August 19, 2011 11:09 AM  |  Posted By: Monkey Harris
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The Destination Nurburgring track day at the Nordschleife is becoming a must for anyone (and that’s most people) who are too scared to take their pride-and-joy to the ‘Ring during a public session. I was doing some driver-training on the Monday, and needed to be in Stuttgart Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. What better way to test the GT credentials of the SLS?

Even better, the Wednesday engagement was a visit to the AMG factory in Affalterbach, to see the new M152 engine and its radical cylinder shut-down technology.

As usual, I left late. Too late. The SLS woofled its way eastwards and just – I mean juuuuust fitted in a standard Eurotunnel train. As you can see, the gullwings opened perfectly. Like they’d been made for the carriage, the top of the door was 1cm off the roof!

Arrival at the ‘Ring was late. Fuel economy was impressive with the car loping in 7th. When it’s dark, and you’re knacked, the SLS feels like it has 800bhp.

Although the new automated pumps won’t allow more than €125 to be dispensed at a time, which doesn’t brim an SLS tank.

The Lindner Hotel has motorsport derived words daubed on the carpets. They are easily misconstrued.

Monday was work, with a couple of pass laps to show people the line. The paddock was rammed with exotica.

The 500 GTO from EVO’s cover story last year.

The SLS’s predecessor, an SLR Mercedes McLaren.

VIDEO !! Tuesday morning I bolted a camera into the car and did one lap. First fast lap in the car I’d done, weather was perfect, track pretty empty. Here it is, the jump at Pflanzgarten 2 was unintentional, the car is so wide that I ran the nearside wheels over the kerb and the car was launched much higher than expected. Heart-beat raised for a few seconds.


But what a tool around the ‘Ring, especially for a 1620kg GT car with standard Continental Sport Contacts and steel brakes. The tyres went south about half-way through each lap, but the brakes were fine. A few tricked-out GT3s were surprised by the Panzer’s pace.


Adrian Sutil was surprised by the first fast turn (we were running a chicane through T13) and came a cropper in a  Gumpert Appollo. He was just emerging from the mess when we came through.


Next it was south to Stuttgart to stay overnight with a pal who, by rather excellent coincidence was also lending a room to Sports Car legend Romain Dumas. What a day: it began with clear skies, clear Nurburgring lapping, continued with a relaxed 4 hr cruise on the Autobahn and ended talking Group B with one of my driving heroes. Oh, this was an mpg low-point.

What a place Affalterbach is. You’ll have read about the M152 motor and its ability to become a 4cyl lump for economical cruising. Here it is being nailed on a bench. Sounded awesome.

The SLS AMG GT3, hubba.

A special CLS 63 AMG. Light metallic olive with quilted blue Nappa interior. Don't ask.

Also on hand was David Coulthard, brand ambassador (as you’ll learn in this blog ). I asked him to sign my squalid old Mazda notepad. He looked baffled, but did so.

Now the drive home was long, slow and mostly hideous, but the SLS was as calm a companion as I could have hope for. In fact, when you’re crawling near Heilbronn, snuggled down into that heated seat and enjoying tunes on the B&O hi-fi, it’s hard to square such a relaxed attitude with the fireworks it displayed at the ‘Ring. Make no mistake, the car was very, very fast on the track.

The return trip took months. Well, it felt like months. These were the stats when I stopped-over in rural Berkshire.

I ran fast a few times. The car is stable, predictable and easy to place over 160mph. Fuel economy becomes tragic at those speeds.

I was attempting to summarise what made this car so special when I was trawling through some images and video from the trip, when I found this clip. It’s of me getting ready to go out for the lap, fumbling around and shoving my chattels into any hole that isn’t already full of sweet wrappers. I love the contrast between everyday driving and the imminent challenge of the world’s toughest circuit; of crash-helmet and T-shirt, inertia-reel belt and 170mph into Schwedenkreuz. Then the iPod burps into life, as it always does in the SLS, playing Nick Lowe’s ‘I love the sound of breaking glass’.

If it was my money, I wouldn’t have a Ferrari 458 over this car. You can do so much more in the SLS, and that includes really living with it. 


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scanlioni at 10:59 PM September 13, 2011

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You're doing that scary ring thing where you accelerate hard for just a second,just after you've braked hard....hunting down tenths of a second in your own car...much respect. Also respect for having Nick Lowe on in the ring paddock :-]

Hatchoo at 9:23 AM September 1, 2011

For some reason the fast lap was uncomfortable viewing...I don't think the ring has ever looked so narrow. You're a fantastic driver and the SLS must have incredible dynamics but with the exception of early footage of Bentleys hurtling around Brooklands I've never been so simultaneously aware of mass, speed and an impending disaster.

Aaron Smith at 9:50 PM August 23, 2011

That looked and sounded absolutely rapid! Not gonna lie, if I was sat next to you I would've dropped my guts.

Mike1215 at 12:23 PM August 22, 2011

Epic post Chris - you should do this for a living....... ;-)

Ben__B at 7:03 PM August 19, 2011

You carry a lot of speed in the slower corners! Is there any enjoyment in driving road cars at the 'Ring after racing there?

Mike RT4 at 5:17 PM August 19, 2011

See what you mean about the jump at Pfg 2 - sod that for a game of soldiers - scary moment! Beautiful lap and loved how you were sniffing out the throttle to see when the understeer was going to disappear on some of the tighter corners :). Obviously the geometry was still set for "fast sofa", rather than "track weapon" :). Still amazingly fast despite that :).

Stig at 3:46 PM August 19, 2011

I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks Chris!

arthur at 12:53 PM August 19, 2011

Is that sportAuto's Anja Wasserteurer in the picture with the SLS AMG GT3? Living proof that a slight bulge on the nose need not be catastrophic to the profile of neither fast cars nor fast women, she is. You are such a lucky man, Chris, and never mind that SLS Panzerwagon. And -1 on the 458 remark btw, I stood next to one a few days ago in Hongkong and nearly wept, it looked and sounded that gorgeous. Your 4.0 Porker may be quick and have a manual but it sadly has more stickers and spoilers than most fifteen year old tarted up Impreza's with all the Halford bits on. You must forgive me, I was never a big 911 fan but why do the quick and expensive versions have to look so cheap?

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