Paying visual homage to the automaker’s legendary 1954 300 SL coupe, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe replaces the SLR McLaren as the flagship “supercar” in the luxury automakers lineup for 2011. Slightly longer, but narrower and shorter than an SL-Class, the SLS AMG sports dramatic aircraft-like vertical-opening “gullwing” doors and elegant styling that’s denoted by a long hood, short rear deck and powerfully broad and low front grille. It’s joined by a new Roadster version for 2012 that features conventionally configured doors and a power-operated soft top.
An all-new 6.3-liter V8 engine delivers a ferocious 563 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque and features a so-called dry-sump lubrication system. Here, two oil pumps make it possible to store engine oil in a separate tank, which eliminates the need for a conventional oil pan at the bottom of the engine, thus allowing it to be positioned lower in the body to afford an extremely low center of gravity. Each engine is hand-built by a single technician, who’s identified via an affixed signature plate.
The V8 drives the SLS AMG’s rear wheels via a seven-speed automated manual transmission that affords quick manual gear changes via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters; an automatic rev-matching feature makes for smoother manual downshifts. This gearbox can also shift automatically according to four user-selectable operating modes that deliver more or less aggressive operation. Either way this one is one quick car, able to leap from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 197 mph.
The SLS AMG makes extensive use of lightweight, but structurally rigid aluminum materials, particularly in its space-frame construction. The front/mid- mounted engine helps maintain a near-ideal 47/53 percent front/rear weight balance which, along with the aforementioned low center of gravity and a double-wishbone sport suspension at all four wheels, helps deliver agile handling characteristics. The car rides on low-mass 19-inch alloy wheels and performance tires up front with larger 20-inch rims and rubber at the rear.
What’s more, race-proven compound AMG disc brakes ensure sure and secure stopping abilities. Optional heavy-duty carbon-fiber ceramic discs deliver added braking performance and longer service life (albeit at a stratospheric $12,500 cost), and are further distinguished by gold calipers with “AMG Carbon Ceramic” logos.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG continues its aircraft-design theme inside its rich hand-stitched leather-clad cockpit, with a wing-shaped dashboard with turbine-look air vents and aviation-styled gauges and switches. A T-shaped shift lever on the center consoler recalls a jet fighter’s thrust control. Sport seats are designed for both comfort and support, with the coupe including eight airbags – including two at knee height – spread throughout the snug cabin for added safety. Carbon fiber trim can be specified, but it’s a $9,000 option.
The Roadster’s three-layer cloth top features a glass rear window and can be opened or closed in about 11 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. This version also features a reinforcing cross-member located behind the seats which not only supports the fixed rollover protection system, but acts as a subwoofer housing for two 6.5-inch speakers.
Already opulently equipped, an available 1,000-watt, 11-speaker, dual subwoofer Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system outperforms – and out-prices – many high-end home audio systems.
While the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG might not be as over the top in essence or in cost as the outgoing SLR McLaren, it remains a significant step up for drivers who desire a car that’s more dramatically styled and possesses additional attitude than the automaker’s drippingly luxurious SL-Class.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Quick Facts
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Horsepower: 563 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 479 @ 4,750 rpm
City/Highway: MPG 14/20
Transmission: 7-Spd Auto Manual
Wheelbase: 105.5 in
Overall Length: 182.6 in
Width: 76.3 in
Height: 49.3 in
Curb Weight: 3,573 lbs
Did You Know?
An all-electric SLS AMG E-Cell version is said to be in the works for model year 2013 as Mercedes’ first battery powered sports car. The E-Cell will reportedly come powered by no less than four electric motors – one mounted at each wheel – with a combined power rating of 525 horsepower and a tire-smoking 650 pound-feet of torque, which Mercedes claims will enable a 0-60 mph sprint in a flat four seconds. That’s only three tenths of a second slower (if that’s the proper term) than the standard SLS AMG. A liquid-cooled 400V lithium-ion battery will be supplied by Deutsche Accumotive GmbH & Co. KG, a joint venture between Daimler AG and Evonik Industries AG. No word yet on the car’s anticipated top speed or battery range on a charge. Expect the sticker price to exceed $200,000.