Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG – First Drive

This article originally featured in Mercedes Enthusiast Magazine, May 2017

It was late at night when I finally got hold of the keys to the E55. Heavy rain pounded down around me as I sprinted across the car park to the big silver beast, whose insides started to glow when I blipped the button on the key fob on my approach. The dim lights grew brighter, calling me in as if to say, climb in, I am ready. I pulled the handle and slunk down behind the wheel, glad to be out of the cold.

The layout of the dashboard was refreshingly simple, but finding a comfortable position out of the millions of possible combinations achieved by gently tapping the electronic buttons on the driver’s door was not. It felt like hours of carefully manoeuvring up and down, in and out, closer and further until the drivers’ seat was perfectly poised for my late night attack on the M40. After playing the same game with the electronically adjustable steering wheel, finally I was ready.

Clicking the ignition key all the way around released a howl from the engine as all 8 cylinders cranked into life with a deep burble. The car shook with that magnificent vibration that can only mean one thing… There’s a V8 out in front. I pressed the throttle just for fun. Whoooomf. There it is. That’s what this car is all about. That is why I’m sat on the outskirts of London at 10.30pm on a wet Thursday evening, hours from home and about to leave the forecourt in my very own E55 AMG. Clicking the seatbelt in place and ensuring both red lights on the heated seat button were showing, like an astronaut about to launch, I was finally ready. Having a warm bum that’s securely fastened to the seat is vital for high-speed travel. Everyone knows that.

The big silver wagon purred out into the London night sky, glinting in the street lights as the big V8 burbled away, quietly waiting for it’s moment to pounce. I prayed for red lights, anything to give that engine a chance to howl at the moon and light up the tyres. Traffic was against us, and all 5.4 litres of AMG madness were cooped up and begging to be set free. The moment didn’t come the M40 slip road came into sight. It felt cruel leaving all of that displacement languishing at 2000rpm in central London. I was doing the car a favour, releasing it into the wild.

With a clear run onto the motorway, I buried the throttle. Speed built gracefully – these naturally aspirated AMG cars are not ostentatious, they get the job done in an alarming way but you’d never know from the looks. Brutal subtlety. By the time we got down the on ramp the needle already said 110. The big V8 was just getting started as we flew into the fast lane and kept going. 120. 130. 140. Big numbers growing fast. Everything was becoming a blur but inside the car there was nothing but focus, the howl of the V8 climbing to a full blown roar as the speed kept building, the big car doing exactly what it was designed to do. The Benz seemed to hunker down lower as the numbers got higher, bracing itself for the crescendo that the engine was only too happy to provide. The 354bhp engine had more to give as I finally backed off at an indicated 165, the initial ascent was over so I eased the old girl back to cruising speed of a comfortable 130 for the remainder of the trip. This is no car for the mean streets of London, this is a car that needs to stretch it’s legs, those cylinders need to howl and that V8 needs to climb out of the front of the car and roar with all it’s might. My high-speed focus was interrupted by a strange voice that got louder and louder until I could ignore it no longer….

Sir? Sir? Sir…? What happened there, you dazed out? Thought I’d lost you, long train journey was it? Been thinking about the drive home? Ah, you’re going to love it! She’s a beast. There’s enough fuel to get you home, just take it easy as the brake pads are new and will need wearing in. Heavy traffic all the way up the M40 I’m afraid, down to one lane and 40mph most the way at this time of night. Still, you’ll have a chance to get acquainted with the car. Thanks for the business, and any trouble, give us a call. Enjoy the drive, the documents are in the glove box, and you already have the keys. Take care!

Ah balls. Daydreaming again…

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