I first visited Silverstone back in 2014. The racing team I managed campaigned two Intrepid GTP IMSA prototypes in the European historic Group C/GTP series. We setup shop in Brackley, only minutes from the legendary British circuit. I’d regularly visit the track for racing supplies and parts, always attempting to catch a glance of the cars running around the various configurations of tarmac at Silverstone. As the years went by, I attended events such as the Formula 1 race and vintage events at the track, but never drove the actual Silverstone circuit. Well, that was until Mercedes UK invited me to a Mercedes-AMG 50th anniversary track day.
The early August morning didn’t start off well. As I departed my mother-in-law’s house, it was grey and wet, and traffic was just as typically British. Luckily, the Mercedes-Benz E350d wagon I was driving laughed it all off, whisking me along the 35-mile route in comfort and dramatically improving my attitude, which had been soured by the dire conditions outside. There are very few automobiles that truly cosset yet still reward like an E-Class.
As I drove onto the circuit premises, the clouds darkened and heavy rain soaked the track. Lovely. Our setup for the day was at the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), overlooking Brooklands, Luffield, and Woodcote. The names of the corners at Silverstone are so very British.
Mercedes booked the full grand prix circuit, a very rare treat that brings along some serious high-speed corners. Session one was in an A45—the hatchback version of our CLA45. Its front-wheel drive-based architecture and all-wheel drive traction plus wet weather-friendly rubber made it perfect for a first-time outing onto the daunting Silverstone track.
I spent time in an A45 in England in 2016 and was impressed with its pace and grip on the road. It didn’t feel quite as special on the track, but it was still fun and revealed safe, comforting understeer when pushed in the wet conditions. Plus, the slightly boomy sport exhaust shot off lovely pops and bangs as the dual-clutch gearbox grabbed ratios. As I finished my run, the rain stopped, the sun broke, and a dry line began to appear. Time for another Mercedes model.
Instead of systematically climbing the AMG ladder, I jumped a few rungs to the 550-hp Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster. The weather may have improved by English standards, but it still wasn’t great and the soft top stayed firmly latched. As I exited the pits and slowly got up to speed through Maggots and Becketts, the steering that I’ve struggled to come to grips with on other iterations of the Mercedes-AMG GT reared its ugly head. Additionally, my right foot and the stability control (ESP) both worked overtime to maintain rear grip. While it wasn’t bone dry during my session, it was mostly moisture free.
The GT C lacks rear grip and its somewhat darty and overly light steering doesn’t help you get a feel for what’s going on at either axle. It’s not horrible and it’s a clear step up from the older GT S, but the whole car still seems to carry too much underlying legacy from the old SLS AMG that preceded it. That twin-turbo V8 engine is a cracker, though, even if the turbines hit a bit too hard and somewhat artificially in certain part throttle applications. Still, the soundtrack is amazing and the GT C has serious pace.
My plan was to keep moving my way up and grab the track-focused Mercedes-AMG GT R but the rain returned. 4Matic AWD was a natural draw, especially as I wanted to listen to my instructor and further figure out the 3.7-mile track. So, I hopped into a new E63 S 4Matic, a beast of a car.
On cold tires, it felt like the E63’s AWD induced oversteer in a slightly artificial way, but that sorted itself out as the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber gained heat. You really feel the weight of the big sedan under braking and in low-speed corners, but it easily topped 150 mph lap after lap along Hanger Straight. It’s the car I’d want to thrash around Silverstone and then comfortably drive the 654 miles back to the Mercedes-AMG headquarters in Affalterbach, Germany. Remember, properly equipped, the E63 S will hit 186 mph.
When the track finally dried, I had my first chance in the GT R. Fittingly, the car wore crazy, extroverted matte green paint—Green Hell Magno. Its ability to turn-in and pounce towards the apex in low-speed corners combined with pace and stability in high-speed corners like Copse and Abbey revealed the GT R’s race car-like ability. Its mammoth carbon-ceramic brakes were wicked strong but do seem to lack the ultimate pedal feel of Porsche’s PCCB setup on, say, a 911 GT3 RS. More welcoming was the way AMG sorted the faults on the GT C with the GT R. Steering is far less twitchy and rear grip is far superior. It’s a much better-balanced car. I had another run in the GT R later in the day and it only impressed me more.
Throughout the rest of the day, I danced between a plethora of other Mercedes-AMG products, including a C63 S Coupe and, one of my favorites, the C63 S Wagon, an amazing dual-purpose car. The more utilitarian AMG, which I’d spent time in the past didn’t feel too far off the lighter Coupe and it’s the perfect size.
The last run of the day was a highlight—and I wasn’t even driving. Nurburgring 24 winner and all around nice guy, Adam Christodoulou, took me for a serious hell ride in the factory Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car. I’ve had the pleasure of driving a load of factory race cars this year, including the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE, and Acura NSX GT3, but this was my first time riding with a pro around a circuit as fabulous as Silverstone and a car as fabulous as the Mercedes-AMG GT3. The brakes and Adam’s skill with the binders are both astonishing. We passed any and every car like they were stationary. Well, other than the Mercedes-AMG GT R down Hanger Straight—the race car carries too much downforce and regulations mean the 6.2-liter V-8 makes less power than the GT R’s 577 hp. The GT3 felt like it hit a brick wall at high speeds. Then the corners returned and my blind was blown once again. Wow.
The day ended far too quickly. The lasting memories will definitely include Silverstone itself, the drives in the GT R, and that amazing ride in the GT3 race car. Thank you, Adam. Additionally, every AMG automobile handled the rotation of hack journalists without complaint. I never felt any warped brakes or other mechanical woes. Impressive. Now I need to score a drive in that Mercedes-AMG GT3. Of course, it needs to be at Silverstone. The GP circuit, please.