DREAM DRIVE

Blow away the cob­webs in an Aus­trian flight of fancy. But which car is the per­fect match for the road?

Evo India - - CONTENTS - WORDS by HENRY CATCH­POLE

We take the Merc SLS AMG Black Se­ries to the Gross­glock­ner High Alpine Road to test out the Aus­trian twisties

YOUR EYES HAVE JUST ABOUT STAYED OPEN while the ex­its were pointed out and the don­ning of a life jacket was demon­strated, but now you’re taxi­ing to­wards the run­way and you can fight sleep no longer. As the big tur­bo­fan en­gines be­gin pro­duc­ing some proper thrust you shut your eyes and then mo­ments later the weight­less­ness of take­off seals the deal…

As your sub­con­scious takes over, you find your­self pulling down a door and look­ing at a row of bar­ri­ers over a long, low bon­net. Some sort of toll sta­tion. Just as you’re won­der­ing if there is any money be­hind the sun vi­sor, a lone red and white arm lifts up­wards un­bid­den. Need­ing no sec­ond in­vi­ta­tion you pull back on the stubby gear se­lec­tor and roll for­wards. Then you stop. Dreams are no time for timid­ity. Left foot on the brake, right foot hard on the throt­tle. You mo­men­tar­ily feel the car strain at its leash, the big, an­gry V8 curs­ing you, then you re­lease the shack­les, 622bhp fir­ing you through the gap be­tween the booths like a pin­ball head­ing into the ma­chine. Wel­come to the Gross­glock­ner.

This is a car that lives up to such mon­u­men­tal moun­tain scenery but it also re­quires tar­mac that is rip­ple-free, and these Aus­trian toll roads are as smooth as any­thing with­out grand­stands and a light gantry. De­spite its big nose, the car turns in with in­cred­i­ble alacrity, and when ex­it­ing cor­ners there’s much more trac­tion than you would imag­ine given three of the let­ters on the rear.

As you reach what looks like the sum­mit you give a nod to Her­mann Lang, who won the last hill climb here in 1939 in one of this car’s an­ces­tors. To­day isn’t a day for turn­ing left up the cob­bled Edel­weissspitz­e so in­stead you push on, rac­ing along a ridge with grassy slopes on ei­ther side with blue gen­tians and pur­ple or­chids pep­per­ing the green of this Aus­trian am­phithe­atre. All would be white in win­ter.

The road plunges into a tun­nel and briefly your world is dark and full of an an­gry gut­tural noise as quad ex­hausts vent 6.2 litres revving to over 8000rpm. Then you’re back in sun­shine, rev­el­ling in and lean­ing on the ag­gres­sive lat­eral grip that the chas­sis and Cup 2 tyres are gen­er­at­ing. A press of one of the but­tons un­shack­les the ESP and now you can in­dulge in a bit of gra­tu­itous over­steer round two hair­pins, the car dis­play­ing sur­pris­ing bal­ance once the lim­its of grip have been fully breached. Back into an­other tun­nel, then a short down­hill stretch, be­fore tak­ing the first exit on a small round­about.

Now off the High Alpine Road, you’re climb­ing again, up to­wards the moun­tain from which the road gets its name. The land­scape feels slightly wilder here but the road is still en­cour­ag­ingly wide and smooth. You steel your­self to hold the throt­tle wide, feel­ing pres­sure on your back as the Mercedes SLS AMG Black Se­ries charges up the road, then sud­denly the road is run­ning out, for the glacier is where it stops. You lean on the big car­bon-ce­ramic brakes hard enough to trig­ger the ABS and you jolt awake with the jud­der­ing and the wheels of the plane touch­ing down. Just a dream.

THE LAND­SCAPE IS WILD, THE ROAD EN­COUR­AG­INGLY SMOOTH

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