Learning to drive: the Mercedes-Benz Accelerate program
One race track: Sydney Motor Sport Park. World class trainers. And some of the coolest cars Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG have on their books.
THE venue: Sydney Motor Sport Park. Not that we need an excuse to be there, but we had one, in the form of the Mercedes-Benz Driving Events Accelerate program, a veritable taste test of a fair chunk of the car maker's range.
The menu included the almost unicorn-like Mercedes-AMG GT R, and the C 53 S, the new EQC electric SUV, a convertible E Class, the incredible new S Class, a variety of A Class models, and many others.
We also had the chance to slide a few around the skid pan, as part of a broader education component that forms a large part of what the day was about. The program is open to anyone, and you don't need to own a Mercedes-Benz to take part.
Likewise, you don't need your own car, just a current driver's licence. Even a probationary licence is okay. The important thing is what it teaches, and what the half day event, priced at $550, gives you (aside from a tasty lunch).
Accelerate is focused on providing an understanding of modern vehicle technology. That includes safety, autonomous driving and learning about EVs. Along the way, you'll realise the gaping holes you have in your driving skill set. You'll learn humility too.
But that's alright. That's kind of the point. Because not only will you very quickly realise how little you actually know, thanks to a range of experiences, some of Australia's best driving instructors will fill in the blanks for you.
And that can be life changing. For someone who doesn't have a tonne of experience in driving, what you learn at Sydney Motor Sport Park, in a day that includes actual track time in a V8 twin-turbo C 63 S, will give you the confidence to drive to the conditions.
It will teach you car correction at speed, braking, control, and all of that can only be a good thing. From the moment you step into your first vehicle and hit the start button, you're learning.
It's worth noting too that you're learning from a list of instructors that includes Trans-Am driver Tim Brook, Sam Brabham (the son of ex-F1 driver and BT-62 creator David, and grandson of Jack), and former Supercars driver Nathan Pretty.
Training begins with knowing correct seating and driving position to maximise car control, including mirror setup. But you'll also get an understanding of vehicle capabilities, recognising risks and avoiding dangers, and handling critical driving situations.
You'll learn emergency braking practice and brake and avoid techniques. The last of these, for us, was on the track former known as Eastern Creek Raceway's skid pan, where we also learnt to recognise loss of control on the road.
That was thanks to some very cool plastic wheel covers that let you slide around at will (we'd kind of secretly like a set of those, they were proper fun). Other things you'll get a better understanding of includes recognising stopping distances.
Currently offered in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, the Mercedes-Benz Accelerate program also gives you the chance to drive cars. As we mentioned, you can experience much of the Mercedes-Benz, EQ electric and Mercedes-AMG range.
You also get to take one of their biggest SUVs off road, and test its capabilities in mud, and up and down hills. The coolest part for us, is that it's you who gets to choose what you want to drive.
Alternative vehicles are offered throughout some of the sessions, and as a participant, you get to learn about the technology behind each of those vehicles, all while gaining a bunch of new skills.
That's what makes the Mercedes-Benz Driving Events Accelerate program different from some of the other 'track' experiences. Many brands have days for owners to learn how to get the most from their cars.
But this isn't a day focused on being an owner of a particular brand's car. It's a day to learn cool car stuff. And sure, it includes some cool car brand stuff, you don't have to own a Merc to participate.
That said, it's the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the AMG GT R that was the crowning achievement of the day for us. It's truly the gun model in the German car maker's performance car suite.
Accelerate is a non-helmet event though, which means there is a speed limit to adhere to around the track (don't worry it's a decent 150km/h speed limit). You'll still be grinning from ear to ear when you get out of the car.
That's kind of a problem though. Accelerate is cool, very cool in fact, but the AMG GT R is the kind of car that ignites something in some people. You see, Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG have a next step, if you will. It's called the AMG Academy.
It's an invitation only event, that's pretty much only available to AMG owners, and it's not a helmet free event. It's a full day, helmets on, go fast, performance driving experience that includes everything from learning race starts to skid pan sessions and lots of laps.
Sounds awesome doesn't it? Therein lies the problem for us. Now we want to go and buy a Mercedes-AMG model, so we can do this one too. Back here in reality though, if you'd like to find out more about Accelerate, you can do so on the Mercedes-Benz website.
Prices are in Australian dollars. This story first published on Exhaust Notes Australia.
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