SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Good news! I didn’t crash Rickie Fowler’s car.
Let me explain.
The reigning Players champion is an ambassador for Mercedes-Benz, which is also an official partner of the PGA of America. So not only is it a big week for Fowler, it is as well for the Germany-based automaker. All of the players in the 156-man field are lent a Benz as a courtesy car this week, but Fowler is a little special. He got three cars, including the one I drove on Wednesday out of the driveway at Herb Kohler’s exceptional American Club lodge.
The Mercedes-Benz GT S is technically a sports car, but it’s really more like a rocket ship. The AMG version of the car, which starts at $125,000, is powered by a 4.0 liter V-8 bitturbo engine that makes reaching triple digits on the speedometer feel like going for a weekend cruise.
And that’s basically what we did in the car Fowler, a gearhead in addition to a fantastic golfer, was lent for the week. Driving along Sheboygan County Road AA, I had no trouble reaching 105 mph, other than the fact that cops were everywhere. Fortunately, there wasn’t a radar gun in sight as I drove along a bucolic road, surrounded by corn fields, silos and small country graveyards. The GT S handled the soft ups and downs of the road as though it were gliding on air.
On the interior, Fowler’s ride for the week was outfitted with carbon-fiber detailing, a material used because of its remarkable strength despite its lack of weight, and gorgeous Nappa leather in seats that can feel like you’re behind the wheel of a Formula 1 vehicle.
Safety features abound, even in a car that should — and in my case, did — come with a waiver. The car alerts you when a lane shift would hit something in your blind spot. It beeps when it thinks the driver is not paying attention, and it’s right more often than not. It slows down to jolt a driver who might be distracted or dosing off.
The company’s heads-up display projects your speed, gear and RPMs on the windshield, making it easier to keep your eyes on the road. Mercedes-Benz doesn’t make cars with manual shifters because they feel nothing should distract from keeping two hands on the wheel. But a car like this, with a driver like Fowler, who can race with the best of them, deserves to be controlled manually. So, Benz has paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel and, when combined with the Sport mode, a skilled driver can have an intimate experience with the vehicle.
The car turns heads. Almost every head, actually. The expressions range from confusion to lust to jealousy. If you want attention, this car will get you what you seek. When the engine purrs loudly just before taking off from a stop or as it roars when it accelerates toward the speed it wants to go — that is, fast — there’s an unmistakable feeling of power and joy in the driver’s seat. If you have self-confidence problems, the GT S will fix them pretty quickly.
So what’s the downside? For one, it only seats two and there’s no room for your golf clubs. Then again, if you can swing the sticker price, there’s a good chance neither of those things are of concern.
If you need to lug the sticks with you, then maybe the S-class coupe is a better fit. It has all of the sportiness of the GT S, but it’s more practical and emphasizes interior luxury more. Large LCD displays relay information in a beautiful, yet understated way. A driver is able to traverse the many features with just a few pushes and turns of the console navigation system.
There’s so much more than buttons, however, including seats that offer several different types of massages for the driver and passenger. Whether you have a long commute ahead or just want to feel more pampered behind the wheel, the rhythmic pulsing massage hits the spot.
But Fowler wants the GT S, and that’s precisely what he’ll have shipped to his house, along with a G Wagon sports-utility vehicle, after the championship ends. At a race track near his Florida home, that’s where Fowler will really put the pedal down on his new toy.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy taking it for a cruise here in Wisconsin. Fowler’s friends on Tour knew he had a sick ride this week (all they had to do was consult his Instagram account), so when Zach Johnson saw the GT S out on the road on Wednesday on a quiet street, he decided to have a little fun. At a traffic light, Johnson pulled out ahead of the GT S and got out to poke fun at Fowler. Turned out, Fowler wasn’t in it, someone from Mercedes-Benz was, getting the car ready for me to drive it.
Johnson was startled, but the British Open champion recovered. Before he got in his car, he said to the rocket ship liaison, “These cars are amazing, right?”