In the world of classic and iconic cars few can outrun the historic nature of the 1956 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing. Not only was it able to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but its style and design have influenced Mercedes ever since. The car is able to exude luxury, class, precision, and power all at the same time and the company from which it was born has been very careful to mess with the formula.
Mercedes and McLaren have long been involved in racing and they’re first soirée into production automobiles came with the SLR McLaren. The car was “unique” to describe it in one word. It had a visceral and raw presence to its overall delivery of style and performance, but tended to be overshadowed by the supercars of its day. Around the same time Ferrari introduced its almighty Enzo and Porsche had developed the V10 Carrera GT. Furthermore, the SLR McLaren lacked identity with no Gullwing style doors and thus could not be categorized as a true successor to the original.
For 2011 Mercedes thought they had come up with their next supercar and named it the SLS AMG. The development of this car was handed to Mercedes’ in house tuning arm AMG. After recently developing their first engine from the ground up, this was their chance to prove themselves to the world as a competent car developer. With the overwhelming interest from consumers and praise given by automotive journalists it seems as though it has been a great success. The SLS embodies the ideals put forth by the 300 SL Gullwing’s of the past, but has also been able to make everything decidedly modern.
UPDATE 09/09/2011: Mercedes has announced a new series of options for the SLS AMG for that extra bit of customization. The list of upgrades includes: AMG 10-spoke forged wheels painted in matte black, red-painted brake calipers, or AMG high-gloss black trim, a new E-Select lever with an embossed AMG emblem, a new shock absorber symbol in the AMG drive unit, and a new AMG ride control sport suspension with variable, electronically controlled damping. Hit the jump for the full pricing list.
Hit the jump for more details on the Mercedes SLS AMG
The first aspect of the car that Mercedes needed to get right was the exterior. During development, spy photographs of the SLS were rarely captured and the camouflaged exterior always stood guard. The first chance that any potential customer had to see one was at Mercedes driving school events across the country. I was fortunate enough o be at the one such event in Southern California. The two day course took you through California’s many historic road in a trio of AMG powered Mercedes cars. I was more than happy enough to be behind the wheel of an SL63 AMG, when my driving instructor mentioned that there was going to be a special presentation after lunch. We had all signed up for this event simply to drive the AMG models already on the market, unknowingly we were about to be amongst the first to catch a glimpse of this mythical creature. Ahead in the parking lot was a single red Mercedes SLS AMG glimmering in the sunshine. Immediately my jaw dropped as we grew closer and closer to this machine. After a short presentation by the instructors, one of them took it out on the track for a demonstration. As he pulled away onto the road course and sped into the distance, the stoic bystanders immediately began to turn towards one another and chat about what they had just witnessed.
That rare glimpse at the car was a sort of soft-opening for Mercedes and a way for them to garner offers before the car officially hit the market. The public was able to see the car for the first time at the 2009 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. In an interview after the release, Gordon Wagener, the Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz said, “The styling of the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is not only very special because of its exclusive Gullwing doors. Our aspiration is to utilize this interpretation to create the classic of tomorrow and roll out the most alluring sports car of the 21st century.”
The cars shape is dominated by the large hood that is just less than two meters in length. Short front and rear overhangs allude to the extended wheelbase and front/mid-engine nature of this beast. When looking at the front of the vehicle it is hard to miss the prominent three-pointed star amid the wide radiator inlet. This part of the design is not only reminiscent of the past, but evokes the looks of aircraft. The headlights are on the outer most sides of the front and feature bi-xenon low-beam headlamps along with LED indicators and LED daytime driving lights. The side profile reveals more aircraft styling with the vents behind the front wheel arches. Placed in between chrome fins are the 6.3 letters denoting the engine size. The curves and dramatic lines along the car are meant to make the car seem aggressive and poised even while parked. Naturally, the Gullwing doors make and impressive entry and exit whenever one gets into the vehicle, but while closed they raise the beltline of the vehicle and show relatively small windows. Any issues with the design tend to come up when discussing the rear end. The car has somewhat of an unfinished look compared to the dramatic front end styling. Mercedes says that the gently sloping boot lid emphasizes a sense of width, but that is up to you to decide. A black diffuser and dual chrome tailpipes complete the look along with wing-shaped LED brake lights.
A host of AMG options are available to the buyer depending upon your taste. New colors include ALU-BEAM silver, which through a new process, bonds the body like a metallic skin for increased shine and depth. Two matte finishes are also available in either design magno allanite grey or AMG magno sylvanite. The Dubai International Auto Show also received a special edition SLS painted in Desert Gold with various black inserts and black wheels. With this being a performance vehicle, AMG’s Performance Studio also offers carbon-fiber accessories like exterior mirrors, engine compartment cover, and interior trim. The Performance Studio also has 10-spoke forged wheels, and a performance suspension option.
