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We Took a Road Trip With Mercedes to the Masters and Met Up With Jon Rahm

After driving much of the new GLE-Class to the world’s most famous golf tournament, we talked game with the winner prior to the first round.

Driving an example of Mercedes-Benz's new GLE-Class to the 2023 Masters golf tournament. Mercedes-Benz AG

On Thursday, April 6, Spanish golfer Jon Rahm four-putted for a double bogey on the first hole of the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. It was not an auspicious start, to say the least, and surprising given both his being ranked No. 2 in the world and the fact that, only the previous evening, he had told Robb Report that practice and the Par 3 Tournament on Wednesday helped keep him calm before the official start of play.

“A lot of players can tell you that the late Wednesday panic is a real thing,” Rahm had said. “I mean, you hit one bad shot and you’re already thinking ‘my week’s over’ . . . to play the par three, it gets you out of that zone, in my case. And my wife and kids are with me. So really, thinking about that, it’s just a great thing they do for us to have fun.”

Golfer Jon Rahm during the Par 3 Tournament at The Masters on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.
Golfer Jon Rahm during the Par 3 Tournament at The Masters on Wednesday, April 5. Mercedes-Benz AG

Nevertheless, the struggle on that first hole helped to showcase Rahm’s resiliency and true abilities—a long drive, excellent chipping touch, and a steadying demeanor—that would allow him go on to log the lowest score ever for a round at the Masters that started with a double bogey. Over the following three days, Rahm would cut down on mistakes, tallying up birdies while battling at the top of the leaderboard with Brooks Koepka. By Sunday evening, after weather delays (and a fallen tree), Rahm had won his first Masters on a very auspicious date: the 66th birthday of Spanish golfer Steve Ballesteros (and 40th anniversary of Ballesteros’ second Masters win). Ballesteros was Rahm’s childhood idol.

Golfer Jon Rahm mingles with guests of Mercedes-Benz at a reception presenting examples of the new GLE-Class at Augusta during the week of the 2023 Masters Tournament.
Jon Rahm mingles with guests of Mercedes-Benz at a reception presenting examples of the new GLE-Class at Augusta. Mercedes-Benz AG

I attended the first round of The Masters as a guest of Mercedes-Benz, and on the perfectly manicured lawns at Augusta, enjoyed some of the most difficult tickets to get in all of sports. I watched Tiger Woods tee off and putt between increasingly painful bouts of limping as he continues to recover from his car crash of 2021. I also caught the world’s current No. 1 golfer and reigning Masters champion, Scottie Scheffler, in action for a few holes. Then there was Jordan Spieth showing incredible touch from range, Sahith Teegala making a spectacular recovery out of a bunker, and Rory McIlroy unleashing his taut energy into a crushing drive, though I somehow never spotted the left-handed swing of Phil Mickelson on a long day in the sweltering Georgia sun. A particularly poignant moment came when a rules official at the 6th hole handed a diehard Tiger Woods fan the very tee that her idol had just used, which prompted some quick tears of joy.

Golfer Jon Rahm getting some putting practice in before the first round of play at the 2023 Masters Tournament.
Rahm getting some putting practice in before the first round of play at the 2023 Masters Tournament. Mercedes-Benz AG

Of course, the talk on everyone’s mind involved the fact that Augusta National, for the first time ever, had invited golfers who left the PGA Tour to play for the upstart LIV Golf series—including Koepka and Mickelson. Opinions varied, mostly centering around the tradition of The Masters that any previous winner can play in the tournament every year for the rest of their lives.

“A lot of these players have earned the right to play here,” Rahm told me. “It’s the right thing to do. You want the best players in the world playing at the Majors and you know that some of those players at LIV Golf are still some of the best players in the world.”

My personal journey to the Masters was by way of a road trip through the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina to Augusta, all while swapping time behind the wheel in variants of the marque’s new GLE-Class.

