DRIVEN recently dispatched Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean to Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Germany for an immersion course on the marque that invented the “horseless carriage”.
Here in Part I of his report he hits the track in their most alluring model:
ACL’s Michael Williams heads to Mercedes-Benz HQ in Germany
There’s a moment right after you get your driver’s license when you’re alone in the car for the first time.
Prior to those initial instants of complete control you’re saddled with a driving instructor, or worse, your mom.
All this supervision basically boils down to — hands on the wheel at 10 and 2, eyes on the road — you driving very slowly.
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Last year at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance I had my first in-person encounter with the beautiful, beastly Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
I first encountered the SLS AMG on Pebble Beach’s 17-Mile Drive
The bad news was I had to drive it on the stunning but heavily patrolled 17-Mile Drive, which was sort of like having mom back in the car with me.
If only I’d had an opportunity to truly flex the SLS’ muscles, what tales I’d tell….
It seems that sometimes when you wish upon a three-pointed star, dreams do come true.
I woke up pretty quickly when Mercedes-Benz offered another crack at the SLS AMG – this time at the luxury automaker’s private test track in Malmsheim, Germany.
I was invited to test drive the supercar at Mercedes’ private track in Malmsheim
The track is located a short drive from Mercedes’ home base of Stuttgart and was formerly operated as an airport; the German air force still trains paratroopers there.
This of course helped convince me I was actually filming an episode of Top Gear.
Coincidentally, it also served as my style inspiration for the day.
My test driving mission called for my trusty black Arc’teryx LEAF “Combat Jacket” (developed for special forces crews), USA made Levi’s 505s, a pair of all-black Nike Free sneakers and, since I was traveling, my Rolex GMT II Coke.
The track was of course wet as hell and that simply did not matter at all to the SLS
The conditions were cold and rainy when we arrived at Malmsheim, dark sheets of water blasting down out of the Black Forest.
The track was of course wet as hell and that simply did not matter at all.
We had a range of Mercedes models to choose from, with the sculpted SLS AMG clearly top dog.
The SLS is a marvelous monster, impeccably appointed, brimming with barely suppressed power and even more agile than it looks.
Brimming with barely suppressed power and even more agile than it looks
Even with all the rain the car handled everything me and my lead foot could throw at it.
The folks at Mercedes had a handling course set up at one end of the track so we could do things that would normally make your insurance premiums go nuclear.
There was no one in the car telling you what to do, no cops to look out for, no threat of recrimination – just crushing asphalt in a gullwinged German supercar.
And no amount of water could dampen the thrill of sending $190,000 worth of hot German metal screaming ’round hairpin turns and then blasting past 100 mph, feats that would leave lesser vehicles smoking in a ditch.
We performed feats that would leave lesser vehicles smoking in a ditch
I felt a bit like a soggy Sultan of Brunei, above the law and in possession of the world’s best toy, with a harem back home waiting to warm me up.
A brief illusion but when all’s said and done I’ll take an SLS AMG on a half-submerged test track over the sunniest day in Pebble Beach any time….
All images by Michael Williams / ACL for DRIVEN
- Posted August 18, 2011
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