“When you feel the weight shift to the front of the car, give it some throttle,” says the instructor over the walkie-talkie. I’m sitting behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+ Wagon, a 603-hp track monster in the guise of an unassuming family hauler, equipped with a set of Swedish studded racing tires. The racecourse, one of North America’s longest ice tracks, is carved out of 250 acres amid the ice-fishing huts on the surface of Lake Winnipeg, where temperatures regularly drop south of 30-below zero celsius. The instructor is attempting to school me in the finer points of racing on ice, but as interested as I am in honing my cornering skills, a significant part of me just wants to get this wagon sideways.
The Mercedes-Benz Winter Experience, an event held for media and influencers in Gimli, Manitoba, is a chance for the automaker to show how well its vehicles handle extreme winter conditions. There’s an off-road course built on a nearby motocross track, where we’re encouraged to put a fleet of 4MATIC-equipped sedans and SUVs through their paces, but the real treat is the ice course. With 8km of slaloms, hairpin turns and curves, it’s designed as a playground for the brand’s highly tuned, insanely powerful AMG cars. Later, there will be a performance by the Juno-winning rockers the Arkells in an “ice garage” crafted from hundreds of massive blocks of ice, but before any of that goes down there’s drifting to be done.
With a fleet of C-Class and E-Class AMGs at our disposal, and a team of professional racing instructors dispensing advice on the precise balance of brakes, throttle and steering required to execute a controlled slide, there’s no better place to indulge your wildest rally dreams. I roll into the throttle of the E 63 AMG, hearing the exhaust growl menacingly as the tires dig into the ice. Approaching the turn I give it some brakes, feeling the weight shift forward before laying back onto the go-pedal. Then, as various physical forces play against each other in just the right way — with help from the Merc’s traction control computer in Sport+ mode — the car begins to slide. I’ve never been ice fishing, so I can’t say for sure, but I’m fairly certain this is the most fun you can have on a frozen lake.