@pissed_on_petrol explains why a twin-turbocharged V12 is the only daily driver he wants to tyre smoke around in
What do you look for in a daily driver? This has been something I have been pondering regularly over for the last few months. The cars I have used as dailies for the last fifteen years or so have all followed the same trend - with priority being: dynamic ability, driver feedback, and the ability to get my heart racing on the way to work! The list is long, but examples include two TVRs, a Lotus Elise, a number of Porsches and various BMW M cars.
Having said this, my thoughts on my priorities for a daily driver started to change earlier this year when, ahead of the arrival of our new baby, we picked up our new family wheels: a 2021 Range Rover Westminster Black edition. This huge, wallowing behemoth has seduced me in a way that I never thought it could, and I have spent the time we have had in it so far thoroughly enjoying its comfort, ride quality and silence! It is so relaxing and peaceful to drive, especially in traffic, that mundane journeys become quite enjoyable and long journeys just fly by as you snuggle into the sumptuous armchairs, set the climate control ‘just so’ and listen to the excellent Meridien sound system.
This also got me thinking about my fleet as a whole. Pretty much every car I own is a very focused driving tool. I have a 430 Scuderia, a 996 GT2, a V12V manual, a 355 manual, a Caterham R500 and a 106 Rallye – every single one is capable of setting your pants on fire if you feel you need to blow away some cobwebs of an evening…. So why was I using (at the time of these thoughts) a manual BMW M2 to do the boring stuff? Surely this choice of daily driver meant that I was not able to appreciate the full driver’s benefits of the special cars that I am lucky enough to own….?
Unfortunately, the big Rangie is Mrs P_on_P’s sole car, meaning I only really get to use it when we are travelling together as a family. Therefore, about 6 weeks ago, a decision was made: I needed my own wafting device to use for daily duties and business. The criteria was quite simple: it needed to be outrageously comfortable; have only 2 pedals; be ‘subtle’ enough to be able to arrive at client meetings in; and, ideally, have 12 cylinders…. but mainly it needed to be something a bit ‘different’ and feel special to climb into every morning.
Frustratingly, the ‘subtle’ criteria meant that Rollers and Bentleys were immediately scored off the list (however, they are most definitely still on the long term want list – I love Wraiths and Conti GTs). I didn’t really want a huge barge, so 760s and S Classes were also a no and, being pissed_on_petrol, means that diesels are banned from my personal fleet so a V12 TDi Q7 was also scored off. Then, one evening, as I was scrolling through Instagram whilst sipping a nice glass of red, I came across a post about an R230 SL65 AMG….. It was a lightbulb moment! And to add to that, I realised that I knew of one that a friend had in storage…….I called him immediately! His reaction was initially very hesitant. He had never planned to sell this car, as he was convinced it was an excellent long-term investment car – one of only eighty-nine UK examples, less than 50,000 miles, and, in my opinion, in the only colour for a special Mercedes: Iridium silver.
It took over a week for me to twist his arm enough for him to agree to let the car go. We agreed a deal that involved him taking my lovely M2 in part-ex and, a week later, I was heading over to the Lake District in my M2 to do the exchange.
That was just over a week ago as I write this, so what are my initial impressions? Firstly, this car does the ‘wafting’ thing so well! It is even more comfortable than the Range Rover – the massaging, air-conditioned and heated seats are absolutely magnificent, and it is a lovely place to spend time. The engine is a masterpiece. It sounds fantastic and reminds me of a big capacity power boat manoeuvring around a marina in the Med – a deep, guttural, yet beautifully silenced, noise that sounds gloriously expensive. The 5-speed reinforced gearbox that Mercedes fitted to the 65 (apparently the other boxes they were using at the time couldn’t handle the 1000nm of torque this engine produces…) is lovely and lazy and that suits the engine well. In comfort mode, its reluctance to kick down means you are always riding along at low revs, using the engine’s huge torque reserves to propel you forward. It’s a calming and tranquil way to travel, which is exactly what I wanted from it. This trait also means that I find I am driving a lot slower than normal – it’s so relaxing that I’m simply not in a hurry to get anywhere!
Of course, this vehicle has another, darker, side to it….. When you slip the gearbox into S mode and pin the throttle into the carpet, the mighty 6 litre, BiTurbo V12 wakes from its slumber with an angry howl and the rear tyres instantly slip as 612bhp and 737lbft of torque arrives in one huge lump of fury! Once the rudimentary traction control system finally gets the tyres to hook up, you are catapulted forward at a rate that is verging on uncomfortable in such a heavy vehicle. Acceleration is vivid and unrelenting – the car seemingly gaining speed at a consistent rate, even well into three figures. Back in 2004, a stock SL65 AMG had its limiter removed and was tested at Nardo, where it hit a GPS verified 215mph…..I can believe it!
Having said this, in order to avoid bankruptcy, moments like that need to be kept to a minimum as the rate at which this thing drinks super unleaded, with any kind of ‘enthusiastic’ use of the right pedal, is eye-watering. My first tank of fuel (75 litres, £100+) took me 188 miles, which I have calculated at 11mpg. This thing makes my V12 Vantage seem economical!
Ignoring the fuel economy, and the fact that I have already had to spend over £1,000 on parts for it (new batteries as the car had hardly been used for 3 years, boot struts, spark plugs, Intercooler Pump….), I am absolutely loving the SL65 AMG. It is a beautiful piece of engineering, from a time before the world had gone eco-crazy and the health and safety brigade had started to ruin all the fun. And now, when I grab the keys for one of the true ‘driver’s cars’ in my stable, I appreciate their pure driving thrills all the more.