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. AMG!
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
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!
In the latest panic reaction to escalating
crude oil prices, someone in the Ministry of Silly Walks has
come up with yet another daft scheme to save oil imports for
Thailand. Shut the petrol stations at 8 p.m. and look at how
much energy we can save. After all, the fuel that would have
been bought between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. (the current
pump-locking curfew time) is then “saved” seems to be the
Just who dreams up these cock-eyed schemes,
I wonder? People are not going to stop driving, just because
the government closes the pumps early.
A similar kind of thinking was prevalent in
Australia in the 1950’s, where to stop alcohol consumption,
the government decreed that all pubs had to close at 6 p.m.
The end result was a quaint Australian custom known as “The
6 o’clock Swill” where the workers rushed in after work,
lined up six or ten large beers and promptly began swilling
down in the limited time available all the beer they would
previously have drunk by a 10 p.m. closing time. It produced
extreme levels of aggression and rampant drunkenness and was
Getting back to our own situation, look
forward to long lines queuing for petrol at 7.50 p.m. complete
with not very gruntled motorists and much pushing and shoving
to get to the head of the queue.
Incidentally, did you read in the financial
pages that Gasohol, which is supposed to lessen our dependence
upon imported oil, has struck a snag. The wondrous “cheap”
ethanol that we were going to make from old pineapple tops and
sweet corn leaves so cheaply, has become a scarce commodity.
We can’t produce enough ethanol by these means, and we are
going to have to import the ethanol from overseas to
manufacture Gasohol! Expensively, no doubt.