Simply stunning, the SLS AMG "gull-wing". Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
As part of a series on what I consider the top five rides for a Minnesota summer, this week we look at the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, an homage to the 1950's classic 300SL gull-wing. Earlier I looked at the fabulous Lotus Evora, but second on my list has to be Mercedes' new sports car which has recently gone on sale here in the US.
Way back in the mid-1950’s Mercedes-Benz revealed to the public the 300 SL, a “gull-wing” sports car which instantly became one of the most iconic vehicles of the decade. It blew away design standards of the time and not only because of its sweeping lines and exquisite gull-wing doors. Technologically the car was ahead of its time, featuring a tubular space frame construction and a direct injection 6 cylinder engine which produced around 215hp, a remarkable figure for a road going car.
(The iconic Mercedes 300SL remains today a highly sought after vehicle. The gull-wing doors were an engineering solution to the tubular frame which prevented traditional swing-wings. Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)
Surprisingly we owe the car's birth to an American auto importer, Max Hoffman, who in part inspired the 300 SL, since it was Hoffman who persuaded the Mercedes board to design the car based on the success of the track versions. Even today, these vehicles are highly prized by enthusiasts and command high auction prices.
Scroll ahead half a dozen decades, add Mercedes’ design and tuning partner AMG, and that iconic sports car has been reborn as the SLS AMG. It is arguably one of Mercedes’ most exciting sports cars and when glimpses of it started emerging, it immediately attracted high praise as auto-journalists clambered to see the in-house designed flag ship.
While there are some styling cues from the original 50’s classic, the SLS AMG shares little else, having been designed from the ground up to prove that Mercedes is able to make thoroughbred sports cars. And they have. The SLS AMG gull-wing tips the scales at about 3,600 lbs and is powered by AMG’s monstrous 6.3 liter V8 which has undergone extensive rework to be more powerful and tuned to the needs of a highly responsive sports car. It is a powerful, aggressive looking vehicle, yet has plenty of aesthetic quality and luxury to meet the demands of the most discerning customer.
The V8 produces a peak 571hp@6,800rpm and a whopping 479 ft-lbs of torque, which will blast the car to 60 miles an hour in roughly 3.5 seconds, reaching an electronically limited 196 miles an hour. It is a perfect summer ride for Minnesota, since the car has plenty of space to haul a change of clothes for an overnight trip to Duluth, yet is reputably comfortable enough in the suspension to handle most of what the Minnesota roads will throw at you, making it a perfect everyday road car as well.
In addition to raw power, the SLS AMG features responsive handling package, thanks to the extensive use of light weight aluminum in the space frame and body panels, a first for Mercedes design. The structure is designed specifically to reduce weight and to limit flex under high loads associated with heavy cornering, braking, and accelerating. That enhances the car’s handling characteristics, as exemplified in the You Tube video below from Mercedes test driver Bernd Schneider, a five-time DTM Championship winner, hoofing it around the famous Nordschleife. Schneider had a lot to do with the SLS's fine tuning and it handles brilliantly in his hands on the grueling 13 mile track.
With the 7-speed dual clutch semi-automatic, intuitive gearbox, in the right mode the driver can manually change gear in as little as 100 milliseconds with the F.1 style steering wheel mounted gear shifters. This provides instant control for those who want to push the car on the track, or a twisty section of highway.
I spoke to Roger Pierson of Maplewood Import's Mercedes division who revealed how much excitment the car has developed. "This car has really created a buzz around the dealership both with our clients and employees." said Pierson. "Everyone from sales to service is excited to get their hands on the car. Partially because it is going to be such a rare car. Production is being limited to just hundreds here in the states and for a dealer to acquire one it MUST be a sold unit to a customer. It is not a vehicle that can be ordered simply for stock/inventory. So if anyone is looking for this car, get on the list now because they will not be sitting around on the showfloor."
"Besides being drop dead gorgeous, and performing at a level that rivals the greatest supercars from Italy to Japan , we have never had a car with this much AMG influence." revealed Pierson. "The engineering department at AMG has had a role in the design/engineering and production of nearly every piece of this car."
Pierson pointed out that the SLS AMG compares favorably with the famous McLaren SLR, where Mercedes partnered with the famous Formula One brand to produce one of the most powerful and exclusive road going cars around. "What is even more amazing is that a car with this much focus and pedigree can be had at less than half the cost of the SLR McLaren (predecessor to the SLS). Starting at only $183,000 it is being hailed by our customers as one of the best values in the super car market. That’s always a good thing when dealing with modest Minnesota sensibilities!"
So has anyone in the Twin Cities bought one yet? You bet. "We do have our first allocated SLS sold to a local Twin Cities resident. He chose to have it built in “Iridium Silver Metallic” with Black AMG Exclusive Leather. This is a classic Mercedes color combo!" So, keep you eyes peeled this summer, unfortunately it's not in my garage, but a discerning and lucky Minnesotan has the good fortune to own one in time to cruise about in what will hopefully a great summer.
What others have said about the SLS AMG gull-wing:
Car and Driver’s Tony Swan summed up the car in this way. “If not fabulous, then certainly superb, and a worthy successor to an immortal. You can’t do much better than that.” Jay Leno also gives the car a huge thumbs up which you can see in this You Tube video here: Jay Leno full of praise for the SLS.
It is a stunning looking and performing vehicle, and even with its higher price tag, ensuring exclusivity, it remains my second pick for Top Five Rides for 2010 Minnesota Summer.
Nathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes your comments and suggestions. Post your favorite summer ride or summer dream car below.
For more info: mercedes.maplewoodimports.com/amg-sls.htm Mercedes-Benz USA http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-4026-Minneapolis-Autos-Examiner~y2010m4d30-Top-five-Minnesota-rides-for-the-summer-of-2010-Number-one--Lotus-Evora