For most men, learning how to drive is about speed. Not your speed behind the wheel, but the speed with which you can get through the boring licensing process to get to the fun part.
You build up your hours, pass your tests, promptly forget everything you learned, and continue life as a barely legal safe driver. That minimal working knowledge gets you by most of the time, but if you may suddenly be called upon to drive a McLaren 650S or a Rolls Royce Wraith, you want to be sure your driving skills are up to snuff.
I don’t fancy getting a bill for several hundred thousand dollars because I returned a car in the automotive equivalent of a body bag, so when Mercedes-Benz invited me to take part in the Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience to learn the art of driving, I said yes.
Race Ready & In Safe Hands
On Monday May 25, a handful of guests (including Aussie models Jordan and Zac Stenmark) gathered at Sydney Motorsport Park. We were there to test our mettle at the Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience, a half day event designed for motorists to learn vital driving skills and sample some of MB’s high performance vehicles.
Peter Hackett, Mercedes-Benz Chief Driving Instructor, said “the Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience has been designed to provide even the most proficient motorists with the skills and experience to help them drive safely and confidently in the modern world. Practice and experience are the foundation of superior driving, especially in unexpected traffic situations.”
And practice we did. We were put through our paces with a series of dynamic handling exercises, led by a team of professional driving instructors, and experienced much of Mercedes-Benz’s impressive automotive technology.
A Driving Master Class
Adrenaline was pumping as we met our guides for the day. The proceedings began with a driver briefing by Peter Hackett, who then introduced the men whose capable (hopefully) hands we would be putting our lives in.
Most had raced cars professionally, and it showed. They were confident, enthusiastic, and intimidatingly fierce on the track. Picture a hunter who looks a little too eager for his next kill. We were their prey, and the glints in their eyes said our instructors had no intention of showing any mercy. We steeled ourselves and prepared to be thrown in the grinder.
The course content covered a range of important driving abilities. The Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience is not just about making you feel like you’re in an episode of Top Gear – it’s about genuinely making you a safer, more knowledgable driver.
We were taught correct seating position, including mirror setup – props to my L-plate driving instructor who showed me the wrong way. We were instructed in recognising risks, avoiding dangers, and handling critical driving situations.
Breaking practice was a particularly important subject. We practised brake and avoid techniques, and learned to calculate stopping distances relevant to unpredictable driving conditions. We also experienced how different sized vehicles respond in emergency situations. There was speed, skidding, sudden manoeuvres, and silent swearing when the simulations felt a bit too real.
The Safety Scoop
The day wasn’t only about becoming safer, smarter, and more skilled on the road. We also had the opportunity to experience the superb technology and performance of the Mercedes-Benz range.
Intelligent Drive represents the latest in automotive safety technology. Using an extensive sensor system that provides a 360-degree view, Mercedes-Benz vehicles offer assistance systems with an impressive array of functions.
The lengthy list includes: Pre-safe Plus, Pre-Safe Brake, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, DISTRONIC PLUS, Intelligent Headlights, Night View Assist Plus, Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus, Collision Prevention Assist, and BAS Plus.
Those fancy names all aim to do things like keep the vehicle in its lane, detect crossing traffic and pedestrians, boost braking power, recognise impending rear impact, warn drivers of drowsiness, and assist with parallel parking.
Peter Hackett says soon even entry level Mercedes cars will be able to park themselves, meaning other automakers will quickly have to follow suit.
The Checkered Flag
I may not be making my F1 debut any time soon (you’re safe for now, Hamilton), but after a day of education, exhilaration, and advanced driving, I certainly feel one step closer. In the meantime, grannies crossing the road have far less to fear.
For more information on the Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience, visit the Driving Academy website.
Images By Karon Photography