Nothing quite beats the enjoyment of throwing a car around a track at speed. Particularly if it’s someone else’s car. And they’re paying for the fuel. And the tyres. And someone else is paying for you to be in that position.
That was the position I was lucky enough to be in turned up at Mercedes Benz World. If you’re looking for somewhere to go nuts behind the wheel of a V8 monster then this is the place to visit.
I was lucky enough to attend a half-day work conference there, with the second half of the day giving us a chance to sample some of the activities on offer at MB World and wow … what a place!
If you’ve not heard of MB World then it’s basically a car showroom on steroids situated in the centre of the historical Brooklands circuit in Weybridge, Surrey. The main facility is the three storey showroom and museum that allows you to browse both classic and modern Mercs and, if your budget allows, you can buy one while you’re there. Even if you’re not a huge Merc fan this place is great to visit as there’s some lovely old classics and some modern day racers including F1 cars and a CLK GTR (the one that did the backflips down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans).
On the outside is where the fun starts. MB World has got two handling circuits, a long straight that used to be the runway at the old Brooklands airfield, and a challenging off road course. One of the best features is the circle next to the showroom where sprinklers run constantly, allowing you to test your drifting skills as over 400bhp of AMG V8 causes the rear wheels to lose traction if you so much as look at the throttle.
My toy for the first part of the afternoon was a saloon C63 AMG fitted with the optional Performance Pack. With a 6.3 litre V8 squeezed under the bonnet the C63 pushes out 480bhp (80bhp of that is due to the Performance Pack) and 442lb/ft of torque. 0-60mph is dispatched in just 4.5 seconds and the top speed is electronically limited to 155mph (to keep Greenpeace happy, I assume). The result is truly addictive surges of acceleration, accompanied by the most amazing bellow from the exhaust. If you’ve watched F1 coverage on the telly you’ll have heard the AMG pace car as it thunders around the track – that’s the sort of noise you get from the C63, magnified 100 times when you’re sat inside.
The C63 is surprisingly agile for what is a heavy saloon, and that enormous engine is ready to power you out of bends with a quick squeeze on the throttle. It’s a car that shrinks around you, allowing you to forget about the bulk and concentrate on having fun. One fly in the ointment is the seven-speed automatic gearbox, but while it might not be as rewarding as a manual it is very good – changing up is quick and smooth while the kick-down response is good, it’s only in the tighter bends where sometimes it decides to change gear at an inopportune moment.
Out onto the off-road circuit and this time we got to play with a new M-class. The original M-class was much derided when it was first launched as it marked the start of a period of cost-cutting that hurt Mercedes’ reputation very badly. They’ve since realised the error of their ways, worked hard to restore quality and now the M-class is much better. Well equipped and refined, it makes a very competent off-roader and handled the punishment of the off-road section surprisingly well. OK, it’s no Land Rover but it is much better than I thought.
With the driving activities complete it was back into the showroom for a guided tour, as well as a quick promotional film. Presented by the delectable Suzi Perry, it was very much a ‘Mercedes is wonderful’ documentary but it was genuinely interesting. We also got to see the Maybach lounge, where buyers are ushered in through a secret lift and granted absolute privacy as they choose which set of travel luggage they want to match their super saloon.
Probably the best bit of Mercedes World is that its open to the public at all times. You can wander in, have a look around, grab a cuppa in the cafe and then go home with absolutely no hassle from pushy sales people trying to get you to buy to a new E-class. OK, you have to pay for the track activities and they’re not exactly cheap, but it’s still good fun to sit and watch – where else could you go and watch an AMG SLS spinning repeatedly on a wet handling circuit?
Oh, and thanks to Magic Software UK for the fun day out!