Gull­wing stuns driv­ing ace

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF

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.

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