The AMG Experience 2005 – Ivan Khong Version
Here I was, with ESP off, hard on the brakes, modulating the brake pedal, trying to feed in enough pressure not to trigger the ABS, downshifting the auto box manually, get off the brake pedal, feed the steering wheel gently, feel the front end grip through the leather bound steering wheel, hear the chirrups from the tyres, gently now…. get on the accelerator as quick as you can… oopppsss…the tail steps out of line, just a whiff of opposite lock to get it back, but not before the ESP intervenes (you cannot completely switch it off) and spoils my fun of being a hooligan, but nevertheless, I am in 3rd gear, gunning the throttle, and I touch 200km/h, before I have to brake again for the tight left hander back to the front straight of the Sepang International Circuit.
This was the AMG Experience 2005, courtesy of DaimlerChrysler Malaysia Sdn Bhd, allowing selected privileged clients and Malaysian journalists, a chance to sample AMG’s finest at the Sepang F1 Track.
So, braving the hot midday sun, I was invited to drive not one, but seven AMG Mercedes models laid out before us. Glistening in the sun’s rays were the AMG’s C32, C55, E55, S55, CLK55, SL55, CLS65 and the CL65. The CL65 is fondly nicknamed ‘The Space Shuttle’. I suppose it is called that as a result of it having a folding metal roof that makes the CL65 threaten to leave the earth’s orbit when you activate it and floor the throttle at the same time, applying the full thrust of the 612bhp and the 1000Nm of torque of the AMG-tuned engine.
Ahhh… perfect weather for punting million dollar cars around a racetrack. Opportunities like these do not come very often. It would be almost insane not to be putting the hammer down on these cars AMG cars with engine power outputs ranging from 367bhp and 510Nm from the supercharged V8 C55 AMGs to the heady 612bhp, 1000Nm bi-turbo V12 CL65 AMGs.
There are no apt words to describe the visual stimulation offered by the AMG Mercedes lined up at the pit wall, with 18-inch alloy wheels and black AMG wordings on the silver 4 pot brake calipers. The car seems to sit lower, kitted out in a subtle bodykit, and looking almost menacing with quad tailpipes. You can’t help but admire the complete transformation of an object of desire for many, to one of lust for me. Externally, only a discreet AMG badge on the tailgate, distinguishes the AMG Mercedes from the ones you see in KL’s Jalan Sultan Ismail or Penang’s Swatow Lane. Mercedes-AMG GmbH specializes in the production of high-performance cars in the superlative sense.
The core to each AMG car, is the thunderous engine, which is hand-built, from start to finish, by 1 person. AMG’s one man, one engine philosophy ensures that quality, dedication, and perfection goes into every engine that comes out of Affalterbach, AMG’s German headquarters. And you can feel it, every time you depress the throttle, the way the surge of power and torque tries to overwhelm the tyres grip on the tarmac. Ferrari and Porsche drivers beware. The very sound of one flying by will tell you that the design engineers have probably spent hundreds of hours just tuning the exhaust note.
After a short briefing on track safety and pleading to us to keep the car in one piece, we were asked to choose a car. After a mad scramble, I ended up triumphantly in the C55 AMG, outfitted with leather bound Recaro racing seats, although deep inside, I knew that in due course, I would get the opportunity to drive all of them. With 367bhp, 510Nm of supercharged torque, it accelerates from rest to 100km/h in 5.2sec, and the amazing part of this is, it does so with just a 5 speed automatic gearbox. With the help of a supercharger, the engine produces immense torque from as low as 2000 rpm, causing the rear wheels to battle for traction every time you use more than a quarter throttle out of corners. The car is kept on the blacktop with the help of ESP (Electronic Stability Program). Ride is firm with taut body control, helped by optional up-rated AMG race spec springs and dampers, making the car feel at home on the racetrack. Tracking through the high speed turns on Sepang track, the car was sharp and incisive, with great stability and an absence of roll during high speed transitions. I found out later that this was the most driver-focused AMG of the lot.
Swapping cars with other journalists, I got into the E55 AMG next. With 109 more horses, boosting it to 476bhp and a corresponding increase in torque to 700Nm, this is an awesomely quick car. Without the C55’s track biased suspension, it rolls a little more in corners. This is to be expected as the suspension is tuned more for street use and is biased more towards occupant comfort. But the real letdown is the steering rack, which judders and trembles when pushed hard through corners. However, it only happens under extreme conditions and I do not expect this trait to show up in road cars as most Mercedes E-Class owners will not take their cars to the racetrack.
The CL65 AMG, boasting of 612bhp and 1000Nm of torque from its bi-turbo V12 engine, is fast on the road, but feels just a little out of place on the racetrack, on account of it feeling extremely nose heavy when going into tight turns, resulting in its front tyres, and brakes suffering some punishment. The car feels somewhat uneasy, as you can never really put down the power; its immense torque, and a heavy-handed electronics system always limiting the delivery of engine power. Perhaps AMG should have just stuck with the supercharged V8, and not bothered with the bi-turbo V12 engine, but then, on the other hand, how else can you blow away the competition on the Autobahn?
Given the choice of picking any of the AMG models to keep in my dream garage, my heart goes out to the SL55 AMG, for its sexy sculpted rear, for its ability to go topless, for the tight chassis control and for the supercharged V8’s capacity to deliver sheer excitement with every prod of the throttle. I can dream, can’t I? – Ivan Khong