Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Power Corrupts, and that's fine.

We have a regular client, well, a trader really but he does snap up the occasional car for personal consumption. As with all well heeled traders who haven't had all the enthusiasm beaten out of them by now, if something interesting crosses the threshold he finds it hard to overcome temptation. He is going through the I-Spy book, gradually ticking the boxes until he has experienced ownership of everything tasty on the menu.

One such vehicle was a CL65 AMG. This, for the uninitiated is an enormous two-door coupe based on the S-Class. Usually it has the same sort of eight-cylinder motivation you'd expect in what the Americans used to refer to as "Personal Luxury" cars. Some had the amplification turned up when AMG bolted on a couple of superchargers to make the CL55.

The CL65 however, was a wholly unnecessary extension of the theme. Here is a staid, elephantine barge of a car, unadorned other than some slightly gauche split-rim alloy wheels and a strafing of AMG badges. This subtlety is utterly incongruous with the hidden engineering beneath that conventionally Benz front deck. There are twelve cylinders, some turbochargers and intercoolers, a mass of pipework and wiring to keep it all in check, and a narrower choice of gears than the lesser V8 CL, down from from seven speeds to five as - legend has it - the seven-speed box would fuse into a solid mass if all 612hp were to be released in one go.

The tricky bit was concealing how starstruck I was - playing it cool. As a successful Mercedes salesman I couldn't risk creating the illusion that such cars were anything other than my bread and butter. I might have driven half a dozen of these earlier today. The reality is that a day's work usually involves countless C-Class diesels. Playing with something like this is a rare treat, even when you practically live in a Mercedes showroom.

It's made even harder by the fact that, beneath this slimy, shiny-suited sales exec's skin there beats the heart of an enthusiast. Though deal in cars as if they're a commodity, I'm still completely besotted by the sensation of driving. I'm lucky that I regularly have an excuse to drive cars that wouldn't ordinarily feature in my motoring landscape. 

The CL65 lives in that category. A used example can be widely picked up for sub sixty thousand quid, which is a almost cheap - certainly not exotic car territory But thanks to the atomic powerplant under the hood, it sits firmly in my cars-which-make-me-go-all-unnecessary list, along with bedroom wall poster subjects like Zondas, F40s and the usual suspects. It was very hard to conceal my grin when its owner agreed to let me have "a go".

 The big black CL starts with a musical prelude. A great orchestral crash that settles to an underlying, symphonic dirge. It's smooth, but not too smooth - some of that mechanical edge is left there to remind you what you're controlling. And this comes just as well, as you are conscious that you need to re-calibrate your inputs. Pedal travel is briefer, more digital than you're used to. A badly judged dose of CL65 throttle will see you making close acquaintance with the car in front.

Almost perversely, I had a compulsion to drive sensibly - just to know how that feels in a six hundred horse-power car. So I did, and it felt a little like how I imagine Concorde to feel like at stall speed. When I reached dual carriageway, though, I sidled up next to a BMW 530d which was in the process of overtaking one of the many bewildered looking Kia drivers you see in Essex. His throttle was open and as I matched his speed I twitched my big toe and was immediately on the horizon. 

I can honestly say that I have never experienced this sort of mid-range acceleration before. It's like being in a forward-facing injector seat. In my rear view mirror the accompanying BMW looked entirely static, as if it had hit a bridge abutment. It hadn't, but was a soon very,very long way behind me.

When I handed the key back it was with a sigh of contentment. It was rare moments like these which act to fuel my passion, and allow me to calmly drive home at soothing, almost legal speeds after work. I had been touched by a force I had never known before, and I liked it.

Life may never be the same before.

1 comment:

  1. lucky you,

    I'd love to "have a go" at so many cars,

    sadly, I don't have the rich friends or clients...

    this almost made me open youtube and search for CL65 exhaust note

    thank you