The last supercar to come out of Mercedes-Benz was the SLR, a joint-design effort with McLaren that left many scratching their heads. After all, Mercedes-Benz has always been about refinement and class, so what’s with the off-the-wall styling of the SLR? Yes, it was a technological marvel, but it looked like something a 6th grader would draw in his notebook. Refinement returns with the company’s newest supercar, the SLS AMG, and the car also brings back another classic Merc feature; the gullwing doors.
Gullwing doors were an eye-catching feature on the Mercedes 300SL, which hit the market way back in 1955. The new SLS draws a few design cues from the 300SL, in addition to the doors, including the long clean hood lines, side vents in front of the doors and the front grille design. All these features are, of course, given some modern flair, and the under-the-hood stuff is anything but old fashioned.
The SLS is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 571 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. This is a bit of a downgrade from the McLaren SLR, which had a 5.4-liter V8 that produced 617 horsepower and 580 lb-ft of torque, but the SLS is by no means slow. Even weighing in at about 3,500 pounds (heavy for a supercar), the SLS can hit 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and has a top speed of 200 mph. That power is mated to the seven-speed AMG SportShift DCT gearbox that has been found on other AMG Mercedes models and has proven to be quite smooth and user-friendly.
And the SLS looks to be good in the corners, as well. The frame is built of aluminum, as is a fair amount of the body work, excluding a bit of carbon fiber found in components like the side mirrors, among others. The car rides on a fully independent suspension and features aluminum double wishbones at the corners. This is a powerful, rear-wheel drive roadster with a long wheelbase, though, so the rear end will probably swing out if you really put on the power through the corners, but that’s half the fun, right?
The interior of the SLS also takes its cues from its 300SL predecessor, and that is, ironically, a breath of fresh air for the Mercedes brand. In recent years, Merc interiors have become increasingly complicated and tech-laden. It’s all well and good to have lots of gadgets, but they had the tendency to get in the way of the driving experience. It almost didn’t seem like you were driving, but rather you were sitting in a leather-upholstered room that just happened to be moving along the road. That’s fine for people who just want a comfortable ride to get to and from work or run some errands around town, but people who relish the driving experience were left in a lurch. The SLS does away with some of these features in favor of a real, hands-on driving experience, a definite boon to enthusiasts.
The SLS AMG is set to go on sale in 2010 with an initial list price of $257,000, a fair bit lower than the $495,000 charged for the SLR McLaren when it debuted in 2003. No, it’s not as powerful as the SLR, but the SLS looks to be a much better, all-around driving machine. And it has gullwing doors, which are worth about $15,000 by themselves.