Gullwing stuns driving ace
AS CHIEF instructor for the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, Peter Hackett has no shortage of high-powered toys to play with and a vested interest in praising products with the three-pointed star.
Even so, he rates the $500,000 SLS Gullwing AMG as the best supercar he’s ever driven on a public street.
‘‘For me, there are two sides to this car: there’s the outright performance aspect of what it can achieve in the artificial world of the racetrack, and then there’s the ability to ‘live with a supercar’ in an everyday environment. It’s the second part that astounds me,’’ Hackett says.
‘‘On a track, people talk mostly about subtle inadequacies of cars and generic ‘entry to mid corner understeer’ or ‘stability under brakes’, most of which is a reflection of driver inputs behind the controls as opposed to dynamic handling characteristics of the car.
‘‘In the SLS you can make it do anything you want, at any speed you want and in any part of the corner.
‘‘The ability to transfer weight mid-corner is the key. Minimal changes in throttle applications once the car has turned allow the driver to perfectly place the car at any angle, and at any point on the track.
‘‘Around town, I have never driven a road car that has turned as many heads. It was just amazing.
‘‘On a track it’s easy to talk high-speed bump settings or low-speed rebound, but in the real world you have to set and forget. It is a very difficult task for a shock absorber. The suspension around town is truly compliant. No bump is too big, but it’s not so stiff you want to get out after 15 minutes to collect your fillings.
‘‘Only the bigger potholes caused any discomfort, and this was at the thought of what it was doing to the wheels, not from the shock through the seat.’’
He says the SLS combines the best bits of the SLK 55, SL 63 and E 63 machines in the Mercedes catalogue.
The Gullwing is so popular the first allocation of 70 cars has already been sold and Mercedes won’t know until the end of the month how big its 2011 allocation will be.
Best car: Mercedes Toorak principal Glenn Sharp and Peter Hackett with the SLS Gullwing AMG.