When you purchase or lease an AMG vehicle, you receive a $1,895 credit towards a driving course at the AMG Driving Academy. In one day, you do various driving exercises with the guidance of experienced professionals in an effort to become a better driver.
AMG Driving Academy
You have the option to select one of the four tracks across the United States: Laguna Seca (Salinas, CA), Road Atlanta (Braselton, GA), Circuit of the Americas (Austin, TX), and Lime Rock Park (Lakeville, CT). I chose Road Atlanta and on May 17th I traveled to Brasleton, GA to attend the event.
There are five different experience levels to choose from: Performance ($1,895), Advanced ($3,995), Pro ($4,495), Pro Plus ($5,995), and a Drift course ($1,195), for all the people who want to learn to drive sideways. In order to take Advanced, you must first complete the Performance course. The Drift course is available for anyone, but there is a long waiting list. Apparently everyone wants to channel their inner Vin Diesel.
Chateau Elan Winery and Resort
I flew into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and drove approximately one hour to the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort. The resort is about ten minutes from Road Atlanta and if you book through the website, the rate is under $200 per night. Hotel and transportation are not included in the program costs so you are responsible for making your own travel arrangements. I highly recommend the Chateau Elan if you are attending Road Atlanta even if you live close by because you will be tired as hell by the end of the day.
You are expected to arrive at the track before 8:15 am in order to register and eat breakfast. I was a little nervous with this being my first time, but excited for the opportunity to experience something new. Once you’re all checked in, the head instructor will go over the details of the event and then all of the other instructors go around and introduce themselves to all the attendees.
Most of the instructors have numerous years of racing and training experience. And they kept stating that Road Atlanta is the best North America track so I was excited about that. You are then broken up into groups and the day of fun and learning begins.
The Performance course covers a half day of driver exercises and a half day of racing on the track. The day is action-packed day and includes practicing line techniques, cornering, braking and so much more. Once you learn the basics, you progress to higher speed exercises and eventually you drive on the track. I was a part of the group that got to drive on the racetrack during the first half of the day.
First Half of the Day: Track Time
The instructors go over best practices and safety protocol as all the AMG vehicles are lined up. You take turns with your team members driving the cars and do several practice laps to understand the car handling, when to brake, the course turns, and the differences in the car modes. Everything moves so fast so pay attention. You drive the following vehicles around the track: C43, SLC43 Roadster, SL 63 Roadster, GT S, and GT R. They will give you plenty of track time so get excited and prepared. It was a hot day, so after several times around the truck I was a little exhausted.
You will really enjoy driving the AMG GT vehicles especially the GT R. The GT R is a beast on the road and it’s used to record the final lap videos. It is unbelievably fast and I was able to get up to 130 mph during the straightaways.
I got a little car sick towards the end of the track time riding with a fellow team member. He kept getting too close to the vehicle in front and slamming on the brakes triggering the seat belts to engage. I never vomited like some of the attendees, but you can get motion sickness. You will have access to plenty of liquids, snacks, Tylenol and yes even Dramamine just in case you forget to bring your own. Before you head to lunch, they provide the option for you to do a taxi ride with an actual race car driver but I decided to pass. It was a great start and now it’s time for lunch around 12:30pm.
Second Half of the Day: Driving Exercises
After lunch, team members pair up in AMG C63s and drive to listen to a tech talk. The instructor discuss the future Mercedes AMG Project One which will be priced at $2.7mm – $3mm. I wanted to put in my order but they said the vehicle are already sold out. Bummer! You then take turns riding in the new AMG GT 63 Sedan with the instructor. He takes us through a drifting exercise as well as a self park simulation. Both experiences were very cool and now it’s time to move to the Timed Slalom.
Time Slalom and Competition
During the Timed Slalom exercise, cones are set up as “gates” to create a zigzag course. You must maneuver the AMG CLA45 through the course without touching the cones or you will be penalized. The exercise tests your driving ability to get through the course in the least amount of time possible. After a few practice rounds and feedback from the instructor, you are then timed. The highest three individuals and the top team scores win some pretty cool prizes.
I thought I did pretty good. But when the final score came out, I did not do so well. My score was 20 seconds and the best score were in the 17 second range. Next up is the Skid Pad.
The instructor went over instructions really fast and honestly I was a bit lost on this one. You partner up with a fellow team member and hop into the AMG C63s. A truck sprays water on the ski pad and we take turns driving the vehicles with the traction control turned on and off. You learn concepts like understeer, oversteer and you are instructed to brake, turn and accelerate causing the vehicle to skid. I did pretty good a few times and then I kept skidding out. What a rush! Honestly, this exercise went so fast and I never really got a good handle on it. I now see why they have a full day course dedicated to it.
ABS Brake on Lane Change
The last driving skills exercise was the ABS brake on lane change. This time we drove the AMG E63s. By this time it’s around 4pm in the afternoon and I am a little exhausted. But other than the Ski Pad, this exercise offered the biggest adrenaline rush as it’s very relevant to everyday driving situations. The instructors tell you to accelerate up to 50-60mph until you reach the cones and then slam on the brakes coming to a complete stop. Once you get the feel and timing down, you switch to making lane changes while activating the ABS at various speeds. Initially I had a tough time slamming on the brake but eventually I would get the hang of it after clowned a few times by my instructor.
Overall it was an amazing experience. They go over a lot in one day so be sure to get some rest the night before. It started around 8:30pm and I left at approximately 6pm. After the long day, I ate dinner and had wine at the Chateau. The AMG Driving Academy gives you an excellent opportunity to improve your driving skills while driving some really cool Mercedes Benz AMG vehicles. You meet some really cool people and it felt like I was being training by the best instructors. I had so much fun and I am considering doing the Pro course in 2020.
Some of the pictures are courtesy of AMG Driving Academy