It’s a motor show with a difference. The annual SMMT test day, which we mentioned in last month’s issue, is a chance for hundreds of journalists to sample a host of car manufacturers’ wares in one place. Held at the amazing Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, the Vauxhall-owned test facility has a maze of challenging test routes – all private, all one way and all extremely good fun.
So, picture the scene. There are 30-plus manufacturers – corporate trucks parked in a semicircle like a cowboy corral, with their motors shining in front of them. With the likes of Porsche, Jaguar, BMW and Bentley at the event, there is a lot to catch hacks’ attention. Some car makers don’t see fit to bring the tasty stuff – they’d rather promote their ‘green’ models (dull), but others see it as an opportunity to show off, letting journos get the chance to sample the fun stuff.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what Mercedes did.
Sandwiched between Lexus and Peugeot, the German firm’s silver bullets stood out like shining beacons. And with cars like the C63AMG, CLS320 and SLK350 available to tempt writers, the stand was understandably busy. But getting the hardest time was this, the mighty SL63 AMG.
The stunning drop-top has to be one of the prettiest cars on the road. That clever folding metal roof, the McLaren SLR-alike front end and luxurious interior has already marked it out as a legend. And that was before they stuffed one of the most exciting engines of all time in the nose.
The incredible 525bhp 6.2-litre V8 creates one of the most intoxicating sounds possible – one that justifies burning even more oil. Like a Spitfire without the wings, the SL63 bellows like a tenor. It starts with a throaty rumble, increasing in volume as the revs rise to an all-out thunderclap. The fact it’s even more amplified with the top down only serves to increase the pleasure.
With 525bhp and 464Nm of torque on tap, the SL63 is quite obviously rapid, but the way it delivers that power is controllable and refined when you want it. It’s still viciously savage when provoked though, and will crack out the 60mph dash in 4.4 seconds and on to a capped top speed of 155mph.
On the road, it’s reassuring, but there’s never any doubt there’s an evil side lurking beneath the surface. Turn off the host of electronic safety aids and things get really interesting.
On the tight hairpins of the Millbrook hill route the back end breaks traction at the slightest prod of the go pedal, shredding hugely expensive rubber in the process.
At £100k there’s not going to be that many around either – only the seriously committed, or filthy rich, would opt for the 63 over the 55. And it’s this exclusivity that makes it all the more desirable.
by JAMES BAGGOTT
Engine: 6.2-litre, V8
Power: 525bhp, 464Nm
Now finance one with Bridford:
Option One: £30,000 deposit, 24 x £589 per month, plus final payment
Option Two: £15,000 deposit, 48 x £1,425 per month, plus final payment