We are on our way to Zolder. We get a unique opportunity from Mercedes-AMG to test almost the full range of AMGs on and around the Zolder circuit in Belgium. The weather is not looking good. It’s raining cats and dogs. The more we drive to the East, the less we see of the road through the tensioning water. A feature of the Belgian road network that we don’t really appreciate. The AMG trackday seems to fall in (wet) pieces.
The world of AMG
After a long (and very early) ride we recover during a “World of AMG” session where we are immersed in the history of AMG. Not unknown to us, but it is an inspiring story about how Aufrecht and Melcher laid the foundations in Aufrecht for a brand that passionates millions of people today. We also cycle briefly through the entire Mercedes-AMG range, where really an AMG version of onlt the B-Class and the recent GLB is missing. To the question why the GLE 53 now also has vertical louvres (that grille is normally only for the 63-AMG models) we get an answer for which we should have studied 5 years. In the background we can already hear and see countless AMGs tearing over the wet asphalt. Fortunately we have our circuit sessions only in the afternoon, as the weather gods should more lean towards us then. The sound of AMG remains masterful and also the AMG Brand Manager Sven Van den bruel makes this clear by once again emphasizing that no less than a group of 200 people are constantly working to ensure that every AMG produces such a powerful sound. An art in itself.
A ride as a passenger in a Mercedes-AMG GT4 developed by the Customer Racing division of AMG (with the help of specialist and neighbor in Affalterbach HWA who have also developed the Formula E car for Stoffel Vandoorne) clearly shows how much grip there is on a soaked circuit. Unbelievable, just the speed at which we acellerate from the pits is almost hallucinatory. Not to mention the endless braking power, and that in the rain … Mercedes had called on pilots Max Koebolt and Nico Verdonck on this AMG trackday to give passengers the laps of their lives with two AMG GT4 cars.
Around 10:30 we can finally get behind the wheel ourselves. Not yet on the Zolder circuit, but on the main roads around the circuit. Six AMGs are waiting for us where we switch as passenger and driver. First it goes from an S 63 Convertible to an E 53 Convertible, then to a G 63, an SLC 43 and finally an AMG GT C Roadster. The route itself is somewhat disappointing, because the only curves that we could take were the countless roundabouts. Well, for practical reasons we understand that a curvy Ardennes ride is not possible. In the past I was lucky to drive all of the aforementioned AMG models, except for the SLC 43. And that car was the most surprising of them all. Little frills in the interior and the driving mode that you have to change via a tiny button on the center console. But above all a pure engine sound of the 3-liter V6 that makes a lot of rotations. Rear-wheel drive completes the picture. Too bad that the SLC is a bit the underrated model of the Mercedes family.
Mercedes has divided its AMG range into various performance categories. We start with the Performance models including the GLC 63 S Coupé, the E 63 S 4MATIC + and the C 63 AMG. Well-behaved as we are, we don’t go any further than the Sport driving mode as these are my first laps on Zolder. Fortunately, the track has almost dried up. With its 4MATIC + and its more suitable bodywork format, the E 63 S is the best performing of this group on this circuit. Not bad for a car that many people only see as a taxi. Despite its rear-wheel drive, the C 63 is also full of grip, although in Race mode with ESP switched off, this might be a different story.
No time to catch your breath. The next model series is the GT family, and not unknowingly we immediately board into a selenite gray AMG GT R. This is another level of excitement. The downshift sound, the way you get snapped into your seat by the belt when braking hard, the steering… It may not get better than this. A moment later we take a seat in the GT 63 S four-door coupe. The instructor who leads the field informs us that this GT does not have ceramic brake discs. The way the GT 63 builds speed is unseen, but braking is indeed another story. The E 63 AMG seems to be better suited for circuit use than the GT 63, which is struggling to keep its mass on track. In some of the pit boxes we find the freshened GT C and GT R as extra.
As an intermezzo we could show our steering skills and responsiveness on a slalom and obstacle course an A 200. We never heard an A-Class making so many rotations. No A 35 AMG to complete the course, but power is not a key to success here.
Entry Performance Tracktime
If the instructors (genre Jeffrey van Hooydonck, Niels Shoenmakers, Marc Goossens) who are in the lead, notice that the pace can be increased, they do. That is no different with the Entry Performance models genre C 43 AMG and A 35 AMG. Such a C 43 is quite successful on the circuit, and the sound is also spot on.
Started under a soaked sky and finished under a beautiful sun. All beautiful songs come to an end. Also on this AMG pampering day. There is an AMG for each of us, that’s more clear than ever. From the A 35 to the G 63 AMG, the contrast could not be larger. Whether you can or want to pay for it is another matter unfortunately. But was that really useful for driving a whole bunch of AMGs on the track? No doubt. If only to improve our steering skills. In the meantime, we are still dreaming of those rounds with the AMG GT R … Luckily dreaming is for free.