Matt Prior: Why executive AMGs go the distance

It turns out that seeing the best of a Mercedes-AMG doesn’t require a race track and knowing nods from AMG staff to say that while you shouldn’t really turn off the stability control, they don’t mind if you do.

The result of doing so looks good in pictures and on video, you see. A big saloon or wagon, rear tyres ablaze, nailing a corner apex that was missed in reality but carefully Photoshopped back in place by the picture editor. The message is that four-door AMGs are big sports cars made for smokin’ it up and hooning.

But I don’t suppose they are, really. They can do that silly stuff if you insist, but the truth is that you don’t regularly see two-tonne saloons at track days. And track-day organisers tend to tell off drifters anyway.

This week, then, I’ve had the most enlightening big AMG saloon/wagon experience I can remember, and it was an experience that didn’t involve disconnecting driveshafts. I barely even changed the damper settings let alone touched the stability control.

But it did answer the question ‘what’s the point of having a 600bhp V8 in the front of a big executive car?’ better than any circuit experience that I can remember.

All it took was a stretch of autobahn – and not even a long one. Many have speed limits these days, and most of them are busy, but the German thinking seems to be that they will impose a limit only if there’s a specific reason to do so, and the rest of the time drivers can get on with things. And there it takes about 10 minutes to truly see the point of an AMG Mercedes (or RS Audi or M BMW): you can be doing 80mph one moment, waiting for traffic to clear, then 180mph the next, in isolation and comfort; and in the interim have been entertained by effortless shove and a raucous V8 engine note.

Executive AMGs look great when pretending to be sports cars. But their real ability is to shrink distances.

■ Less amusing are the advanced driver assistance programmes I’ve tried this week. A latest Mercedes is capable of assisting you with the steering, even on sharper bends, and has cruise control that matches speed limits, adjusts according to the surrounding traffic and brakes for upcoming bends and junctions.

Sometimes it’s very effective, until at other times, sometimes without a great deal of notice, it isn’t. But that isn’t supposed to matter, because you, remember, not the car, are in charge. Therefore this stuff isn’t dangerous. Understood. It’s helping, then – but not really helping, because you still have to be there anyway.

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