That we’ve taken two weeks to put together our first post on the Prodigal Run 2012 should tell you all you need to know about just how much it took out of us. And our wallets. And our health. And our precarious relationship with the blue arm of the law.
Simply put: we pushed ourselves and the glorious Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster we were so generously loaned for 144 hours to the absolute limit. This is a helicopter view of the oases we visited along the way – with more detailed posts on each of our stops planned for the weeks ahead – and how brilliantly, and brutally, the SLS wove them together. This despite the Fool’s best efforts to launch the SLS into a frosty Swiss field near Villeret, and Six’s flirting with getting the car impounded by a couple of charming French gendarmes.
Rising at 03:30 is painful at best, insane at worst. This is habitually when most of us stagger not home. Not rise to shower, pack bags and throw them into the back of a Murano Red SLS Roadster worth a quarter of a million euros to catch a 06:20 Eurotunnel to Calais.
Incredibly, the cockpit absorbs the Fool’s height and girth without strain.
Turns out the rather petite trunk of the SLS can just about squeeze our soft bags. Incredibly, the cockpit absorbs the Fool’s height and girth without strain, while Six floats around in the passenger’s seat. Starting the SLS’s engine sees both of your editors wide-eyed and weak-kneed. Thank Christ we’re sitting down, as the street vibrates to the stamping of 571 Affalterbach stallions.
We make it to Folkstone in just under an hour, a time neither of us can ever remember having clocked before. We’re still getting to grips with the violence of the 6.2-litre engine and the mountains of torque it deploys without strain or delay. The rapid-fire DCT 7-speed transmission is so effective we forget (for now) about playing with the stubby steering wheel shift entirely, and simply boot it.
This said, driving the SLS onto the Eurotunnel train carriage is an experience that has yelling at one another at the top of our lungs. In fear. A tight squeeze doesn’t begin to describe it. But despite the side parking sensors bleeping and flashing repeatedly we make it on-board unscathed, along with the 19- and 20-inch alloys. We breathe a little easier.
Powering into Paris is marked by a rising sun that scatters the mist in much the same manner as the sound of the SLS scatters other drivers on the autoroute. We arrive with an hour to spare and spend the free time taking pics of the SLS luxuriating on Place Vendome. Where it belongs.
Our dining experience at the Hotel Costes is punctuated by uncooperative, snobby and downright unpleasant service that has Six in a rage and the Fool incredulous. We pay a fortune and receive precious little in return. Not recommended at all.
The drive to Reims more than makes up for the sour taste of Paris.
The drive to Reims more than makes up for the sour taste of Paris. We arrive at the Piper-Heidsieck private tasting room, welcomed by the enchanting Sophie and spend the next couple of hours discovering the chalk galleries, a sublime 1985 Brut Rare and much more. Arguably the most intimate and warmth-infusing soiree of the entire trip.
By some miracle, we manage to rise at 04:30 the next day and gently guide the SLS out of the hotel parking lot. More screaming, beeping and flashing ensues, once again without any sickly grinding sounds.
The manner in which the SLS can hit 125 mph from a peage stop beggars belief.
Departing France to enter Germany is a blitzkrieg, but in reverse. The manner in which the SLS can hit 125 mph from a peage stop beggars belief. All this while stunning fellow motorists with the aural violence of our twin exhausts. The Fool has taken a liking to lifting off after full throttle runs so that we can both cackle and gargle along in tune with the controlled misfires emanating from just behind our ears. And derrieres.
Our arrival at Affalterbach, where AMG assembles its engines by hand, is a coming home of sorts. And so very Prodigal. The Union Jack flaps outside under a grey sky, while the SLS cools noisely. The AMG staff welcome us warmly and positively beam at the SLS. So they should: it’s their baby after all.
The reality of the AMG legend hit us between the eyes and we never look at our SLS, nor any other AMG we encounter along the way, the same way again.
A truly special event then unfolds, as we get to meet the man who assembled the engine on our SLS. We shake his hand and take some pics while watching the assembly of yet more AMG powerplants. The reality of the AMG legend hit us between the eyes and we never look at our SLS, nor any other AMG we encounter along the way, the same way again.
It pains us to leave AMG, and we believe the the SLS let out a whimper, but Switzerland and the divine world of watches and haute-horlogerie awaits. Onwards we and the SLS thrust.
