We got behind the wheel of three very special cars, all with AMG badges and wearing the silver star, during the first-ever Sports Car Market (SCM) AMG 1000 Invitational event in Bend, Ore.
Mercedes-Benz invited us out to Bend to get behind the wheel of three of its AMG cars and participate in the SCM AMG 1000. This road rally was a hub-and-spoke-style all-inclusive driving tour event. It included some impressive cultural and local attraction stops on each day’s routes.
Sports Car Market has been doing 1,000-mile road rallies in the Pacific Northwest for many years. This was its first with modern cars, however, and the first focused on Mercedes and AMG cars.
Mercedes-AMG and the Mercedes Classic were both title sponsors of the event. This included offering mechanical support and having three cars entered into the event, driven by journalists like myself.
SCM AMG 1000 Invitational
AMG’s brand promise of “driving performance” was definitely on display at this Sunday-through-Friday event, with 4 days of driving tour routes on the schedule. Due to scheduling and vehicles, we got to be a part of the last half of the SCM AMG 1000. That equated to 2 days of amazing driving with like-minded car enthusiasts.
Twenty Mercedes cars were on the tour, with only three not being AMG cars. Those were a 1997 SL 500, a 1987 190E 2.3-16, and the star of the event, a 2009 SLR McLaren Stirling Moss (number 16 of only 75 cars ever made). The non-AMG cars were very special Mercedes and owned by super-passionate enthusiasts.
With 191 miles being the short day and 346 the longest, we got lots of time behind the wheel of these incredible vehicles. The routes took us on spectacular roads through the wide-open countryside and back canyons of eastern Oregon.
The driving was spectacular, but the cultural stops along the way were super impressive as well. We got to see everything from an action-packed Raptor show to massive lava flows and the jaw-dropping Erickson Aircraft Collection.
A visit to Oregon Raceway Park for a few parade laps was also on offer. While going speeds many multiples lower than these cars’ capabilities was a bit frustrating, it was awesome to tour the facility and see these diverse machines together on the track.
Back in Bend, we got to be a part of nightly “Conversations with Collectors,” which were both fun and super informative. Enthusiast drivers attending the event, key luminaries in the industry, and the experts at SCM offered up impressive insights into the market and vehicles.
Special dinners in cordoned-off areas at local top-shelf restaurants a short walk from the hotel were a great way to end each day. (Though, many participants kept the evenings going by patronizing the many local cocktail and beer establishments in downtown Bend after dinner.)
The only real vehicle issues over the 1,070-mile driving tour were a curbed wheel and accompanying flat tire and a few cracked windshields. Modern Mercedes seem to be reliable machines when well maintained by enthusiasts at least.
Driving Mercedes-AMG Rocketships
Besides the quality roads, tasty dinners, impressive attraction visits, and great people, the highlight for us was getting some serious time behind the wheel of some serious cars.
We were able to drive a 2021 AMG 63 S four-door coupe, a 2021 AMG GT Stealth Edition, and a 2008 CLK63 AMG Black Series. The two modern cars were at the end of their run as press cars, and the Black Series was a relatively fresh addition to the Mercedes Classic Center.
No Mercedes-AMG vehicle is — or has been — offered with a manual transmission. This is the main reason I’ve personally never seriously considered one, as I like a more analog driving experience. With that said, after driving these incredible machines, I’ve much more carefully considered adding an AMG to my life.
2021 AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe
The 2021 AMG GT 63 S four-door coupe that we were able to experience was spec’d for performance, not luxury or comfort. Although, many features on those fronts are baked into all Mercedes vehicles.
The GT 63 S is the fastest of the three cars we got to experience on this tour, as it can do 3.3-second 0-60 mph launches and has a top speed of 195. Under the hood is a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 putting out 630 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. That power is put down to the road through a nine-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system.
Carbon-ceramic brakes ensured that the 4,682-pound four-door coupe came to a stop with authority whenever you wanted, time and time again.
Combine that weight, big brakes, a wide and low stance, and impressive driver ergonomics — especially with the carbon bucket seats — and the AMG GT 63 S is super confidence-inspiring at any speed. The steering is sharp, and the response from both pedals and the paddle shifters is immediate and direct.
I’m not sure there is a better car made for eating up big highway miles at a rapid pace, which is also surprisingly fun in the tight twisties.
2021 AMG GT Stealth Edition
I call the AMG GT Stealth Edition Darth Vader’s pavement chariot. This snarling black-on-black beast can hit 60 from a standstill in 3.7 seconds. With 523 horsepower on tap and sleek aero, it can also go incredibly high speeds — with way too much ease and expediency for public roads — topping out at 194 mph.
I found the car very planted at all speeds. The brakes were a bit grabby for street driving, but they would probably be great on the track. The driving position in the AMG GT is also super comfortable and performance-oriented, even for my tall torso and 6’3″ build.
On this drive in eastern Oregon, there were a lot of bugs. So many, in fact, that the wipers went off many times — from the automatic rain sensors — because the windshield was catching many of them. That was a first for me!
2008 Mercedes CLK63 AMG Black Series
The most special of the cars I was able to drive at this event is the 2008 CLK63 AMG Black Series. Only 500 examples were made of this DTM-inspired German muscle car.
What set the Black Series apart from the standard CLK63 of the day are a 6.3L naturally aspirated V8 under the hood, backed by a seven-speed automatic transmission, lots of carbon fiber bodywork, big fender flares, and upgraded brakes and suspension.
This particular example spent a hard life at the AMG Driving Academy, racking up some serious track miles with a wide variety of drivers behind the wheel. It was added this year to the Mercedes Classic Center fleet.
I was privileged enough to enjoy it on its first outing since being refurbished. Plans are already in motion to clean it up further, so it can meet the extremely high standards that vehicles in the Classic Center are expected to have.
The sounds this car makes and the way the naturally aspirated V8 delivers power are in a class of their own. The steering is the most interesting part of driving it. It’s super heavy at slow speeds and gets quite twitchy at high speeds. The key, though, is that at any speed, it is really direct and lets you corner with confidence and little effort.
I also came away impressed with the super-adjustable and supportive seats. The suspension also impressed, as it somehow remained stiff for super-flat cornering while at the same time being easy to live with — even on rough Oregon roads.
Appreciation for a Good Time
Special thanks have to be extended to everyone at Mercedes-Benz — Ashley Gillam, Brian Cotter, and Andrew Brudnicki — and Michael Kunz at Mercedes Classic for having us. And, of course, Keith Martin and his entire team at Sports Car Market for putting on a world-class event. We look forward to joining them for another driving tour soon.