After closing the power assisted Gullwing doors the occupants are immersed in a richly appointed and purposeful cockpit. Since no other car on the market features Gullwing style doors, aside from the Gumpert Apollo, the customer may be concerned with ease of entry and exit. Not to worry, the doors are designed to open in less space than conventional units and at an angle of 70 degrees. Two gas pressure struts make opening and closing the doors light and easy for any passenger. The seats are made especially for this car to be lightweight and supportive through the use of magnesium. Four way lumbar support, adjustable side bolsters, three stage seat heating, and an optional memory package make these seats perfect for aggressive driving and long distance trip comfort. The main instrument connecting the driver to the road is the steering wheel and this unit features a thick rim as well as flat bottom. Placed behind the wheel are the paddle-shifters connected to the dual-clutch transmission.
Creature comfort is also a major goal of the SLS and luxury abounds throughout the cabin. The design of the center console and the air vents in particular are also inspired by the aviation world with turbine style vents. In between those is the navigation system including a 7-inch monitor. The COMAND system is controlled by an i-drive type controller placed in the center console. The console also houses the telephone cradle, two cupholders, ignition key holder, and a large storage bin. There are no rear seats in this car, but a custom made luggage set is available to fit perfectly within, just like the original 300 SL. Optional equipment includes a 1,000 Watt 11 speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, Keyless-Go, reverse camera, parktronic, headlamp assist, and sport pedals in brushed aluminum. The main leather options include several colors, with two-tone variations as well. One idea that has gone by the wayside from the original car is the plaid interior option that was found as recently as the CLK-GTR.
For the 2012 SLS AMG, the interior will be offered with sports seats covered in high quality leather, galvanized air vents with adjustable, cruciform nozzles and Silver Shadow finish, also a reminder of the car’s jet’s engines inspiration, nappa leather, solid metal and (optional) genuine carbon-fiber insertions. For 2012 customers will have the possibility to opt for a new interior color: Marron Espress. For 2012, the SLS sports car will also add standard Blind Spot Assist, optional 3-mode AMG Adaptive Suspension and AMG Performance Media that features driving telemetry and G-Force measurement.
Aside from performance, Mercedes-Benz has always been known to develop safe cars with the most innovative preventative measures. The SLS is a production model and thus will be no different from any other Mercedes and held to the same standards. The occupant cabin is complete with three-point seatbelts, belt tensioners, belt force limiters, and eight airbags. Two of the airbags are actually knee bags placed in the footwells. Two more airbags are available and deploy to cover the windows in an accident. Not only is the car prepared for an accident, but the SLS can also prevent one through the use of one of its many safety systems. The ESP system is the first line of defense in any loss of traction situation and attempts to correct any slippage. Not only has Mercedes made this car safe for passengers, but friendlier towards the environment. It is fully emissions legal and meets the EU5, LEV2, and ULEV standards.
Engine and Transmission
The first engine developed entirely in-house by AMG was the 6.2-liter naturally aspirated unit which now finds service on nearly every line of Mercedes’ AMG models. The engine for the SLS needed to be something special and the cooks at AMG served up just the right dish. The 6.3-liter makes 571hp @6,800rpm and 650Nm of torque @4,750rpm. These numbers are not mind blowing for a car in this segment, but performance is impressive due to the car completing the 60mph sprint in 3.8 seconds. The M159 V8, as it is known internally, has been completely re-engineered compared to the M156 entry-level variant including: new intake system, reworked valve train, camshafts, and a tubular steel header setup. The use of high strength components including forged pistons, reinforced crankshaft, and high-flow oil pump have helped to make the engine lighter whilst also performing at a higher level. The engine is so efficient that it meets the stringent EU5, LEV2, and ULEV standards.
This powerful engine is mated to the AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed sports transmission. This dual clutch setup is capable of completing shifts in 100 milliseconds without interruption of power to the wheels. It is mounted at the rear (transaxle principle) and connected to the engine by a torque tube. This piece is created exclusively from carbon fiber to handle the stresses created by such a powerful motor. The transmission features four separate driving modes: “C” controlled efficiency, “S” Sport, “S+” Sport plus, and “M” Manual. The driver can also utilize a RACESTART function selected by the AMG drive unit in the cabin. This advanced setup also features a mechanical differential lock integrated into the transmission casing.
The 2012 SLS AMG will be powered by the same 6.3-liter V8 engine located front-mid that will develop develops 563 HP and 479 lbs-ft of torque. The engine will be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and will sprint the car from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, while top speed will go up to 197 mph.
