We Drive the A 45, SLK 55, E 63 and SL 63 AMG at Mercedes-Benz Roadshow 2014

AMG Lineup 13 photos
Photo: Mercedes-Benz Roadshow
Mercedes-Benz C-Class W205Mercedes-Benz C-Class W205Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMGMercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMGMercedes-Benz A 45 AMGMercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMGMercedes-Benz A 45 AMG, SLK 55 AMG, E 63 AMG 4Matic, SL 63 AMG and CLA 45 AMGMercedes-Benz GLAMercedes-Benz SL 63 AMGMercedes-Benz S 500Mercedes-Benz Star ExperienceMercedes-Benz A 45 AMG, SLK 55 AMG. E 63 AMG 4Matic and SL 63 AMG
We're pretty sure that most people would probably feel pretty awful if they would be required to jump out of their beds at around 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning, brush their teeth in the least amount of time possible and then jump half-clothed and still half-asleep into a cab.
Believe it or not, we felt the exact opposite of awful when we had to do all of the above a few days ago, and keep in mind that we are as far from being called “cheerful morning persons” as Vladimir Putin is from winning the Nobel Peace Prize any time soon.

Why were we smiling like idiots at that unholy time of day, packed in a smelly cab and being driven to an airport that is no longer in use, you ask? Well, the reason for that is quite understandable actually, as our destination was not just a semi-deserted airfield, but the Roadshow Star Experience, an international Mercedes-Benz driving event.

While we have driven our fair share of Mercedes-Benz models over the years, we never actually had the chance to jump in no less than four AMG-badged ones in a single day, especially in a place where there is no speed limit, nor are there any traffic policemen.

Even though the event's raison d'être was actually to offer a motley crew of journalist a peek at what active safety means for Mercedes-Benz and how the new GLA (X156) and C-Class (W205) fare in a controlled environment, the big news of the day was that we were about to experience four AMG models on an impromptu and very Gymkhana-like track, albeit much shorter.

After a not-exactly eye-opening workshop about the most important safety systems that comprise Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive on most current models, we were then individually-instructed to feel for ourselves how technologically-advanced is the new S-Class when it comes to active safety.

Technologies like the groundbreaking Distronic Plus with Steering Assist – which uses an array of radars and video cameras to pretty much transform the new S-Class in an autonomous vehicle from a Sci-Fi movie in certain conditions – or the automatic parking feature – which not only parks the car by itself but it also allows it to exit a parking space with almost no driver intervention – are pretty much what the S-Class and other upcoming Mercedes-Benz aim to standardize on the road.

We then proceeded to check out how an all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class - in 220 BlueTec guise – can fare on a short handling track, even though the model wasn't exactly equipped for this type of tire torture.

While the new C-Class handles more than reasonably in such an extreme environment, even without Airmatic or AMG suspension, the standard electric steering was not made to bombard the driver with information, with some of the more hardcore steering wheel movements making it feel rather disconnected from the driving surface.

Even though the active safety features in the S-Class pretty much blew us away, while the sporty but short drive of the new C-Class managed to elevate our pulses, even for just a tiny bit, our brains kept refusing to acknowledge too much information outside what was expecting us next.

The third and final part of the Mercedes-Benz Roadshow Star Experience was about to become the most pleasant one to our senses. We are of course talking about jumping in four AMG models and trying very hard not to deviate from the course and drive them out of the airport enclosure while screaming “Auf Wiedersehen!” to the Mercedes-AMG driving instructors present.

Since each driving session consisted in a short but highly engaging lap, we were able to experience most of the advantages of each car in a way that is very hard to do on a public road, where there are other cars, pedestrians, and most of all traffic rules.

With that being said, here are all the micro reviews of each AMG model we got to test during the event:

Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG

Fitted with the AMG aero package, Performance Exhaust and last, but certainly not least, an eye-catching Jupiter Red color, the hottest hot hatch on the planet right now did everything in its power to impress us even before starting the lap.

We had watched countless of videos of the car and had read tens of reviews from all over the world, but nothing could prepare us for the encounter with the current king of the hatches, the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG.

Let's just say that the only tiny-teeny disappointment with the model was that the turbocharger lag was a bit higher than expected, with the car behaving like a mildly sporty, albeit loud, hot hatch from yesteryear up until close to 3000 rpm.

After the 2800-3000 rpm mark it transforms into a downright animal, while the optional AMG bucket seats make the best of transforming the back of your head into mashed potatoes with every hard push of the go-fast pedal.

Forget what you think a hot hatch really is, because the A 45 AMG can take your opinion and destroy it with WRC-like decibels and the grip of a supercar.

