October 20, 2006
It is not everyday you stand in front of a fleet of vehicles with a value approaching two million dollars, and it’s an even rarer day when the keys to the fleet are handed to you.
In coordination with the Mercedes-Benz driving school and the AMG division of DaimlerChrysler, this is exactly what I experienced on a beautiful fall day in October. With over 6800 hp to play with and a closed race-track for our enjoyment, this is something dreams are made of.
Mercedes-Benz and Race Inc. assembled a first class event focused on providing us with the ability to get first hand experience with the 2007 AMG line-up of vehicles. Held at Shannonville Motorsport Park near Belleville, Ontario, the event was planned in such a way as to ensure we were able to get the most out of these impressive vehicles.
In 1993, AMG developed and launched the Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG the first AMG vehicle available for resale. Fast forward to 2007 and Mercedes-Benz AMG offers an impressive line-up of 11 vehicles with unparalleled performance.
Canada is an important market for Mercedes-Benz and especially the AMG line of vehicles. AMG sells more cars per capita in Canada than anywhere else in the world; apparently as much as we like our little hatchbacks and fuel-efficient grocery getters, we also like to have fun with our performance luxury automobiles.
Like a fine dinner at a gourmet restaurant we were offered a seven-course meal for the senses.
2007 SLK55 AMG Coupe/Roadster.
This gorgeous roadster with a Formula One-inspired nose and retractable hardtop was the least expensive of the vehicles available for testing at the event. Starting at $85,500 this roadster competes with the likes of the Porsche Boxster S and BMW M Roadster. Powered by a 5.5-litre DOHC V8 engine, the SLK55 is also the least powerful of the group of cars tested with "only" 355 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, launching it from 0-100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds.
I already have a penchant for light tossable cars; add in some grunt, and I’m a particularly happy camper. I spent quite a bit of my time during the day in the SLK55; top down and top up, this vehicle is a comfortable cruiser aided by its air-scarf system which blows warm or cool air directly on the back of your neck. On the track the SLK turns into an entirely different machine with excellent agility, balance, precision and power that can easily get you into trouble with a heavy foot. The SLK55 actually turned out to be my favourite of the bunch even though it was not the fastest.
2007 CLK63 AMG Cabriolet
The only soft top vehicle in the AMG line-up, the CLK63 AMG replaces the CLK55 AMG and is one of the five new Mercedes-Benz models powered by an all new 6.2-litre V8 engine, the first engine developed entirely by AMG. In CLK guise this engine produces 475 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. With over 100 more horsepower and 150 more lb-ft of torque than its competition, the CLK is capable of a quick 0-100 km/h sprint in 4.7 seconds.
The CLK63 is also the only four-seat convertible AMG product. If you’re looking to cruise with the wife and kids top down and then head to the track, the CLK63 will get it done for a starting price of $115,000.
2007 ML63 AMG 4Matic
Otherwise known as the salad course, this course was anything but light. Weighing in at 5,230 lbs, the ML63 is one of the quickest SUVs in the world: only the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is faster, running 4.8 seconds to 100 km/h from a standstill. The ML63 is capable of producing a 5.0-second 0-100 km/h run, yet will save you over $60,000.
2007 R63 AMG
Meant to cleanse the palate, the fourth course must be serene and easy to drive. The R63 AMG is just that. Permanent all-wheel drive and seating for six will get you to the main course in a hurry; also powered by the all new 6.2-litre V8, it produces 503 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque, launching this people mover to 100 km/h in five seconds flat.
The R63 has a slower steering response than any other vehicles in the line-up yet oddly enough was the only vehicle I cleared the pylons with over and over, perhaps I drove over them?
Meat for the soul.
2007 CLS63 AMG Coupe
Yes, it is four doors and yes, Mercedes-Benz insists on calling it a coupe. Although I disagree with the designation, I won’t disagree with the styling: I think it is wonderful. The rear seating is a little tight and the rear doors are very small, so it may as well be a coupe.
This vehicle turned out to be another one of my favourites. Also powered by the all-new 6.2-litre V8 with an extra four horsepower over the R63 and ML63 in a much lighter chassis, the CLS63 has a very quick 0-100 km/h of 4.5 seconds. The CLS63 although large, feels light, nimble and responsive on the track.
With a touch of a button, the driver can choose from three sport-comfort settings which are electronically controlled by an AMG tuned AIRMATIC DC air suspension system. This system also includes automatic level control that maintains ride height when loaded with passengers and cargo.
2007 S65 AMG Sedan
Top of the heap, king of the hill, the chief: all words that can describe the S65 AMG. The S-Class sedan has always been the innovator, the vehicle where all things begin; the AMG version takes this vehicle to entirely new levels of performance and luxury.
This vehicle is capable of a 0-100 km/h run in 4.4 seconds; get up to 200 km/h and your passengers wouldn’t even notice. Powered by an enormous bi-turbo V12 engine producing 603 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque this vehicle starts at $228,000. It weighs roughly the same as the ML63 and R63 AMG models, yet handling is far superior. Through a tight slalom course, I nearly forgot I was driving a 5000-lb vehicle.
2007 SL65 AMG Coupe/Roadster
Powered by the same engine in the S65 AMG Sedan but weighing in nearly 400 lbs lighter, the SL65 Roadster can only be described as a monster. It rockets from rest to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds.
With 738 lb-ft of torque available from 2000 rpm let me tell you, when the accelerator is matted from a standstill, it’s like the fury of the devil is launched beneath you. At 2000 rpm the turbos kick in; it would go unnoticed if only the wheels were not spinning creating billowing smoke in your trail. When traction does arrive you are launched like a rocket ship.
My mission was to test the cars braking ability in an emergency manoeuvre in the wet: not only does this car go, but it stops, it turns and it handles like no vehicle of this weight should – now if only I could find that spare $250,000.
What I really gained from this event, besides the fact that I want these vehicles in my own driveway, was that there has been an unbelievable advancement in technology: not only do these vehicles go fast, they can turn, they can brake and they can drive your grandma to church on Sunday.
Suspension and brake technology from these extreme machines will eventually trickle down to your grocery getter; as a result, safety and ride quality will be improved and if you do want to take your grocery getter to the track on Saturday and church on Sunday – well you’ll be able to do that too.
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