Whereas the regular Mercedes range almost requires a degree to find one’s way through all the models on offer, doing the same with the AMG range makes you realise their development never stops. What could be better than getting a taste of all these beauties on a sunny day in Limburg…
Some people talk about planets alignment. We prefer to talk about serendipity… Just on the very same day we were going to pick up a BMW M4 for a bank holyday test that our mobile phone rang. On the other end was Bastien, Mercedes Belux PR. He just told us we had to be free the following Friday. Was it mandatory? Indeed, a whole day on the Zolder track to discover the AMG range can’t be turned down! First Friday of June, we were delighted to be back at the Limburg track, under a bright sun and a deep blue sky. The Covid test was carried out swiflty before we got access to the paddock. There, the entire AMG range was on display. From the A45 to the G63, they were lined up at the back of the pits ; however it was inside that we discovered some GT-Rs. The atmosphere got better along with the temperature climbing and the program was announced.
On the menu were six workshops, including four track sessions with the 35/53s, the 45s, the 65s and finally the GTs. A car control session was also on the map, as well as the Agility-X, before topping it all off with a few hot laps alongside a professional driver in a GT4. A full day’s work that began with the C63 coupe and E63s sedan. With 510 hp under your right foot, you’d better be awake to keep up with the pace car. However, the rhythm quickly returns and we had a lot of fun, even if we had to ease things a bit in certain parts of the track to respect the noise standards. That’s just too much!
The next workshop was “Tracktime GT” and we just went straight to the green GT-R at the front. In these instances, it’s compulsory to get thebest start possible, before someone gets sidetracked… In the GT ahead of us, Jeffrey van Hooydonck is not enjoying himself much on this track and even if you stay in a single line, it’s easy to feel the relief on the bump in the fast left-hander after Terlamen. What a ride this car is! The 585bhp 4.0 V8 purrs under the long bonnet and you feel perfectly at home in it, the gears ticking over as you accelerate. We then switch to the GT-4 door, which is logically less agile. Unfortunately, a slow puncture prevented us from completing our series of laps. Not midday yet and then… we have a large grin on our face, having so much fun!
Patrick Selleslagh’s team chose this moment to have us on board one of their GT4s, with young O’Neil Muth. This is another opportunity to check the real skills of a professional driver. We admired the imperious and unique way of handling the steering wheel, the ballet of the feet on the pedals or the ease with which O’Neil plays with the traps of the track. However, it’s not engine power or braking that impresses us most as this GT4 has a limited power output, compared to the road-going GT-R.
Our day was perfectly timed as we could now enjoy a meal on the sunny terrace. The next workshop took us to the “Pro Move” track, at the entrance of the arena. The idea was assessing the benefits of ABS and ESP by avoiding walls of water that would suddenly appear in front of our wheels. The whole thing was sheer fun, even though it reminded us of all the usefulness of these different safety systems in everyday driving conditions.
Our fifth workshop was hosted by a team that had come from Germany to offer us what they call Agility-X. We didn’t know it by then but this was probably where we had the most fun. Indeed, there was a quite wet course laid out between cones, along with C63s and A45s that were just waiting to be abused. Indeed, we were allowed to nearly turn off the ESP, to be able to slide but… we were timed. That made the exercise even more tricky, knowing the journalists’ self-esteem.
The C63 offered us some powerful slides but the more agile A45 was the fastest. However, the spotters’ enthusiasm urged us to do too much and it all ended in a spin. This was probably our best moment of the day, when we could really let the horses loose without any fear of catching a rail.
The day ended with two more rounds. The first with the less exuberant A35 and C53 and the last one in the company of an A45 that was finally more fun than expected, after the morning’s horsepower festival. Light and compact, it is a lot of fun to drive, with a rather distinctive sound. We had a lot of fun behind the wheel of this little rocket, so much so that we forced David Croes, the driver of the lead car, to up the pace, even though a colleague who was a rookie had a lot of trouble keeping in touch at the end of the queue. He was aboard a GLA45 that was less at ease in such an environment. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)
Eventually, this is the frustrating limit of such track days as some of the participants invited by the dealers had never driven on a track. It is essential that the groups remain tight, given the number of cars on the track. Never mind, that won’t spoil all the fun we had, we just can’t wait to do it again! By the way, just as we were heading back to Liège, our mobile phone rang… again, this time with a new test proposal. In Maranello… Some days are definitely better than others !