BET­TER HOLD ON RE­ALLY TIGHT, QUEASY RIDER

Be­cause I’m ex­tremely mid­dle class, my chil­dren’s prep school or­gan­ised ex­change trips with pupils at a school in Tokyo. This meant that my kids got to spend a cou­ple of weeks eat­ing fish that were still alive and later they got to host lit­tle Ja­panese pe

Driven - - Clarkson On Cars - Re­port by JEREMY CLARK­SON | Images © DAIM­LER AG Text © SUN­DAY TIMES, LON­DON / NEWS SYN­DI­CA­TION

I PICKED ONE OF TH­ESE KIDS UP FROM HEATHROW AND IT QUICKLY BE­CAME OB­VI­OUS THE POOR LIT­TLE THING SPOKE NO ENGLISH AT ALL. SO SHE WAN­DERED INTO THE AR­RIVALS HALL AF­TER AN 11HOUR FLIGHT, JET-LAGGED ALL TO HELL, AND SHE WAS MET BY A MAN WHO WAS BIG­GER AND FAT­TER THAN ANY­ONE SHE’D SEEN IN HER WHOLE LIFE. AND HE COM­MU­NI­CATED IN WHAT TO HER MUST HAVE SOUNDED LIKE THE GRUNTS OF A FARM­YARD AN­I­MAL. BE­WIL­DER­ING DIDN’T BE­GIN TO COVER IT.

I loaded her lug­gage into the boot of the fam­ily Volvo – I said I was mid­dle class – and she climbed into the back clutch­ing what at the time was a com­pletely amaz­ing trans­la­tion ma­chine. The idea was that she spoke into it and it then spoke to me in English.

Shortly af­ter we joined the M25 I could see in the rear-view mir­ror that my mi­cro­scopic guest was try­ing to turn the ma­chine on. And by the time we joined the M40 she was start­ing to get des­per­ate be­cause plainly she was hav­ing some dif­fi­culty.

Much later, on the twist­ing and lovely A44, I heard the tell­tale beep to say she’d been suc­cess­ful and quickly she gar­bled some­thing in Ja­panese into the elec­tronic won­der box. She then held it next to my ear while it said with an elec­tronic Stephen Hawk­ing lilt: “Car sick.”

Dur­ing her two-week stay she was sick af­ter eat­ing tinned tuna, mashed potato, ice cream and pretty much ev­ery­thing that was dead.

But, I bet that if you ask her now to de­fine the low point of her stay she’d say it was that mo­ment on the A44, be­ing hugged by a 6ft 5in mon­ster as she vom­ited the con­tents of her stom­ach into the road­side un­der­growth.

Mo­tion sick­ness is hideous. You re­ally do want to die. I saw a man once ly­ing on the floor in a cross-Chan­nel ferry’s lava­tory. The voy­age had been as rough as any I can re­mem­ber and ev­ery­one had been sick so vi­o­lently it was a lake of vomit in there. And it was swill­ing over the poor man who, as I en­tered, opened one eye and said sim­ply: “Kill me.”

I felt his pain. I’d been on a boat in the south of France once when the gen­tle rock­ing brought about a malaise so in­tense that I in­vited my friends to mur­der me. I meant it. I even told them where the knives were kept and where on my rib cage they should stab

All of which brings me con­ve­niently to the Mercedes-AMG GT. I thought when I first saw this car that it was a toned- down, more re­al­is­tic ver­sion of the mad old SLS AMG with its bonkers sound­track and its gull­wing doors. I as­sumed there­fore that it too would be a head­line-grab­bing one-off.

But no. Mercedes has turned it into an en­tire range that’s now so com­plex you are able to choose how many brake horse­power you’d like and what shade you’d pre­fer for the seats. Nat­u­rally you can also de­cide whether you’d like a roof or not. And what colour you’d like that to be.

Well, as I’ve al­ready driven the su­per­hard and bel­lowy GT R coupe, which I’m not sure about, I thought – it be­ing sum­mer and all – I should try out the slightly less pow­er­ful but still pretty nuts GT C Road­ster.

Like the “I’m a rac­ing car, I am” GT R, it’s fit­ted with four-wheel steer­ing. And that, if you are go­ing for a record round the Nür­bur­gring – some­thing the GT R holds for rear-wheel-drive pro­duc­tion cars, in­ci­den­tally – is tremen­dous. When you drive a car that steers with all four wheels you are al­ways amazed by just how read­ily it changes di­rec­tion.

How­ever, I was not on the Nür­bur­gring. I was in Ox­ford­shire and I was not driv­ing par­tic­u­larly quickly when my pas­sen­ger in­vited me to stop. Be­cause she felt car­sick. And the last time this hap­pened was when I was driv­ing her in a Porsche 911. Which also had four-wheel steer­ing.

The prob­lem is that when you move the steer­ing wheel even a tiny bit, the car darts. It’s very sud­den and if you’re a pas­sen­ger you have no time to brace or send a sig­nal to your stom­ach to hold on. You, the driver, may like this sen­sa­tion a lot. But I think it may be a deal breaker for who­ever’s in the pas­sen­ger seat.

Pity, be­cause there’s a lot to like in this car. It looks like a tra­di­tional AMG prod­uct. Big, lairy and heavy. But, ac­tu­ally, it’s lighter than you might think, thanks to a chas­sis that’s made from he­lium and a boot lid made from witch­craft. There’s even some mag­ne­sium in there as well.

All of which means that the big tur­bocharged V8, which re­sponds as quickly as the steer­ing, has much less to lug around than you might think. Which means this car is prop­erly fast. Knock­ing-on-the-door-of-320 km/h fast. It also does a fab­u­lous bon­net-up, squat­ted-back­end lunge when you stamp on the throt­tle.

I’d like to say this speed is sur­pris­ing but you know from the mo­ment you fire up the en­gine and the ex­hausts wake ev­ery­one in a 20-kilo­me­tre ra­dius that it’s go­ing to be men­tal. What is sur­pris­ing, how­ever, is that you can en­joy quite a lot of the speed with the roof down. It re­ally is calm and un­ruf­fled in there.

And it’s a nice place to sit. Sure, the gear lever is mounted nearer to the boot than your hand and, yes, there are a lot of but­tons to con­fuse you. I once turned off what I thought was the stop-start fea­ture and then spent the whole day in third be­cause I’d ac­tu­ally changed the sev­en­speed au­to­matic box into a man­ual.

My only real gripe is the bumpi­ness of the ride. It re­ally is firm – too firm – and that’s un­nec­es­sary be­cause this isn’t a track-day car. It’s a hand­some, look-atme boule­vard cruiser. Or a de­vourer of mo­tor­ways and in­ter­states. It should be softer. And it re­ally could do with­out that four-wheel steer­ing.

Mercedes shouldn’t try to make sports cars. That’s Porsche’s job. What it should do in­stead is take this ve­hi­cle back to the draw­ing board and turn what’s very nearly there back into an AMG Mercedes. Then it would be ab­so­lutely bril­liant.

MERCEDES-AMG GT C ROAD­STER

MERCEDES-AMG GT C ROAD­STER

V8; 3,982 cc twin turbo

410 @ 5,750

680 @ 1,900

3.7

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