Learn to drive your AMG

    I've watched hundreds of review videos, from popular people on the you tubes, and none of them have demonstrated how to drive an AMG.

    3y ago


    I'm not looking to start a war. There are many good reviewers on the you tubes, I subscribe to many of them, like Doug Demuro, and The Smoking Tire, even if I disagree with them. They are at the very least entertaining, and many of them are well informed car fanatics.

    I should mention here that this isn't really an OTC subject. More of a personal note, primarily because I drive a CLK55 AMG on a daily basis, as well as my mother's SL55 AMG when she is concerned there is something wrong with it.

    These two AMGs could not be more different. Mine is a well worn Coupe with over 220K miles on the clock, no supercharger, no active body control, no two piece carbon ceramic brakes, and the list goes on, but there is one thing these two cars have in common. They are both AMG tuned performance cars that were not intended to be driven like your grandma's Oldsmobile.

    While the engine is very similar, the SL55 was built and tuned for a supercharger where my naturally aspirated engine has higher compression and would not withstand boost. The one thing that is identical between our two cars is the AMG 722.5 5-Speed automatic transmission.

    This transmission is capable of handling obscene horsepower, intentionally built by AMG for this purpose. It provides shifts that can only be matched by manual transmissions which are sequential and designed to be shifted without the clutch.

    I'm on this particular soapbox to talk about the myriad of diehard "Manual Only" car guys and reviewers out there who automatically discount the AMG automatics as being sluggish, or dimwitted. I also want to "call out" some of the reviewers who drive an AMG with one of the 722 automatic transmissions and claim that their test car was in some way let down by the transmission.

    Learn how to drive an AMG if you want it to perform the way it was intended. I'm not saying you don't know how to drive, but I've watched dozens of you get in an AMG and drive it as if you expect it to have telepathy. It doesn't have telepathy, it actually has something better. Adaptive Throttle and Adaptive Shifting.

    Mercedes, probably since God was in preschool, have always had a "shift hold" in their automatic transmissions. If you put the car in "D", and take off then you matt the throttle it will downshift and provided everything is in good working order, it will not upshift until you let off the throttle. It will hold that gear as long as you keep it on the floor, all the way to redline.

    AMG took this thinking to a whole new level when everything was converted to fly-by-wire throttles with electronically controlled transmissions. The 722.5 as well as later versions, does the same thing only with electrons, instead of cables and vacuum.

    Not only does the way an AMG shift, take some getting used to, there is logical thinking behind it. I've heard people complain about the slight "dip" in power between gear changes in an AMG. That's the adaptive system at work. If you drive your AMG on a daily basis it learns your driving habits, the way you use the throttle, the speeds you "normally" drive at, and it changes the shift points to compensate. It "dips" the throttle between shifts to not only protect itself from clutch damage, but also to avoid barking the tires between every shift.

    My mother tends to drive her SL55 like anyone's mother would. She will occasionally "open it up" on the interstate, but most of the time if it's nice out, she drives it to church. After about a month of this behavior she will call me and ask me how to reset the adaptive throttle and adaptive transmission because the car doesn't feel as powerful.

    I'm not going to bitch at my mother about her driving the car conservatively, being the cause of it feeling down on power. I reset her adaptive throttle and transmission and we're all good for another month or so.

    My CLK55 on the other hand is a different story, because I drive it 90% of the time, as if it is a manual transmission, without a clutch.

    If you really want to make an AMG go, it's simple. First, you can't really stab the throttle off the line, because then you invoke the wizards of traction control with the "Danger Will Robinson!" light blinking like mad from the center of the speedometer, and you'll go nowhere fast. Yes, you can turn the traction control off and induce an absurd amount of tire smoke, but that is simply a waste.

    If I find myself next to someone at a stoplight who wants to "test" the AMG badge. I manually shift the car into 1st, and when the light changes, I simply apply about half throttle. As soon as the tach needle nears the 6000rpm redline, I bump the lever to the right, lift off the throttle for a split second, and then take it all the way to the floor. Yes, this will cause the tires to lose traction, and once again set the traction control light off, but you have a pretty good head of steam built up, and it is time to bump the lever right again, for 3rd and let off the throttle briefly only to stab it again immediately. This process can be repeated through all 5 gears if you wish, however, you're going to be be well into triple digit speeds before you get out of 3rd gear.

    If you don't feel like bumping the lever to shift, you can actually apply this same "lift-off" shift in "D", once you get to 2nd gear.

    Basically all you're doing is manually mimicking the shift dip that the adaptive throttle does when you're just puttering around town. That RPM dip between the gears is what actually triggers the shift in the transmission. If you want to drive aggressively, don't allow the transmission to shift until you're ready, it will wait until you back off the throttle slightly, then shift and before you can react the next gear is engaged and it will be ready for full throttle application.

    Now, a lot of reviewers who drive cars like the SL55 or even more powerful AMGs, don't have a clue about this. So... they try to downshift or upshift manually and get frustrated when the transmission doesn't change gears fast enough, so they call it "sluggish" or a "slushbox". In reality, there is nothing wrong with the transmission, it is all the driver's fault.

    If you pull the paddle or bump the lever for an upshift, without letting off the throttle, the transmission isn't going to do anything, because the shift hasn't been triggered. You must back off the throttle slightly, and then get right back on the throttle and bang-zoom the next gear will attempt to peel your face off.

    Don't take my word for it. Go look up "How to reset adaptive throttle and transmission" for your AMG, follow the procedure, and then find a nice open stretch of road, and practice controlling the shift of your automatic AMG transmission.

    To all the people out there that own an AMG, and don't understand operation of your transmission, and you feel the need to whine about the transmission "holding the car back", learn how to drive it before you blame the car.

    To all the reviewers and youtubers, who bemoan the sluggishness of AMG automatics, please learn how they work, learn how they were designed to work before you knock the automatics, because it isn't the car's fault it is your fault, because you're not giving the car the proper input.

    One of my coworkers recently purchased a 2012 Mustang GT, with a manual transmission, and it develops a respectable 412 horsepower, around 60 more horses than my CLK55. We have raced several times, and he has never been able to beat me, regardless of distance. So, we took both cars to the dragstrip.

    He drove his Mustang five runs and had very consistent times. I drove his Mustang five runs and turned in numbers very similar. I drove my CLK55 five runs with him as a passenger and taught him how to control the shifts, all five of my runs were within tenths of a second of each other, and all of his runs were within tenths of a second to my times.

    Then he understood. Because my CLK was a full 2.5 seconds faster through a quarter mile than his Mustang, even when he drove it, and even when all of the advantages were given to his Mustang. It's not about talent, it truly boils down to power to weight ratios, and the fact that my automatic consistently shifted faster, and was able move the car down the track, once you understand how to control the shifts.

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