The 2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S Coupe.
The 2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S Coupe. Mercedes-Benz AG

In the highest AMG-spec GLE 63S Coupe, I found that uninterrupted stretches of country road perfectly highlighted the prodigious power of a Biturbo V-8 rated at 603 hp and 627 ft lbs of torque. And the smooth and compliant air suspension somehow masked the significant heft of a comfortable and luxurious cruiser that can quickly turn into a back-road brawler when required. 

Then there’s the new GLE 450 4MATIC SUV, a stalwart in the lineup that now sports a mild facelift and a 48-volt hybrid system for the 2024 model year. The model subtly refines the past iteration’s exterior design and introduces improved tech within the MBUX 12.3-inch instrument and infotainment screens. With adaptive cruise control and Active Lane Keeping Assist activated, the 450 4Matic seemingly rides on pillows while also managing an EPA rating of 25 mpg on the highway. Of course, flooring the accelerator still unleashes up to 375 hp, so this hybrid is certainly no slouch.

The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC SUV on its way to to the 2023 Masters tournament.
The 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC SUV on its way to the 2023 Masters tournament. Mercedes-Benz AG

The dual nature of two cars that share the same underpinnings only underscored how well Mercedes-Benz (and AMG) can produce models that satisfy customer expectations of both refinement and performance. To better emphasize this point, Mercedes brought us out to the Augusta Police Department’s performance driving track for a quick morning of testing that went far beyond the pale of what we would be allowed to do on public roads.

We started with drag racing, high-speed slaloms, and ABS brake testing in the GT 63S sedan and all-electric Mercedes-AMG EQS. Fiddling with boost and launch modes, as well as traction control settings, revealed the immediate gut-punch of the 751 hp EQS EV’s instantaneously available 752 ft lbs of torque. However, through any corners or while braking hard, the V-8-powered GT 63S—which weighs 1,300 pounds less than the EQS—proved relatively nimbler, and its more responsive handling quickly made up for any advantage the EQS gained with a launch off the line.

Mercedes-Benz SUVs driving through Augusta National during the 2023 Masters Tournament.
Mercedes making its presence known at The Masters. Mercedes-Benz AG

Next, we headed over to a sprinkler-soaked skid pad to practice wet-surface oversteer and understeer drifting in the AMG C 63S Coupe. The vehicle pairs a 503 hp Biturbo V-8 with rear-wheel drive and an electronically controlled rear differential to allow for full donuts when the traction control is turned off. But the exercise also revealed how much the automaker allows the driver to tailor the computer’s assistance with a traction-control dial on the steering wheel. This is a key feature that owners of a high-powered, rear-wheel-drive sports car might appreciate on rainy or snowy days.

Finally, Mercedes took us over to a short autocross circuit in the impressive AMG 45S version of the A-Class compact four-door. Equipped with all-wheel drive and wearing Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, the little sedan composed itself quite well once I selected Sport mode and redeveloped my confidence in the front tires’ ability to pull me through corners. Our instructors told us that any time in the low 20-second range for the course’s smooth S-turns and tighter hairpins would be respectable. For the most part, I hovered right around there, yet when I applied harder stabs of the brake pedal to set the front tires before turning, I managed to trim down to 19.6 seconds. While trying to fine-tune my lap times at the autocross circuit, my mind kept wandering back to the golfers at The Masters, each trying to hone in on their perfect swing over four long days of competition.

A Mercedes-Benz SUV at Augusta National Golf Club.
The Masters and Mercedes find common ground in the quest for consistency in both power and refinement. Mercedes-Benz AG

Golfers also require power and refinement in order to crush balls well over 300 yards while reducing mistakes—constantly optimizing their contact points, ball spin, and putting lines. The need for consistency and confidence come to the forefront whether you’re drifting a luxury sedan or making birdie from the bunker. After all, executing at the highest level takes focus and flow. Just ask Jon Rahm—he’s clearly firing on all cylinders when it comes to both.

Click here for more photos of the road trip with Mercedes-Benz to the 2023 Masters Tournament.

Driving an example of Mercedes-Benz’s new GLE-Class to the 2023 Masters Tournament. Mercedes-Benz AG

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