Car: Mercedes SL55 AMG F1 Edition
Owned since: November 2016
Mitsubishi GTO, Toyota Corolla GTI 16v, Alfa Romeo GTV, Toyota Celica GT4 (ST205) WRC, Subaru Impreza WRX PPP, Mercedes CLS, Audi S5, Porsche Boxster (Mrs S)
"It was actually Mrs S who bought it. We moved to Dubai last year and a friend of mine had bought it as an investment but had since moved back to the UK. Mrs S saw it, fell in love and that was the end of that. We have a history of and preference for performance cars which are manual and with slightly smaller engines - being based in the UK and Turkey before this - but with fuel prices hovering around 40p per litre for 98-octane petrol here it was a no brainer. No point going for an Elise in a country with lots of straight roads..."
What I wish I'd known:
"To be honest we knew the car pretty well and went into it with our eyes open. Usual faults are with the ABC suspension - check, and the roof deciding occasionally not to close due to misalignment - check. The car had been pretty well taken care of by the previous owner but it had been standing around for a while and in the first six months required new batteries (it has two), a new starter motor and radiator and a replacement ABC hydraulic pipe which went bang and deposited hydraulic fluid all over the floor while Mrs S was parking up at the local supermarket. A friendly Merc specialist keeps costs down and otherwise it is as expected. Budget £2-£3K per year I'd suggest to keep it on the road."
"The engine, the engine and the engine, closely followed by the whine of the supercharger and the hurricane coming out of the back of it. Mrs S loves the power followed by the shape and the fact it is a convertible. You'll be pleased to know that I refuse to drive it with the roof down even in a city like Dubai unless Mrs S is with me, but the sound of that V8 echoing off the skyscrapers at full throttle is worth the hit to my image. In terms of living with the car it is as expected: huge amounts of power, hardly any grip, not much steering feel and an awesome soundtrack. This is the F1 Performance Pack Edition which includes AMG 'Type-4' wheels (19-inch as opposed to the standard 18-inchers), a different front apron, an extra oil cooler which you can see in the corner of the front bumper, uprated 'Nurburgring' sports suspension and a revised braking system. The speed limiter was also raised from 250 to 300kph (186mph) but it has been removed entirely on ours. It is around 520hp and feels every one of those horses in a straight line, but powering through bends can quickly test your nerve..."
"It is a ten-year-old car so the entertainment system feels ancient. The car probably cost around £100K new and has every option except an aux cable/port so we had to dig out old CDs to keep us entertained on long journeys, but, according to Mrs S, the engine is more melodious than my collection of 90s rap and Rage Against the Machine anyway.
"It is impossible to launch quickly without the traction control system cutting in (and cutting all the power!). The traction control system feels very primitive and can't be turned all the way off which has saved the tyres to some extent - and stopped me from depositing it into the nearest shiny building while cornering quickly - but a software upgrade would be a blessing. The ride is also a bit jiggly and there isn't much feel for what is happening on the road, either. But the car doesn't pretend to be subtle and Mrs S didn't buy it for Pikes Peak, so I shouldn't grumble."
"To date we've spent approximately £2,500 on the batteries, radiator and thermostat, starter motor and suspension fix with OEM parts only - I don't think that's too bad. The car has done around 70K miles and with an annual service costing around £350-£500 it is relatively reasonable although a puncture on the weekend gave me a closer look at the rears which are pretty much slicks so they will need to be changed soon which will be around £300 a corner. Mrs S had warned me that my rolling burnouts and addiction to drifting wasn't to her liking and she won't be pleased when she finds out."
"We've taken the car around the seven Emirates that make up the UAE including into the desert - see obligatory pic of Mrs S and the SL posing. There are some amazing mountain roads (yes, they actually have mountains here) which I know from racing around them on my motorbike (plug for PH2 here - I have a Suzuki GSX-R) and we've recently been to Oman too. On our first dual outing Mrs S cut across me as I put the knee down on a bend with a full opposite lock drift and almost ended me right there. When we parked up she told me "When we are racing stay out of my way" so maybe it's just my driving ability rather than the handling that is at fault. The road to Oman is like a cross between the Brecon Beacons where I grew up and the Pacific Coast Highway, an incredible set of sweeping bends with huge cliffs on one side and the turquoise ocean on the other, no speed cameras (which are everywhere in the UAE, hence sating my speed addiction on the motorcycle as the cameras are front facing) and very little traffic. A trip to Qatar is on the cards to watch the MotoGP next season and hopefully to Bahrain via Saudi for the F1."
"Mrs S is intent on adding a huge 6.2-litre V8 GMC truck to her garage for desert outings but I know she misses her Porsche. However, when pressed she couldn't bear to think about a future without the SL! In Dubai you are rather spoilt for choice but the next car will have to be a manual which we both miss. I'm yet to scratch my Cerbera itch..."
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