Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy: Year In Review – By Mike Spry

The day breaks across the pavement as if it is perfection itself. Four tires grip like each
is a needle in a record’s groove. Two tons of ninety years of automotive ingenuity barrel forward—unrelenting, unyielding—at the mercy of a single set of hands. The corner approaches at an unimaginable speed. The driver leans into the turn, as if their slight frame is the difference between seconds. The vehicle digs hard into the curve, gear drops, engine revs, and on the other side acceleration is found again. And then distance. And then grace. Nothing but sound, disappearing into the abyss. The sound of Mercedes-Benz.

Nothing drives like a Mercedes-Benz. Nothing. Every class is in a class of its own. But to become an icon of an industry, to truly define “peerless”, one has to continue to reimagine the very concept of its trade. A luxury automobile isn’t simply technology on tires, it’s a dream realized. A dealership isn’t simply a storefront, it’s a portal. The experience of ownership isn’t a transaction, it’s a commitment.

It has been said before—in these pages and elsewhere: Mercedes-Benz isn’t a car, or
a company, or a symbol. It’s a lifestyle.
And that lifestyle expects more, demands more. Needs more. For Mercedes-Benz owners, those expectations and demands manifest themselves in innumerable ways, from the technological advances to the customization of designo to the global recognition of the three-pointed star. Perhaps the most singular manifestation is the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, where Mercedes-Benz owners and
aficionados can—under the skilled tutelage of the world’s most expert driving instructors—realize the full capabilities of automotive excellence.

The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is a travelling road show of sorts, a vagabond
luxury fair that travels across the country giving Mercedes-Benz drivers the full scope of the vehicle’s abilities. As part of an incredible partnership, Mercedes-Benz Burlington is the only dealership that works directly with the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, providing their clientele with a level of exclusivity that one would come to expect from the luxury car merchant. A special dividend for Mercedes-Benz Burlington customers.

In 2016, the Mercedes-Benz Burlington/Driving Academy partnership has had a banner year. Their events included multiple Mercedes-Benz Street Drives around Burlington, a Mastering Performance program and AMG Driving Academy at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, an AMG Driving Academy at Circuit Mont-Tremblant, and the introduction of a North American first: the AMG Winter Sporting Program in Gimli, Manitoba.

The events and programs that make up the impressive initiative that is the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy are a master class of the highest degree. The price range varies, tailored to every kind of Mercedes-Benz driver and demographic. Commitments range from half-days to full weekends, from afternoons of driving, to retreat-like immersion in automotive acumen.

The Driving Experience program begins at $395 for a half-day of introductory skills and exceptional driving techniques. The program is about getting to know and understand the power and possibilities of advanced automotives in terms of everyday driving. Vehicle exercises include vision slalom, emergency braking, braking on turns, and collision avoidance, among others. The course is perfectly complemented by its cold weather companion, the Winter Driving Academy, a full-day of instruction at $795 that every Canadian Mercedes-Benz driver should invest in.

The Mastering Performance program is a $1795 investment in yourself and your driving, a full-day high-performance event for all levels of drivers on custom-built tracks specially designed for the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy. This is not a step towards auto racing, but rather an immersion into the performance capabilities of complicated and powerful machinery. The day includes lessons in cornering, trail braking and vehicle balance, performance vision, orientation lapping, and coached group lapping with Mercedes-Benz Academy certified instructor feedback.

The next step up is the AMG Driving Academy, a multi-faceted and multi-layered investment in your automotive skills that guides drivers through Basic- to Advanced- to Pro-training. From the full-day program (Basic) of AMG performance driving using a fleet of Mercedes-AMG models ($2095), to the two-day (Advanced) class to track experience ($4295), to the intensity of the two-day (Pro) fine-tuning track adventure ($5295), this is an experience like no other, an experience that doesn’t just complement the Mercedes-Benz lifestyle, but defines it: exclusive, fearless, limitless.

Finally, the crown jewel of the program, and newly arrived in Canada, is the AMG Winter
Sporting Initiative.
Previously only offered in Sweden, the event has come to North America on the frozen wonder of Lake Winnipeg in Gimli, Manitoba. The three-day Advanced ($3995) or four-day Advanced Plus ($4995) packages are one-of-a-kind winter driving experiences that include driver training, stays at the world-renowned Lakeview Resort, meals and refreshments, AMG training vehicles, and shuttle to and from Winnipeg
International Airport. This is like nothing you’ve ever dreamed, a winter sporting reverie behind the wheel of some of the world’s top automobiles. Test yourself and your driving against the elements, slide into a turn and across the ice of a frozen lake, and drive the world’s finest cars through the most challenging conditions.

The man who guides the initiative and its drivers is Danny Kok, chief instructor at the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy in Canada. Kok, who has over twenty years of auto-
motive racing experience, is passionate about driving, and the program. His team, made up of similarly skilled and experienced auto racing veterans, travel from coast to coast teaching Mercedes-Benz drivers how to get the most out of their cars, and themselves. When asked about what surprises participants most about the programs, Kok remarks, “Often times they don’t realize how much the technology is helping…how great these cars are. No matter the conditions, the car does everything perfectly. When we turn the systems in the car off they realize how much work [the cars] do [which] we don’t realize in our everyday driving.”

But what surprises Kok, the auto racing vet, the man who has seen it all, about the participants? “The community,” he says, without hesitation. “They come together at programs all over the country—especially to the multi-day programs—and although they may be from different professions or parts of the country they find people [with similar
interests.] Before you know it they become friends.” Kok has found that they stay in touch, and participants now register at the same time just so that they can have reunions, reunions fostered by the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy and the mutual love of a luxury automobile and the company behind it.