Sure, the front-based all-wheel drive makes it a bit understeery at the limit, but nothing that you can't control with more steering input and a somewhat counter-intuitive further push of the accelerator pedal, like in a Subaru WRX Sti or a Mitsubishi EVO.

The comparison with the aforementioned sports sedans isn't very fair though, as the A 45 AMG is more of a point and shoot sports car than something that gets the tail out on every corner and makes you counter-steer.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG

By almost any measure, the SLK 55 AMG was the most old-school sports car of the bunch, and from some points of view it also meant that it felt a bit dated, unfortunately.

Don't take this the wrong way, though, as we know that there are some people out there who actually prefer this type of car.

First of all, the SLK 55 AMG was the only AMG model with a naturally-aspirated V8, but what an engine that is. With 422 hp and 540 Nm (398 lb ft) of torque, the 5.5-liter eight-cylinder isn't breaking any hp/liter records, but the throttle response is by far the best of all the AMG cars we tested.

Not thinking too much at the burble of the V8, the SLK 55 AMG pretty much feels like an A 45 AMG if it had had rear-wheel drive, since the somewhat low weight, a short wheelbase and short steering ratio make the car feel much smaller during cornering.

Its main disadvantage is most definitely the interior though, with the SLK even in AMG guise feeling almost like two generations old compared with pretty much any other current Mercedes-Benz, but especially with something like the new C-Class.

All in all, the SLK desperately needs a mid-cycle refresh that should mainly consist an update to the interior, as some of the plastics on the center console are not much better than those found in a Volkswagen Golf nowadays.

Other than that, the V8 engine in the 55 AMG variant is a majestic masterpiece, as in pretty much any other AMG car, but the throttle response is most definitely the best in the current lineup.

Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG 4Matic

If we were to use just a couple of words to describe how the E 63 AMG 4Matic feels for the first time, they would be “supernatural waves of torque”, as the 4Matic all-wheel drive and those 720 Nm (531 lb ft) of torque transform what looks like an inconspicuous E-Class into a downright teleporting machine.

You just flick the steering wheel towards where you want to be, push the throttle and you are almost instantly there. For some, the somewhat lack of drama during cornering might be a bit of a downer, as the addition of 4Matic has made the car lose much of the AMG-specific tail-happiness, but don't think that it is any less fun now.

With a 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) time of just 3.7 seconds, you would think that the E 63 AMG 4Matic should rip through every gear like a mechanized cheetah, and you would be right. To us, it pretty much felt more like a horizontal high speed elevator, with the occasional side-stepping of the rear when flooring it mid-corner, but other than that it is probably one of the most stable cars we have ever driven.

What AMG has done by adding 4Matic all-wheel drive is that it has pretty much created the perfect all-weather grand tourer, with the lack of bum-clenching during corners being replaced by a lot of “Oh my god, we're going so fast!” screams from the passengers in pretty much any driving condition and at any given moment.

Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG Roadster

Along with the bonkers A 45 AMG, the SL 63 AMG was pretty much our favorited model during the short test drives, mainly because of its sound and power delivery.

Speaking of those, when mashing the go-fast pedal from a stop, the SL 63 AMG feels not unlike an awesome-sounding catapult, or maybe a plane trying to take off from a runway that is way too short.

The sound of that twin-turbocharged, 5.5-liter V8 is complemented mid-range by that of the two turbochargers, creating an audio experience that is heart-pumping gorgeous for the ears.

On top of the sound, the car corners about as flat as the E 63 AMG 4Matic, but with the added fun of rear-wheel drive it makes for a much more pleasurable driving experience when you get on it.

Our test car wasn't fitted with the new, more powerful variant of the M157 engine, but the 800 Nm (590 lb ft) of torque are nothing to be ashamed with either, especially since the latest SL 63 AMG is a bit closer to the original meaning of its name, which was Sport Leicht (Sport Light in German).

The steering is also very nice, offering plenty of precision and feeling, despite the fact that it is also electrically-assisted, like almost all the others in the AMG lineup right now.

After all said and done, these four Mercedes-AMG models - as different as they are from one another - represent a mighty good reason for someone to pass a lazy Saturday morning breakfast and an extra couple of hours of sleep.

In order, our favorite would probably have to be the SL 63 AMG Roadster, with a very close second from the savage A 45 AMG, the amazingly-fast E 63 AMG 4Matic in third place and then the old-school SLK 55 AMG in fourth. Obviously, neither of those would make us desire more if someone would hand the keys to one for free.
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About the author: Alex Oagana
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Alex handled his first real steering wheel at the age of five (on a field) and started practicing "Scandinavian Flicks" at 14 (on non-public gravel roads). Following his time at the University of Journalism, he landed his first real job at the local franchise of Top Gear magazine a few years before Mircea (Panait). Not long after, Alex entered the New Media realm with the project.
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