EVER wondered what goes through F1 safety car driver Bernd Maylander’s mind as he sits at the head of a snake of multi million pound machinery when things go breasts up on a Sunday afternoon?
So do I. And one of the topics might well be how do I get out of this gull wing doored beast in a hurry if I need to.
The upward pivoting doors on the £165,000 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Coupe – the car he drives for work – can be a trifle deceptive.
It looks a very tight and confined cabin with the doors up and leaves you yourself wondering how he manages to get his helmeted head in there to perform his duties when Romain – or sometimes even one of his mates – gets it wrong.
Of course he’s considerably smaller than moi, but having said that, once in, I had more than enough room to sit back and enjoy the ride. And at 6ft 5ins I ain’t your average GP driver size.
While the central part of the roof that the doors pivot on is thick and chunky, the door above your head is thinner and thus the headroom is quite acceptable.
And so is the performance of the road going version. With a top speed limited to 199mph and a 0-62 time of just 3.7 seconds, it’s fair to say the 6.2 litre V8 is quick. 591hp and 650Nm of torque says so.
The car sampled here at Mercedes’ Silverstone test day (£188,000 with a few extras fitted) has a set of phenomenal ceramic brakes that are unbelievably powerful. They cost over £8,000 but you do get your money’s worth, of that there is no doubt. Because they need to be the height of efficiency.
Hammer the throttle and you’ve got a real tiger in your tank. it’s a bit like unlocking the gates of Hades – the noise has to be experienced to be believed and things come towards you very very quickly indeed as it romps through the seven speed DCT sports transmission.
But switch to sensible mode, lighten up your right foot, and it’s as docile as next door’s cat. But not on a Sunday afternoon….
And proving that Mercedes’ link with AMG is paying dividends in bringing spectacularly quick cars to the masses with slightly less cash to spend on a fast car is the A45 – and we’re not talking about the one that takes you from Northampton to Rushden here.
This one will take you anywhere you want to go, and it’ll put a great big denture flashing smile on your face.
The A45 AMG 4matic (£37,845) is a real hot hatch in the true sense of the word. And while it’s a very tidy package, it’s a very understated package as well.
But only until you start it up. The red seat belts, red rings round the airvent and red seat inserts hint at boy racer but boys need not apply. You’ll realise that from the deep burbling exhaust and have it hammered home as it leaps into action.
Here is a hot hatch with four wheel drive, pumping out 360hp and 450Nm of torque from its 1991cc engine and with an electronically limited top end of 168mph.
Not so much a pocket rocket as a pocket exocet that’s on the button all the time and which quickly drops a couple of gears in the seven speed auto box under firm acceleration, with an ensuing accompaniment from the exhaust. The handling, needless to say, is impeccable.
The sort of car that should carry a drivers health warning, as the adrenalin pumps through your body and your pulse rate goes into overdrive.
Looking at it it’s a fairly understated car that doesn’t hint in any way at the performance available. It looks like a hot hatch, but is actually a very hot hatch. I can vouch for that. An A Class, but not as we know it…..
More Mercedes-Benz AMG models in the coming weeks……..