Well, what comes to your mind when you hear someone say Mexico? Many of my friends answered ‘tequila,’ a reasonable number — mostly women — said Antonio Banderas and there were other one-off answers like ‘big hats,’ the Aztec civilisation and the ‘Hand of God’ (the last one referring to the goal scored by Maradona at the World Cup in Mexico). Needless to say, I was disappointed — because for me, Mexico meant all of the above plus the black-and-white imagery of racing cars participating in the legendary Panamericana road race. Those were the days when cars were built strong and were driven by people who sought bigger thrills than shooting down enemy planes. And Panamericana was in the same league as Le Mans, if not bigger. No, I was not even born then, but as an enthusiast motoring scribe you couldn’t avoid features, mentions and sepia images that formed the proof. So, when the call came from Mercedes-Benz India inviting us for the SLS AMG media drive in Mexico, I did everything short of planting what could have been an embarrassing kiss on the handset.
To cut a long one short, the 30 hours spent on aircraft and airports proved to be worth every second. This was indeed a massive logistic exercise meant to provide sheer driving pleasure to a bunch of journalists from around the world — nothing more, nothing else. We were whisked away from Mexico City in a van to Puebla, a sleepy little town in the lap of an active volcano and put up in a hotel converted from a colonial era convent. The next morning we were handed the 500 bhp-plus supercars and told to reach Oxaca. No sat-nav system, no fixed times and no kill-joy pace cars. And then there was the small matter of five or six cops driving Dodge SRT-10s to clear traffic and to generally egg us on so that we could dance at speeds above 250 kph! Can it get more surreal than this? The cactus country for a backdrop with the occasional volcano, a sweeping road that was penned by God himself and fast moving police cars playing catch up with supercars as if it was a game of Grand Theft Auto.
There is only one question that the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG needs to answer. Can she battle the Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis in Europe and the Corvette ZR-1s in the States? On paper, she’s got the hardware to do that, but we had to spend some quality time with her to find the answer.