Few things can prepare you for the raucous bark of a Mercedes-AMG GT R in full flight. We head to Eastern Creek, Sydney to thrash the Mercedes-Benz lineup.
The full-throttle roar is part V8 Supercar and part old school muscle car but tinged with enough high-revving tech to craft a mechanical concerto few cars come close to.
Loud, too. Conversation in the cabin rises to a shout if you want to actually get the message across to anyone.
That it comes just moments after the near-silent whir of an all-electric EQC is testament to the diversity on offer at the Mercedes-Benz drive day.
New for 2021
Being able to sample a suite of cars most people could never afford is part of the appeal of the entrée to Mercedes-Benz’s track activities, which have ramped up for 2021 following a 2020 Covid slumber.
More than 20 cars and 15 instructors make up the Accelerate drive day that now includes an electric car for the first time.
At $550 the half-day event is focused on car control and technology, allowing participants to drive a wide variety of machinery – from the mainstream and practical to the loud and fast.
It’s the EQC electric SUV that’s one of the most interesting cars at the track. It’s a mid-sized SUV focused on eco-friendly motoring, but one that also holds it own attacking a corner at Sydney Motorsport Park.
With two motors making a combined 300kWand 760Nm there’s no shortage of punch, something that makes exiting the pits something of a surprise.
The EQC marches with intent towards the first tight left-hander, its whispering e-motors moving the heavy body enthusiastically.
Physics takes over in the corners, and while the EQC is impressively forgiving, ultimately the 2.5-tonne mass wins the argument once you dial up the pace.
It’s all about the smiles
There’s a serious message in all this, not the least of which is subliminally trying to convince you to part with tens of thousands of dollars at some point in the next few years.
There’s also plenty to learn on managing a vehicle in occasionally extreme situations, as well as the basics of being a better driver – the sorts of things our authorities should be doing but don’t bother with, instead preferring to write up tickets once mistakes are made rather than avoid them in the first place.
But enjoyment is the theme throughout.
From swerve and avoid techniques to hot laps, there are plenty of ways to get the heart rate up.
But one of the most technical and challenging is drifting a figure-eight around a slick wet surface. To add to the excitement the rear tyres are surround by a low-grip plastic cover, significantly reducing friction. With the stability control and traction control disabled it makes for a very tail-happy machine.
As well as highlighting the advantages of modern electronics it rewards car balance and applying the right dab of throttle at the appropriate time to keep the tail sliding or tuck in the nose.
Get it right and the car can dance from a left-hand slide to the right. And while the speedo might touch 25km/h, it’s mostly with wheelspin. The road speed would be lucky to surpass 10km/h.
Fun at any speed.
For the real adrenalin hit, though, it’s the AMG hot laps. Our weapon of choice is the C63 S, a car soon set to swap its V8 for a four-cylinder.` Think of it as our last blast in a performance car hero!
The max speed is limited to 150km/h, which means rolling out of the throttle almost as soon as you’ve exited the fast corner flowing onto the straight at Sydney Motorsport Park.
But there’s plenty of places to test the car elsewhere.
Push on and there’s the persistent sway of stability control gently dabbing brakes and temporarily restraining the 375kW/700Nm outputs.
It’s the torque, in particular, that is most likely to trigger the rear wheels into spinning, often a taller gear ratio better for containing the excitement.
GT R at pace
Drive day participants also get the chance to go for a quick blast in the Mercedes-AMG GT R. At close to $400K drive-away it’s at the pinnacle of AMG performance, the familiar 4.0-litre V8 smashing out 430kW for what is a raucous ride.
There’s pace, sure, and it’s backed by one of the wildest soundtracks on a car that comes off the showroom floor.
But it’s the Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tyres – sticky track-focused numbers – that make our brief laps more exciting. Steering is razor sharp, requiring a recalibration from the other cars on the Accelerate program.
The 150km/h limit remains, but even those relatively short bursts – the lap is truncated to take out some of the higher speed stuff – and the slick cornering ekes out the adrenalin.
Potent carbon ceramic discs do a stellar job of slowing things for corners, the Mercedes-AMG GT R unfazed by track duties.
Stationary in the pit lane is a chance to soak in the impressive data logging that keeps an eye on myriad parameters, including cornering speeds, G forces and the temperatures of tyres. All of which takes some of the guesswork out of where you’re missing those crucial tenths of a second.