Mercedes AMGs v Goodwood – part four of five
Going in search of a big brawny bus, Sean finds a Benz that has a curious character trait – it won’t go in a straight line…
Goodwood, we have a problem…
There’s something wrong with the Mercedes E 63 AMG I’m currently passenger in. It appears to be completely incapable of going in a straight line.
It’s because I’m sat alongside British Touring Car star Tom Onslow-Cole after asking him for a hot lap and “to get a little bit lairy.” He’s duly obliging.
The BTCC ace has 525hp and 516lb ft at his disposal with which to torture the Merc’s tyres, and he’s doing his damnedest to trace a line the car’s rear rubber is tracking onto the tarmac around the whole lap.
It’s pretty impressive and his car control is mighty. A quick glance in the wing mirror sees a thick haze of acrid white tyre smoke pouring out of the rear wheel arch. It’s huge fun even as a passenger, but not conducive to a quick lap time. Like Mr O-C cares.
Rewind about 15 minutes and it’s me in the driver’s seat eliciting slightly less show-stopping histrionics. But what’s the newest ‘Einspritzmotor’ – meaning fuel injection in German and where the E-Class nomenclature stems from – like with an amateur at the wheel?
It only takes a few degrees of steering lock to differentiate the E 63 from its smaller saloon cousin, the C 63. You can feel the extra weight everywhere – the steering is more lazy in its responses, the chassis is less willing to change direction, the brakes feel like they need a meatier shove to shrug off speed and on track, they wilt quicker.
Plenty of character, but there are two more to think about
But it’s awesome fun and the E will carry speed like pretty much no other super saloon. However, it’s difficult to chat about a large twin-turbocharged V8 family car without introducing two more characters into the equation: M and 5.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a bit of time in Munich’s take on a Saturn V rocket crossed with a couch and it’s bloody good – arguably better than the E 63 in absolute terms.
But speaking relatively, the big Benz might not be as quick as the BMW over a lap, or even point-to-point cross-country, but it gives you a bigger grin. Or it induced a greater gurn across my chops anyway.
The latest E 63 gets the same 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 as the SL 63 that impressed me so much, and its character is just as great in the saloon. It’s raucous when you want it to be, sounding like it’s trying to crack the exhaust on up changes, but settling to a nice lethargic burble when you’re just tickling the throttle.
It’s not the sharpest scalpel in the operating theatre by any means, but it is good fun to punish – and you can bring the weight into play to have some fun, too.
I predict a riot
On track my focus is usually to keep things neat and tidy, try and carry as much speed and momentum as possible, and be as gentle with the car as I can in order to extract a decent lap time. I’m not a practiced slider of a car and in truth, I’m not confident in doing so.
But as this is an ‘experience day’, with all forms of chronograph banned, provocation is on the agenda.
The systems stay firmly switched on, but leave your braking too late – especially into the early turn at the St Mary’s left-hander and the deceptively tight right at Lavant – and you can feel the rear end begin to pendulum, leaning on its suspension and arcing round, trying to overtake the front before the electronic harness catches the fall.
There’s enough movement to apply a touch of lock and pick the throttle up though, returning some neutrality and balance. It’s a riot.
Fuel economy? Go on, take a guess…
On return to the pits after a gentle trundle to cool the car’s brakes, I take a cursory glance at the trip computer to see just what sort of economy the 5.5 V8 is returning (it’s 22% more efficient than the 6.2-litre motor it replaced, apparently). I thought single figures, but as low as 6.6mpg was a shock.
Our weeklong instalments of Mercedes AMGs v Goodwood is nearly over and I’ve worked my way pretty much through the whole range on offer at the track.
But I’m curious to go full circle, back to where I started in the SLS, now I’m more familiar with the circuit. I also want to see what a man with a helmet and race gloves o who calls the gullwing-doored coupé his office can really do.
Find out tomorrow the extent to which an FIA GT driver can cook the Merc’s composite brakes.
MSN Cars' Steve Walker takes the UK's cheapest new car for a test drive to see if it's worth parting only £5,995 for.
Date 23/05/13, Duration 4:17, Views 1392
Which of these endangered 1970s and 80s cars would you be saddest to see become extinct?
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