding spade in the vehicle.

Wheels and tires: check the tire tread depth and tire pressure.

Check for damage and remove any foreign objects, e.g. small stones, from the wheels/tires.

Replace any missing valve caps.

Replace dented or damaged wheels.

Rims: dented or bent rims can result in a loss of tire pressure and damage the tire bead. Therefore, check your rims before driving off-road and replace them as required.

Checklist after driving off-road

If you detect damage to the vehicle after driving off-road, have the vehicle checked immediately at a qualified specialist workshop.

Deactivate DSR  .

Vehicles with the AIRMATIC package: lower the vehicle to a ride height suitable for the road conditions, e.g. to the highway/high-speed level.

Clean the headlamps and rear lights and check for damage.

Clean the front and rear license plates.

Clean the wheels/tires with a water jet and remove any foreign objects.

Clean the wheels, wheel housings and the vehicle underside with a water jet; check for any foreign objects and damage.

Check whether twigs or other parts of plants have become trapped. These increase the risk of fire and can damage fuel pipes, brake hoses or the rubber bellows of the axle joints and propeller shafts.

After the trip, examine without fail the entire undercarriage, wheels, tires, brakes, bodywork structure, steering, chassis and exhaust system for damage.

After driving for extended periods across sand, mud, gravel, water or in similarly dirty conditions, have the brake discs, wheels, brake pads/linings and axle joints checked and cleaned.

If you detect strong vibrations after off-road travel, check for foreign objects in the wheels and drive train and remove them if necessary. Foreign objects can disturb the balance and cause vibrations.

Driving over rough terrain places greater demands on your vehicle than driving on normal roads. After driving off-road, check the vehicle. This allows you to detect damage promptly and reduce the risk of an accident to yourself and other road users.

Driving on sand

Observe the following rules when driving on sand:
vehicles with the AIRMATIC package: select a raised vehicle level.

avoid high engine speeds.

select a shift range appropriate to the terrain.

drive quickly to overcome the rolling resistance. Otherwise the vehicle's wheels could become stuck in loose ground.

drive in the tracks of other vehicles if possible. Make sure that: - the tire ruts are not too deep.

- the sand is sufficiently firm.

- the ground clearance of the vehicle is sufficient.

Tire ruts and gravel roads

Check that the ruts are not too deep and that your vehicle has sufficient clearance.

Otherwise, your vehicle could be damaged or bottom out and get stuck.

Observe the following rules when driving along ruts in off-road terrain or on roads with loose gravel:
vehicles with the AIRMATIC package: select a raised vehicle level.

avoid high engine speeds.

select shift range 1.

drive slowly.

where ruts are too deep, drive with the wheels of one side on the center grassy area, if possible.

Driving over obstacles

Obstacles could damage the floor of the vehicle or components of the chassis. Ask passengers for guidance when driving over large obstacles. The passenger should always keep a safe distance from the vehicle when doing so in order to avoid injury as a result of unexpected vehicle movements. After driving off-road or over obstacles, check the vehicle for possible damage, especially to the underbody and the components of the chassis.

Observe the following rules when driving over

Observe the following rules when driving over tree stumps, large stones and other obstacles:
Raise the vehicle level.

Avoid high engine speeds.

Select shift range 1.

Drive very slowly.

Drive straight over the center of obstacles.

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