Driving Dreams
FAISAL SHAH | 24 Feb 2017 00:30
If you’re a Malaysian child of the 70’s you would have grown up in a time when spotting a sports car was akin to seeing a unicorn. Yes they existed but sourcing one was more difficult than performing brain surgery with after sales a case of who you knew and how long you could afford having your lovely car up on wheel blocks. Things have changed quite a bit.

Visit any premium shopping mall or a popular mountain road on a weekend and there’ll be super and sports cars clogging the valet parking area or charging around the corners. It’s a car spotter’s dream and because most of the metal would have been brought in by official importers, buying one is as simple as turning up with a large cheque while servicing can be booked just days in advance and could conceivably take just a few hours.

Still, as you would expect, there’s a difference between buying a fire spitting 500hp beast from a manufacturer that sells a handful of cars a year and one that sells thousands. Mercedes-Benz Malaysia (MBM) sold 12,000 cars in 2016, their CSI scores are higher than they’ve ever been and the sales network is undergoing a massive change with brand spanking new glass and steel structures sprouting up in city centres. If you’ve just won the 6/59 jackpot and want to celebrate by buying something sexy, fast and expensive, their dealers are a good place to start.

While 95% of the cars Mercedes sells comprise of family friendly saloons, sedans, SUVs and hatchbacks, they have a special selection of cars deemed as the dream cars collection. Ask your friendly dealer and product specialist about it and they’ll whip out catalogues, leather swatches and paint samples that seem to be a bit more exclusive than the usual A4 sized brochure for an A-Class. They should be because they’re meant to encourage you to buy a car that could cost well over RM1 mil.

Test drives are available of course but the likelihood of finding the entire range of dream cars waiting in a car park ready with tanks filled is highly unlikely. Yet, that’s exactly what MBM did for journalists when they assembled a fleet of their dream cars for us to sample. We had a go in several but the most memorable was of course the AMG GT S.

The current junior supercar of the Mercedes-Benz range isn’t so much a replacement for the rowdy SLS but is more of a direct salvo towards Porsche’s 911 and Audi R8. This is Mercedes showing it too can build exciting cars with handling to match, which has been race proven in the heat of GT racing.

The road car is exciting to drive. The low sill, wide doors (conventional instead of gull wings) and sporty driving position offer an expansive view over the wide bonnet. Thumb the starter and the gruff engine note gives a hint of the potency underfoot. It’s quick of course, 0-100km/h in four seconds if you give it the full beans, but it isn’t scary. Thanks to the friendly DCT seven-speed gearbox and selectable driver modes, it’s as docile as a C-Class mooching about in traffic.

Get it on a twisty ribbon of black top and the fine job the AMG engineers did with the chassis comes to the fore. The steering is accurate and while there is grip to spare, there is also delicacy and adjustability about the way the GT goes around corners. In essence, it adapts to your driving style and mood and will thrill ham fisted rich men and professional drivers alike.

Let’s be honest though. Most people buy a car like this because they like the attention it brings, which is why driving at 15km/h as you pull up to the front of a hotel under the bright entrance lights is its most natural habitat. Sure, it’s a rewarding car to drive and you’ll never run out of thrills behind the wheel but posing and preening and showing off is the goal of its owners. 

After the GT S, switching over to the C 200 Coupe had the potential for a massive let down. It’s a pretty car but with only 184hp it has only a third of the power so superfast thrills are off the menu. Or are they?

The C-Class chassis is a master class in modern dynamics offering just enough comfort and dynamic ability to thrill and cosset at the same time. Because there’s so much less power on offer you naturally adopt a more aggressive driving style as you’re not worried about spearing off the road every time you use too much throttle. That’s usually a recipe for disappointment as you push the car beyond its limits but the car responded well to the thrashing that was being meted out. Also, in the stunning dark blue of the test unit, nobody is going to be disappointed about parking it in their driveway.

The C 200 Coupe is closely related to the AMG C 63 S Coupe but these two are as different as chalk and cheese. The C 63 has the same 4-litre twin-turbo V8 as the GT S so despite being clothed in compact coupe clothing it has 510hp and a massive 700Nm to crease the tarmac whenever you put your foot down. It also has an exhaust note that sounds like thunder and a body kit with distended wheel arches that make it look like a body builder who took too many steroids.

Inside, you can’t help but be impressed by the sporty driving environment. Yes, the basics come from the C-Class and they’re very good but the all-enveloping bucket seats with quilted leather, flat bottomed steering wheel and aluminium accents hint that it’s a very different car. Drive it down the road from Cameron Highlands to Simpang Pulai and you discover those differences quickly.

With only 1,655kg to haul along the AMG C 63 has an excess of power and torque, which it displays by lighting up the ESP warning light every time you exit a corner. It’s essentially an old school AMG product meaning it has a powerful engine in a small package, so the hot rod like uncouth manners are part and parcel of the experience. It’s not actually dangerous though.

Once you have some confidence in the chassis, the tail happy handling characteristics mean the handling delivers lots of smiles per mile. Boot it out of corners and you’ll smoke the tyres and paint expensive black lines in the tarmac as even the superb Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber can’t reign in the amount of torque being delivered to the rear wheels. It’s catchable though and it takes a mere flick of the steering wheel to get things in line again before you rocket off towards the next curve in the road.

Of course, being a Mercedes-Benz, it’s entirely possible to drive the car with all its electronic nannies fully engaged. Keep it to about seven tenths of its ability and you’re probably going to overtake every other car on the road without raising a sweat but the fact that you can have some good old fashioned fun in what looks like a family friendly Mercedes is bound to make you smile inside.

So we three cars at three very different price points, which show that there’s a dream Mercedes available for all budgets. The C 200 Coupe is actually good value at RM308,888 as it looks fabulous, is fun to drive and has a practical interior. If you want dragster thrills in a conventional body, the AMG C 63 S Coupe will set you back RM698,888 and while that is a huge amount of money to pay for a C-Class with two doors it’s not too bad when you consider how much performance potential it has and how much fun you’ll have chasing down and passing Porsches and Ferraris.

The ultimate Mercedes-Benz dream car is of course the sexy AMG GT S, which has a sticker of RM1,125,888. For that amount of money you’re buying a statement and an image to fit a lifestyle that is all about first class travel, eating truffles for breakfast and mansions with swimming pools. To these buyers, the asking price is worth the statement it makes about them so judging the car in terms of dollars and cents is pointless.

We will however say that based on the looks and how good they are to drive all these cars will inspire you to work hard so that you may own one someday. That’s what dreams are supposed to do and thanks to MBM, making them come true is now a possibility. 

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