Mercedes-AMG Winter Sporting: Pure Fun in the Snow

Mercedes-Benz recently invited The Car Guide to Gimli, Manitoba for the Canadian edition of the AMG Winter Sporting.

AMG, of course, is the German automaker’s performance division, known for hosting various events and activities for employees, dealer reps and customers wishing to hone their driving skills on a track.

It’s a very different thing when snow, ice and other winter conditions are part of the mix. That’s what we realized yet again at the latest AMG training session.

Gimli

First, a few words about the town of Gimli, which is located on the southwest shore of Winnipeg Lake, just an hour north of the capital. During winter, the population drops from around 20,000 to 5,000 residents, most of them ice fishing and snowmobiling enthusiasts.

Gimli is where Canadian pilots trained for World War II. Also, an Air Canada plane low on fuel made an emergency landing there in the 1980s. And believe it or not, the town has the most Icelanders outside of… Iceland!

Mercedes-Benz chose Gimli for its AMG Winter Sporting event.

Photo: Marc-André Gauthier

AMG Winter Sporting

Each year, customers from all over the world come to this place to learn advanced driving lessons from professional instructors, do a lot of drifting and enjoy a music concert inside a hangar made of ice.

All of them spend thousands of dollars, though the exact cost of the program depends on the number of days, the accommodations and the skill level required. The tracks on the frozen lake are different from one year to the next, so every participation means a new challenge.

We had the opportunity to take part in some of the activities behind the wheel of two explosive Mercedes cars.

OMG, These AMGs!

The top dog in the C-Class lineup is scary. The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S is a RWD compact sedan with a twin-turbo V8 engine that cranks out 503 horsepower. Now, imagine taking it out on the ice!

Even with winter tires featuring illegally long studs, keeping this beast under control is quite a task. We had it set in Sport+ mode with stability control turned off for good measure.

Photo: Marc-André Gauthier

The real show took place on the ice tracks with a 603-horsepower Mercedes-AMG E 63 S sedan and wagon, both of which had the electronic nannies deactivated. Naturally, the cars were slipping and sliding the entire time, but thanks to a set of winter tires designed for ice and the company’s 4MATIC AWD system, we managed to survive.

Off-road Treat

Mercedes-Benz had a little surprise in store for participating auto journalists: an off-road session with GLB, GLC, GLE and GLS utility vehicles. Actually, it was just a slightly disguised motocross track that any 4x4 could easily defeat. Still, we had fun.

Later, we took some A-Class, CLA-Class, C-Class and E-Class cars for a spin on a snow-covered course to test the performance of the 4MATIC system. We weren’t supposed to turn off the active safety features, but we did it anyway because they were more of a hindrance than a help. As a result, we can tell you that Mercedes has made quite a bit of progress and its AWD system ranks up there with Audi’s and Subaru’s.

Photo: Marc-André Gauthier

Verdict

An event like the Mercedes-AMG Winter Sporting might be pretty expensive (anywhere between $4,500 and $6,000 not including transportation to and from the site), but it has been a long while since we had this much fun in a car.

Sure, drifting in the snow with six-figure powerhouses is a surreal experience that only the rich can afford, and the techniques we learned will probably never come in handy in the real world, but we came away with a newfound appreciation of Mercedes vehicles… and illegal studs.

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