Desert Dream|AMG experience with Mercedes-Benz

Sun, 10/06/2013 - 20:50
Mercedes-Benz full line of AMG vehicles at Willow Springs, Calif. | Photo credit: Greg Jarem There are few comparisons to getting in one of your favorite sports cars and going 135 mph around a dusty race track, propelled by 622 horses. As automotive writers and enthusiasts, I think it’s fair to say that these are our favorite times. Driving high-end sports cars is, in a way, a reward for our tireless hours of writing and editing. It’s what we live for, really – the chance to sling a car around a tight turn and pray we come out the other side looking like a pro. The full AMG experience  Mercedes-Benz brought journalists together in Willow Springs, Calif. to put the “Best of AMG” to the test. With more than $5 million in product on site, the full AMG lineup was represented – from the new CLA45 AMG to the top-of-the-line SLS AMG Black Series. Not often does my husband envy what I get to do, but this trip was definitely one he wished he could have filled in for me. The original SLS, the 300SL, is his all-time favorite car. We spent two days in California driving a handful of AMG cars, including some powerful, sexy sedans and a wagon. Arriving at LAX, we were given a Mercedes to drive to the track, which is just about an hour-and-a-half away. My friend Andrew Ganz and I teamed up to be driving buddies, selecting a beautifully brown (read unassuming) E63 AMG 4MATIC wagon for our trip. Day 1 – “The Streets” at Willow Springs Day one at Willow Springs focused on a technical short track for my group. I was a bit timid the first lap around, but by lap three I felt less shy. This being only my second true track day, I was more cautious than some of my peers. But cautious or not, it’s all about having fun and seeing what these cars can do. And that’s exactly what Mercedes-Benz wanted us to do – push their AMG lineup to the limits. So we did, and for the most part, we didn’t ruin anything. There were 41 AMG cars at the track, some designated for the track and others parked neatly for street drives. AMG vehicle lineup for the track 
  • CLA45 – 355-hp, turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
  • C63 Edition 507 – 507 hp, 6.3L V8
  • E63 wagon/sedan – 577hp, Bi-turbo V8 5.5L
  • SLS Black Series – 622hp, 6.2L V8
“AMG is a nice sub-brand for Mercedes,” said a Mercedes-Benz representative in conversation, “They have little to worry about by way of journalists not loving their cars.”
‘Toy’ cars from the window of the van | Photo credit: Melanie Batenchuk Day 2 – The Fast Track Our second day kicked of bright and early, arriving at the track as the morning sun began warming the vehicles. As we pulled in, five or six SLS Black Series were parked in the pit area of the track, all with the driver’s side gullwing door propped open as if to lure us in for a drive. A member of the group remarked that it looked like someone spilled their toys. We all eagerly exited the van. Willow Springs is known for being a challenging – and fast – track. We were all a bit nervous to get in $275,000 cars and put them to work. It didn’t ease our fears that we’d be led by professional Mercedes-Benz driver, but we knew we were in good hands. I waited anxiously for my turn to take the first spin, listening to my colleagues’ stories as they came off the track. Then it was my time. The SLS Black Series demands your respect. Taking a turn too wide not only reminds you of that but also reminds you that you’re relying heavily on the engineering of this car.
There’s something spectacular about going over 100 mph in a 622 hp rocket on an unfamiliar road, yet feeling completely comfortable and in control.  Like an equestrian who depends on his horse to jump when commanded, we directed the wheel, accelerator and brakes, trusting fully in the performance of the SLS to get us through the course successfully.
After five laps around Willow Springs’ big track, all my anxiety melted away and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I was fortunate to drive or ride in all four ‘varieties’ of SLS that day. But enough of my story-telling…I know what you really care about are the pictures. AMG president Tobias Moers with SLS Black Series | Photo credit: Greg Jarem Best Cars Guide editor Melanie Batenchuk takes the E63 wagon for a spin. | Photo credit: Greg Jarem The group chatting ahead of Day 1 festivities. | Photo credit: Greg Jarem Our pal Andrew Ganz of (and #TXCarChat founder) ready for the SLS. | Photo credit: Greg Jarem After a spin on the technical track in E63 AMG wagons. | Photo credit: Melanie Batenchuk The Streets at Willow Springs | Photo credit: Melanie Batenchuk AMG eye candy for street drives | Photo credit: Melanie Batenchuk SLS Black Series at Willow Springs | Photo credit: Greg Jarem SLS Black Series taking a turn at Willow Springs | Photo credit: Greg Jarem

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