“This is a 5.5 litres, V8, 529 brake-horsepower Mercedes SL63,” said Cliff, my Mercedes Driving Specialist, in tones of hushed reverence. It was as if his voice had been oiled by half a century of working with cars.
“AMG? Aufrect and Melcher were Mercedes engineers and Grossapach was Aufrecht’s birthplace,” Cliff would have responded instantly if I had asked the obvious question.
Mercedes-Benz World, a soaring vaulted glass tribute to the car – past and present – stands sentinel to the sad remnants of the track that was once Brooklands. If you opt for the 4 x 4 Experience you will bump over the original broken track as you head for the 10 acre multi-terrain course. MB World is currently investigating restoration.
With Brooklands Museum nearby and Mercedes-Benz World offering an indoor track for aspiring drivers aged 3 – 5, driving experiences for the Over 17s – “Not as bad as you’d think. They’re usually overawed by the power,” – Formula 1 simulators and a whole range of gleaming polished cars from the very first Mercedes to Lewis Hamilton’s latest, Brooklands is a jam-packed day out for all the family.
“Accelerate aggressively. Emergency stop when I tell you,” instructed Cliff.
Petrolhead or not, few people need a second invitation to accelerate from 0 – 60 in around 4.2 seconds. Screeching to an almost immediate stop, Cliff pointed to a marker somewhere on the horizon. “That’s the official Highway Code braking distance. I believe it was set for a 1962 Mark 1 Cortina,” he added mischievously.
There’s a Teutonic, almost obsessive, worship of safety. “Business women, with no interest in cars whatsoever, come here on corporate days and are converted. They go away and buy a Mercedes AMG, not for the performance, but for the safety, style and comfort.”
Not only does trying out the Anti-Brake Lock System and a spell waltzing on the Wet Skid Pad sell the AMG’s safety features you also learn how to drive in adverse conditions.
Watching Starsky and Hutch or Bodie and Doyle has made driving at speed look effortlessly easy. At Brooklands, when you take to the low-friction track for your 15 minutes of glory, cones indicate where to brake as you enter a corner, when to put the gas back-on and finally the target of the apex of the corner. Taking a corner without losing momentum or sliding onto the grass is not as easy as it appears for Lewis Hamilton.
Switching to the 4 x 4 Experience it felt like a series finale for Wild at Heart or some such television safari spectacular. Inching the Mercedes ML 350 over boulders and logs, through rivers of unknown depth – “Test it with just one wheel,” Cliff advised – we were on an epic adventure of Paris-Dakar Rally challenges set in muddy Surrey.
Climbing the Ski Slope at something in excess of a 40 degree incline is one thing, closing your eyes and reversing back-down, as Cliff requested, is another. The ML 350, as shown by the monitoring screen to the left of the steering wheel, is packed with more sophisticated technology than NASA probably had for their moon-landings, but reversing into a water-filled ravine is still a gigantic leap of faith.
“Top of my bucket list. Always wanted to give a 4 x 4 a real workout,” one over-excited fifty-something told me as he marched towards his ML 350. “Boys and their toys,” his wife apologised.
Visit http://www.drivingexperiences.mercedes-benzworld.co.uk to view the full range of driving experiences on offer at Brooklands and SilverstoneLast modified: June 10, 2021