The suspension system on the SLS AMG makes use of a double-wishbone setup. All four wheels are on a double-wishbone with a track rod. This technology has proven time and again that it is one of the best through F1 racing. The wishbones, steering knuckles, and hub carriers are made entirely from forged aluminum to save weight and increase strength. The long wheelbase of the SLS in conjunction with this system increases its straightline grip and decreases tendencies to dive and squat.
As an option, Mercedes customers can choose the new AMG ride control sport suspension with variable, electronically controlled damping. This new system comes with a choice of three modes: "Comfort", "Sport" and "Sport plus." The vehicle starts off at "Comfort" automatically active whenever the engine is started, and this option provides a sensitive damper response with comfort-oriented characteristics. "Sport" mode allows the shock absorbers to have a tauter response depending on the driving situation, while "Sport plus" is recommended for fast lap times on a race circuit: apart from higher damping forces, this mode has special control algorithms configured for a decidedly sporty driving style on uneven road surfaces.
Mercedes opted to use an old fashioned, but effective, rack and pinion steering system versus a drive-by-wire form. The SLR McLaren was criticized for the disconnected feeling the driver had with the road. One reason for this was its numb steering, and AMG aimed to correct that issue with this new car. The power steering mechanism is also speed sensitive, adjusting the rate of turn as speed increases. When nearing 200mph this feature becomes critical to helping the car maintain a straight line. Coming to a stop from those excessive speeds means the brakes must also be up to the challenge. The optional carbon ceramic brakes provide larger discs and can operate at much higher temperatures. These brakes help bring the 9.5 x 19in. front and 11 x 20in. rear wheels to a stop. The tires for the SLS were designed just for this application and measure 265/35 R’s in front and 295/30 R’s in the rear. To further ensure safety and performance there is a tire pressure monitoring system.
The transmission will be offered with a choice of four different driving modes: "C" (Controlled Efficiency), "S" (Sport), "S+" (Sport plus) or "M" (Manual) along with a RACESTART function. In the Sport, Sport plus and Manual modes the automatic double-declutching function is active.
Pricing and Options
The SLS AMG is available with a host of prestigious options and accessories for the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Price is rarely a concern for the person that purchases this type of vehicle, but we’ve included them so you can understand just how expensive some of these bespoke extras cost.
AMG Leather/ Alcantara Steering Wheel
Bang & Olufsen BeoSound System
Enhanced Interior Carbon Fiber Package
Design Leather Exclusive Two-tone Seats
Design Light Brown Natural Leather $1,750
Carbon-fiber Engine Compartment Covers
AMG 10-spoke Forged Wheels
Carbon Fiber Exterior Mirror Covers
Indoor Car Cover
AMG ALUBEAM Silver Paint
AMG 7-spoke Wheels
AMG Performance Suspension System
AMG Carbon Ceramic Brakes
AMG RIDE CONTROL sport suspension with adaptive damping
AMG 10-spoke forged wheels with matte black paint finish and high-sheen rim flange
Red-painted brake calipers
Blind Spot Assist
AMG Sepang brown metallic
AMG high-gloss black trim
The base price of a 2012 Mercedes SLS AMG is $183,000 and with all the options selected it will run somewhere in the neighborhood of $240,000. Considering the high price of the previous SLR McLaren, the SLS AMG seems like a bargain. These options do not reflect everything available from Mercedes Benz and the AMG Performance Studio, those options are highly customizable and can be completely custom ordered by the buyer.
The SLS AMG will have to take on the its usual competitors: Ferrari 458 Italia and the McLaren MP4-12C. The 458 Italia is powered by a 4.5 Liter V8 engine that delivers 570 HP and sprints the car from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, while top speed is 202 MPH. The MP4-12C is powered by a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that delivers 592hp, while the sprint from 0 to 60 mph is made in 3.3 seconds and an even faster 3.1 seconds with the optional high-performance tire option. The McLaren supercar will hit a top speed of 205 mph.
Of course that all the three supercar deliver impressive performance numbers, but when it comes about good looking, we believe the McLaren model has a big advantage big advantage over the other two models.
First All-AMG Car
Powerful V8 Engine
TopSpeed Lacking Vs. Competition
Rear End Styling
Mercedes SLS AMG’s Commercial
Matte Purple Mercedes SLS AMG
Mercedes SLS AMG participates in hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
Check out the matte white Mercedes SLS AMG! This is the personification of sexy!
Fifth Gear borrow the SLS AMG from DTM driver David Coulthard to drive it on the Isle of Man, the only road in the country that has no speed limits. Check it out!
Mercedes GP Formula One driver, Nico Rosberg, and former Formula One racing driver, David Coulthard, take the SLS AMG for a little tour around the Nurburgring track.