You know us for our intense love of a watch’s overall design, appearance and brand heritage. And yes, it’s credibility. But we’re the first to admit that we have little knowledge or appreciation of the movements that beat within. Our trip to Montblanc’s Minerva Institute in Villeret, Switzerland, changes all of that. It effectively turns our watch island into a wide wonderful world of craftsmanship, expertise and mastery over a universe of miniature delights that has us breathing ever-more quietly for fear of disturbing this most delicate balance.
Villeret’s movements are the finest mechanical hearts we’ve yet seen.
Villeret’s movements are the finest mechanical hearts we’ve yet seen, and we can’t help but relate this to our AMG engine assembly tour. With a clear difference in scale, obviously.
This magic is, however, brutally grounded by the Fool’s failure to notice a patch of ice on the mountain road near Villeret before a sharp left-hand turn. You ever slid 200,000 pounds of car 10 metres before, feeling your heart sink into your bowels? We did and were only saved by an ESP intervention and some wild steering. Took the Fool 45 minutes to recover. Six, meanwhile, quietly changed his shorts.
Still absorbing the Minerva magic, we tear off through Switzerland to what is a most holy place: Le Brassus. Indeed, after many years of unrequited love, Audemars Piguet takes us through their manufacture and incredible museum, sharing sights and watches that leave us with silly grins and a burning desire to acquire one of their Royal Oaks far sooner than our bank balances can actually permit.
We roar into Geneva and hand over the SLS to the valet at the splendid Swissôtel Métropole Geneva. He takes our advice to take off for a couple of days with the car a little too literally and screams off into the night. Fortunately, a predictably delicious dinner at Le Relais de l’Entrecote soothes our nerves. The wine and whiskey that follow smothers them.
Quelle Magnifique Voiture!
We rise at 09:00, heads and hearts pounding. Some one thousand kilometres lay ahead and we’ve got to make the 18:20 Eurotunnel at Calais if we’re to be in London by 20:00. You see, it isn’t just about meeting our own self-imposed deadlines. No, there is a wager at stake here. That cocky Robin Swithinbank has declared that he’ll shave his beard if we make it back to London on time. That’s right, a man’s beard is ours for the taking if we win. Every hair counts.
Six sits behind the wheel of the SLS, tightens his grip, switches the monster into Sport Plus battle mode and guns it. A good pace must be consistently maintained and any mistake will cost us dearly. Famous last words, eh…?
We crest the hill only to see the gendarmerun to his bike, straddle it and come after us. We find out we were clocked at 191 kph and the 750 euro fine needs to be immediately and in cash. Six’s license is also pocketed. The wait at the station is equally painful and amusing, as we shoot the shit with the charming cops. They see us off, if only to hear the SLS trumpet back into life with the Fool as designated driver all the way back to London.
We’re 90 minutes behind schedule. To his credit, the Fool rises to meet the challenge head-on, only occasionally nodding off for a quick snooze. We make our Eurotunnel train, the SLS not missing a single beat. The rain starts to pound us hard as we barrel toward London. The ETA on the satnav drops ever closer to 20:00 and traffic remains fluid.
We pull into London at exactly 19:59, tweeting as we do so. Our man has lost his bet and we’ve gained not only a beard, but all the good memories we ever could have dreamt of. And a soundtrack that will haunt us, and all those who heard it, for the rest of our days.
The Prodigal Run 2012 from behind the wheel of a Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster
Almost 3,000 kilometres in four days by way of fine champagne, food, high-end watches and the AMG engine factory? Why, we must be talking about the Prodigal Run 2012, an event that leaves us profoundly inspired, exhausted and in need of a sanatorium. The view from behind the wheel of an SLS AMG Roadster, however, is totally unforgettable.
All photos Copyright Prodigal Communications
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AMG, Audemars Piguet, Hotel Costes, L'Entrecote, Le Brassus, Le Relais de l'Entrecote, Mao Tai, Merecedes SLS AMG Roadster, Minerva, Montblanc, Piper-Heidsieck, The Prodigal Run, The Prodigal Run 2012, Villeret
Eric (AKA Straight-Six) had a proper job as a journalist for Dow Jones before lowering himself gently into the warm, forgiving waters of The Guide. He’s our resident fanatic: he relished detailing his BMW M3 for two full days at a time before crashing it at Eau Rouge in the wet; he spends insane amounts on his home-cinema system and has thrown tens of thousands of euros at vintage Rolex sports watches. The little fool simply does not understand the concept of restraint or the meaning of excess. He also – following a legendary "heavy" lunch – once nibbled (yes, like little dogs do) a dear lady friend of ours.
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