This writer has never had the opportunity to drift a car before. I imagined it to be as easy as what is shown in movies – simply turn in, apply more power, and catch the slide. Easier said than done as I found out during Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s C-Class Driving Experience at the Setia City Convention Centre carpark.
Following the introduction of the locally-assembled Mercedes-Benz C-Class previously, several members of the media were then given the chance to participate in this event which highlights the brand’s various safety and driving technologies by providing a hands-on approach behind the wheel of the new C-Class as well as some of Mercedes-Benz’s other vehicles sold here in Malaysia. This included the recently introduced GLA-Class and A-Class.
Firstly, we were introduced to Peter Hackett, Chief Driving Instructor for Mercedes-Benz along with three other driving instructors assisting him for the day. Let’s just say that these gentlemen are more than capable of teaching us a thing or two about driving. After the mandatory briefing on safety as well as the list of activities we would be performing, we were then ushered to the open-air carpark after being split into colour-assigned groups.
Activity One: Drift Test and Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
Being assigned to the red group, we were the first to experience what was the most exciting activity of the day, under the direction of Jake Fouracre. After being guided on the proper seating position while driving, Jake then moved on to the interesting bit of the C-Class which we will soon drive.
Drawing our attention to the rear tyres we were told that they are fitted with Easydrift Driver Training System (DTS) rings. As the name suggests, they allow you to drift with ease. How? Here’s a simple explanation: The Easydrift DTS consists of a pair of rings made from hard, slippery plastic that are installed over the rear tyres. As Jake pointed out, they provide a grip level equivalent to driving on ice, which is next to nothing.
And with that, Jake went out onto the course with the car’s ESP switched off and demonstrated excellent car control, sliding his way gracefully through a slalom, around a bend and through another slalom before greeting us again at the starting point. He then proceeded run the same course but this time with ESP turned back on to illustrate the difference. After that, it was our turn to have a go as we picked a partner each and made our ways into the cars.
Setting off, I gingerly accelerated my way past the first cone and started to pick up speed. However, upon my first interaction with the steering wheel, I had managed to spun the car a full 180 degrees. Redirecting myself back on course, it was a lot of fun and excitement trying to drift the rear-wheel drive C-Class ala Initial-D. Sadly, that wasn’t the case by the time I made it back to the starting point.
On my second go, the ESP was reengaged and the results were immediately apparent. As the car slowly entered into a slide, the system kicked into action, limiting the power sent to the rear wheels while braking individual wheels to ensure I didn’t spin around like a top as the lap before.
After a few more rounds, each with the ESP either engaged or disengaged, it became apparent that even though our country’s climate may not experience extreme colds like other countries that produces icy slick roads, Mercedes-Benz’s ESP system is still capable of assisting the driver maintain control even when fitted with near zero-grip tyres. And with that, we continued on to our next activity.
Activity Two: Agility Course
For this activity, Elliot Barbour introduced us to a mini circuit that aims to showcase the agility of Mercedes-Benz cars. After a short convoy drive to familiarise ourselves with the flow of the circuit, Elliot attacked the circuit as flat-out speed as an initial demonstration. Then, it was our turn.
It was the same format as before, two drivers are assigned to the car with driver swaps after each round of the mini circuit. When both drivers have completed one stint each in the car, they move on to sample it with another Mercedes-Benz car.
Hopping into the A 250 first, I floored my way as quickly as I could through the circuit, taking care not to hit any of the cones laid out. The little hatchback was nimble and agile but given that I’m not a professional racing driver, I deduced it would be faster in the hands of Mr. Elliot.
It was the same story in the GLA 250 4MATIC as well. The permanent all-wheel drive system made the crossover surprisingly brisk even when tracking over the loose gravel and sand spread across the parking lot.
When we finally got our hands on the C-Class, it was a little unnerving as the circuit was really tight but the saloon still managed to give us quite a bit of a thrill as we sped through the course as fast as our driving skills would allow us to.
Activity Three: Braking and Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)
In this final exercise, we were told to test Mercedes-Benz’s anti-lock braking system, a feature found on every model in the brand’s line-up. We accelerated in the A 250 and slammed on the brakes hard upon seeing either of two lights come on which were fitted on a gantry, activated after the car passes between a laser speed trap sensor.
Easy stuff so far until our instructor, Ro Charlz, put up an obstacle just past the braking point, which we need to avoid following the direction of whichever light came on at that point while performing heavy braking. A test of the driver’s reaction time and the car’s ability to adapt to it.
Next, we were told to put our faith in the car’s ability to maintain stability even during hard braking. How? By accelerating as quickly as we could and upon reaching the braking point, slam on the brakes and let go of the steering wheel. We were told the C-Class would correct itself and not place us in a RM269,888 w As we’re still alive to write our experience, suffice to say, it was as claimed.
Overall, the event provided all the thrills and excitement that few will ever get to experience in their daily driving. Drifting, Gymkhana-like courses, and aggressive braking are all done within an extremely safe environment with experienced driving instructors to guide participants through each exercise.
The event also allows Mercedes-Benz customers to better understand just what their cars are capable of and to experience for themselves the actual safety and driving assistance technologies that go into Mercedes-Benz cars.
Now, where can I get those Easydrift tyres?