It is not all that often where you get given almost
50 million baht of motorcars and told to go and have a play, but that
certainly happened to me last weekend! The nice people at AMG (a
wholly owned DaimlerChrysler subsidiary) brought down a bunch of their
high performance vehicles for some of the rich and famous to try on
the trip down from Bangkok to the Marriott Resort and Spa. After they
had arrived, I was given the opportunity for a quick fang in the SL 55
AMG down to Sattahip, and another quick fang on the return leg in the
CL 65 AMG.
I shall dwell on the two seat SL 55 first.
This will cost around 17.5 million baht to put in
your garage, or about eight mobile condominiums, and carries only two
people, so forget the mother-in-law. V8 and supercharged, it is a true
supercar, capable of zero to 100 kays in a three tenths under five
seconds. Like all the DaimlerChrysler products these days it is also
electronically speed limited to 250 kph, in some ways a great pity,
but it certainly gets there quickly.
The DaimlerChrysler AMG products start life being
based upon a standard Mercedes Benz, before the super-tuning chaps at
the AMG factory in Stuttgart get to work. The SL 55 AMG is derived
from the SL 500, but that’s where the similarity really stops. The
AMG version gets tricky wheels and F1 inspired aerodynamic spoilers at
the front and all that visual stuff, but the heart of the difference
is taking the original 5 litre V8 engine to 5.5 litres and installing
their own special supercharger. This engine develops a remarkable 350
kW/476 hp and generates maximum torque of 700 Nm as low as 2650 rpm,
and holds this level of torque right up to 4500 rpm. This gives you a
performance package very near the top of the supercar tree.
The ‘basic’ SL package comes with the folding
roof that takes 16 seconds to lift itself clear, fold itself in half
and put itself inside the boot. You now have the true wind in the hair
look-at-me supercar look, that is guaranteed to get a dollybird in the
passenger’s seat within 3.2 seconds of driving into Soi 6 in
Pattaya, 3.4 seconds of going past Nana Plaza in Bangkok, or 4.6
seconds for Loy Kroh Road in Chiang Mai, Northern ladies being much
more shy and reserved. This car has ‘The Look’ open or closed. For
me, it had great presence, without being over the top, as some
supercars tend to be. No fancy wings and things, everything
On the road, the SL 55 AMG was sensational. Plant
the right foot and a subdued V8 bellow could be heard as it just
shoots itself forward, and this happens at any speed. Certainly
sensational from rest, but plant the foot at well over legal limits
and it still gives that instant surge. It appeared there was an
endless corral of horses under the long bonnet. You certainly would
run out of road, or brave pills, before you ran out of sheer grunt.
The dynamics of this car were simply superb, with
every electronic control you could think of and others you might only
have dreamed of. It was a true driver’s car and a delight to throw
around. A car that makes every driver a Kimi Raikkonen, without having
to throw away your personality! The seats were supportive, everything
was in the right place, and the view in the rear vision mirrors as the
traffic just disappeared behind you, sensational.
Of course, no car is perfect, and I did have a
couple of grouches with this SL 55 AMG. To start with, the analogue
speedometer, which was easy to read, was in miles per hour. There was
a faint digital kilometres per hour in the centre lower area of the
dial to cater for drivers in right hand drive metric countries, but
this was exceptionally difficult to read. I gave up trying, as it was
too dangerous to attempt to decipher the flickering, changing numbers.
You needed your eyes for the road. 17 point 5 million and you don’t
get the right speedometer. Come on. Even a basic Honda Jazz can give
you a metric speedo, and around 17 million baht back in change!
My second gripe was probably even more serious.
Here you are in a 17.5 million baht supercar and there was nowhere,
read nowhere, to put the mobile phone. You can’t tell me that
supercar drivers don’t carry mobile phones, and I ended up opening
up the ashtray and dumping the Nokia in there. Not good enough, Mr.
My third gripe was just that they took it off me at
Sattahip. Total spoilsports!
So to the return trip in the SL 65 AMG two door
four place coupe. This coupe is close to the top of the line as far as
AMG is concerned. This beast has a V12 at the sharp end and not one,
but two turbochargers to feed it. The exclusive Gran Turismo is
powered by a newly designed 6 litre V12 engine whose biturbo
technology gives it a level of performance previously unheard of in
this engine size class, according to Messrs AMG. Here’s the numbers:
the engine has an output of 450 kW (that’s over 600 hp) and develops
its maximum torque of 1,000 Nm between 2000 and 4000 rpm.
The CL 65 AMG accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.4
seconds and reaches the 200 kph mark in 13.3 seconds while a
standing-start kilometre takes 22 seconds. The top speed of 250 kph is
also electronically limited as the SL 55 AMG. Remember too, that this
vehicle takes you and your wife and both the mother-in-laws!
As far as the engine is concerned, it has all the
latest technology in its manufacture, with race-spec wrist pins on the
gudgeons, oil sprayed special pistons, you name it. The torque figure
of 1,000 Nm is not quite correct, as it actually develops 1,200 Nm,
but this is also electronically limited to the lower figure, or the
engine could likely twist the gearbox off the end of the crank! 1,200
Nm is certainly enough to tow the Schwedagon Pagoda from Rangoon,
across the Burmese border and leave it in Chiang Rai. Those are
unheard of numbers in cars. There are trucks with nothing near those
torque numbers! For example, a 7.6 litre Hino bus diesel engine puts
out 834 Nm of torque.
Inside, the CL 65 has the usual AMG plush,
all-leather interior, but I have to say I found the large diameter
(leather rimmed) steering wheel almost “vintage” in its enormity,
and certainly took away any sports car ambience. In fact, the wheel,
the seating position and the size of the interior are reminiscent of a
sedan, rather than a coupe.
However, the 612 large neddies under the bonnet
certainly give it supercar performance. On the road, it is all whoosh
and gosh when you put your foot down, and the car just hustles its way
down the highway, pressing your eyes back into their sockets.
The CL 65 AMG is a technical tour de force as well,
with all the electronic bells and whistles, a harmonium and a set of
bagpipes thrown in as well. It has everything, from braking control,
body control, damping control and airbags to fill every crevice. But,
and for me, this was a big BUT, there was still very discernible
‘turbo lag’ displayed by the engine. Plant the foot and the car
thinks for a bit, and then goes. Even with two turbochargers, there
was not the instantaneous response that there was in the smaller
engined V8 supercharged SL 55 AMG. This makes the CL 65 AMG much more
of a ‘Grand Touring’ car than a sports car, and honestly, I think
the ultimate performance is wasted on a GT.
With my Scottish heritage, the thought of paying 30
million baht for the CL 65 was just too much. I’d rather have two SL
55’s, once they’ve fixed the mobile phone stowage problem!
It certainly was an interesting afternoon!