Editor’s Note: Garage Gigs, the 4MATIC off-road snow drive, and Ice Garage were separate events not a normal part of this winter drive program.
Gimli, MB – Year after year, Mercedes-Benz organizes its AMG Winter Driving Academy at only two locations on Earth: Sweden and Gimli Manitoba.
Why Gimli? Because the ice on Lake Winnipeg is thick, conditions are ideal and locals welcome the event with open arms.
Privileged customers are invited to have a bit of ice-driving fun, as long as they pay a lofty sum varying between $5,000 and $8,000. Prices vary according to the course they select. In return, Mercedes-Benz hosts them in a cozy hotel for three days, all while allowing them to sample AMG’s finest sedans and wagons to their full potential.
We headed to Gimli to witness the event as if a customer. Well, almost.
Celebrating 4MATIC All-Wheel-Drive
Events like these are often rather straight forward: journalists and influencers are invited to hop behind the wheel of the brand’s latest products. Instructors then guide them through the entire program, allowing them to stretch the car’s legs, all within a safe and controlled environment. It’s all rather fun.
…to our biggest surprise, the E63 S, while the most powerful, longest and heaviest of the available AMG-infused machines on location, was actually the most athletic and easiest to drift around the frozen course.
Except this time around, Mercedes tried something a little different. Yes, we were given the opportunity to sample the brand’s 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system through deep snow, followed by some light offroading aboard the brand’s latest SUVs – GLB, GLC, GLE and GLS.
The event then wrapped up with its “pièce de résistance”: some old fashion hooning on frozen lake Winnipeg behind the wheel of some of the most powerful sedans and wagons currently on sale, the AMG C43 S and AMG E63 S 4MATIC +, in both sedan and wagon form.
Drifting a 600+ horsepower station wagon on studded tires in the middle of an open frozen lake is, without question, a heck of a lot of fun. And to our biggest surprise, the E63 S, while the most powerful, longest and heaviest of the available AMG-infused machines on location, was actually the most athletic and easiest to drift around the frozen course.
The C63 S, on the other hand, proved much more of a handful due to its equally insane 503 horsepower twin-turbo V8 and – ahem – rear-wheel-drive. You need to be alert when that rear end kicks back the other way, or you’ll end up straight up in a snow bank – the faith of several journalists on site.
The Ice Garage
While fun, drifting over-powered German sedans wasn’t the centre of Mercedes-Benz’s snow-bound event. It was actually the ice-garage the carmaker had erected right smack in the middle of the lake. Inside, Stuttgart’s oldest car brand boasted its latest 4MATIC vehicles, notably the GLB subcompact SUV – recently launched worldwide, as well as the always desirable G-Wagen adventure machine.
But that garage had another important message hidden within its icy walls.
Mercedes-Benz is no longer the old-luxury company normally associated with neck ties and grey business suits. Mercedes, or as the century old car builder wants to be identified in the posh world of social media platforms, #MB has rejuvenated its branding in a way Cadillac and Buick could only have dreamt of doing.
That ice garage, as pretty as it was with its fluorescent three-pointed stars and oh-so-cozy blankets and warm winter drinks, was actually there to promote Mercedes-Benz devotion to new up-and-coming Canadian artists, a connection with Mercedes-Benz being born inside an actual garage over 100 years ago.
Through its new music program called Garage Gigs, Mercedes allows new talent to expose their gigs through a series of corporate events across the country. The carmaker did just that in Gimli by inviting Canadian bands Said the Whale and Arkells to its Winter Sporting event.
There’s even a full-on Spotify playlist dedicated to these talented artists so they can be visible, and hopefully, get noticed by the music industry.
What does this all have to do with cars? Absolutely nothing. But considering that just over a decade ago, Mercedes-Benz was reserved exclusively to the one percent, and that today, it invites a healthier mix of influencers and journalists to one of its most exclusive winter events, means something: that Mercedes has shed off its corporate “we only care about numbers” Germanic behavior and is now looking to attract new money from young affluent professionals who previously may not have felt the Mercedes-Benz brand fit their lifestyle.
With products as fresh, cool and frankly convincing like the entry level A-Class, a subcompact sedan/hatchback that actually offers fantastic value for the price, Mercedes definitely has succeeded at reinventing itself without neglecting its past.
To learn more about this event, head over to Mercedes-AMG Winter Sporting.
Or head here for our latest Mercedes-Benz Reviews.