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AMG Driving Experience November 2017

POSTED BY Ian Jerome Leong ON 28 November 2017

Say the letters AMG and the first things that come to mind are Mercedes cars that exude prestige, style, and exclusivity.

For motoring fans, the brand name is synonymous with high performance speed demons, DTM (German Touring Car Masters) championships, and of course, the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team that has dominated the pinnacle of racing four years running.

There is something truly special about AMG cars and anyone who knows the history of the brand will surely come to appreciate the type of cars that come out of Affalterbach, Germany.

With a one man one engine philosophy, AMG owners can be proud to say they possess a unique automobile unlike any other.

Earlier this month, AMG hosted a Performance Drive event at the Sepang International Circuit to highlight the various attributes of its vehicles, allowing the media to get behind the wheel of various AMG models available in Malaysia.

Before the hands-on fun however, AMG took the opportunity to launch the mark’s latest masterpiece, the brutal Mercedes-AMG GT R, or more fondly known as the Beast of the Green Hell.

Clothed in pristine white paint with bright bronze coloured brake callipers, this machine truly deserves its namesake and caused a shutter frenzy that lasted throughout the presentation.

Soon after the launch, it was time for the media to have a taste of what these exclusive and highly tuned vehicles can do, under the supervision of AMG race car drivers-cum-driving instructors who flew in from abroad specially for the event.

The group of journalists from various motoring publications were first divided into four groups of roughly 15 journalists each, before convoying in at least 5 cars in each group to different sections of the race track for a planned activity that were being held simultaneously.

Getting the feel

The first activity was a simple test drive on Sepang’s South Circuit with a line-up of vehicles that included the SLC 43, GT S, GLC 43 Coupe and GLE 43 Coupe.

After every lap, everyone was encouraged to swap cars to not only experience the luxuries and interior but have a better sense of the driving nature of each model.

For this author who has only driven vehicles below the RM200k mark, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands (and both feet if possible) to get behind the wheel of the SLC 43 and GT S sportscars.

Having driven a range of vehicles including affordable people movers to SUVs and commercial delivery vans, driving a sports car was something else altogether due to decreased all-round visibility and the sight of the long bonnet before me.

Sitting low, snug and with an array of knobs and buttons that were probably sourced from a spaceship, the decreased visibility was immediately ignored once I laid my fingers on the alcantara of the steering wheel and hearing the purr of the SLC’s V6 and the GT S’ V8.

Unfortunately, what I could not ignore was the thought of crashing the RM570k and RM1mil marvels into the cars in front. Just as well that we were not able to push the cars hard as we had to follow closely behind the lead car that was showing the standard racing lines.

Zero to hundred and figure eights

The next activity took place on the main straight, with a few C 63 S Coupes and GLA 45s that ran on the 4Matic system.

After a quick briefing by instructor Ben Porter, everyone was given the chance to try out the launch control function of the cars, which could be activated easily enough through a few simple steps using the paddle shifters.

The excitement was when I was told it was compulsory to floor the accelerator for the car to initiate the launch control sequence. The only other time I remembered pushing the pedal to the metal was in a one-litre Hyundai Atos many years back, and that was out of pure necessity just to put the car in motion.

With my left foot firmly on the brake and my right leg pushing equally hard on the throttle, I watched the rev needle make its way quickly to the red line. The engine then made a glorious sound and I was given the nod to lift my foot off the brake.

As was expected, the car immediately took off and I had absolutely no guilt in keeping my right firmly planted on the accelerator. My only regret was that the designated finishing point for the run approached way to quickly and I had to start hitting the brakes to avoid colliding into the next batch of participants who were in the midst of their activity at Turn 1.

Organisers had allocated roughly 30 minutes for each activity, so I managed to squeeze in two additional runs in a GLA 45 between all participants present and enjoyed the feeling the G-forces pushing me deeper into the driving seat.

After the launch control activity, we headed down to Turn 1 for a mini drift session. The cars used for this exercise were two pairs of C 250 and E 200 Coupes, each equipped with easy drift tyres (or rather, thick, hard plastic sleeves that were fitted onto regular tyres) at the rear to encourage wheelspin.

Needless to say that as this was an introduction activity, we did not need to put much speed into the exercise.

Water was sprayed onto the track to further decrease grip and I was ready to release my inner Drift King. Sadly though, I felt more like a Drift Pauper as I failed miserably in maintaining a drift.

Just as I felt any wheelspin, my excitement got the better of me and I pushed the accelerator harder without compensating on the steering wheel. This immediately ended up in spin and after three tries, I had still not learnt my lesson – eventually feeling too embarrassed and deciding to give way to other participants to try their hand at it.

Back to zero

The final challenge was to put the cars’ ABS to their limits. Gunning the throttle in excess of 100km/h through a metal arch fitted with motion sensors and light signals, we had to swerve hard to avoid a set of cones that were set in our path.

The light signals were activated at the very last second before impact to indicate the direction we had to swerve to. This signal delay was designed to ensure we made a sudden change in direction instead of preplanning our next move.

After lunch, the final activity for the day were hot laps in a variety of AMG vehicles. Piloted by the race drivers, each participant awaits his turn to sit in the passenger seat.

I did not manage to get a ride in the GT R but was fortunate enough to experience the full power of the lower-spec GT S I drove earlier in the day.

Under the safe hands of AMG GT3 racer and 2016 Australian GT Championship runner-up Dominic Storey, he calmly threw the car around corners.

Though I felt perfectly confident with Storey at the wheel, it was a strange to see him making the car, tyres and brakes work that hard and yet look as if this was a sub-60km/h leisure drive through the back roads of Port Dickson.

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