Driven: new Merc SLS

Posted by Jason Barlow at 10:10 am on Tuesday July 14, 2009

Damn that disguise. AMG doesn’t want us to see its new 573bhp supercar in all its glory just yet, so its still wearing spy photographer-foiling black tape and cladding. Long nose, short rump, gullwing doors: the SLS clearly draws on its famous mid-’50s forebear the 300SL for inspiration.

But the detail stuff is what’ll really make it and that’s still hidden.
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Never mind. Because I’ve just driven AMG’s new beast around the Nordschleife and here’s the skinny: the SLS isn’t just good, it’s brilliant.

Here’s what you need to know. It uses a 6.3-litre, normally aspirated V8, which pumps out 573bhp and 650Nm of torques. The engine’s block is the same as AMG’s other mighty 6.3-litre V8, but the intake and exhaust are different, it uses dry sump lubrication, and there are forged pistons.

The SLS’s weight distribution is 47:53 front/rear, and the engine is mounted low down to promote a tidy centre of gravity. There’s a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, with a rear transaxle.

And the body is an exceptionally stiff aluminium spaceframe. This transmission and body configuration takes AMG Mercedes into virgin territory. In fact, take note AMG fans: this is the first all-new, clean-sheet-of-paper project AMG has ever undertaken.

‘We attract the rebels, the outlaws,’ AMG chassis guru Arnd Meyer tells me with a broad smile, ‘but the Mercedes board trusted us just to get on with this car. So we did.’

Ten minutes later, it’s Meyer that I follow onto the circuit in a 95 per cent finished SLS. He’s driving an SL65 Black; that’s some pace car. Following a man who’s racked up more than 5000 laps of the Nordschleife in the 665bhp skunkworks SL should be a recipe for disaster, but a) he’s not really trying and b) the SLS is amazingly easy to drive quickly.

In fact, it only takes three corners to realise that this thing is going to be a very serious contender when it lines up against Ferrari’s imminent 430 replacement and the new McLaren road car.

It feels immensely solid, makes all the right hardcore sports car noises, yet scythes from apex to apex with tremendous balance and poise. This particular car is fitted with AMG’s third generation ceramic brakes, and they’re superb.

There’s a new multi-stage traction control system – a bit like Ferrari’s manettino-operated set-up – and even with it switched on, the amount of grip the SLS generates means it’s rarely troubled. The dual-shift ’box is as smooth as you’d expect, and downshifts are accompanied by a fantastically hard-edged rasp.

AMG says software improvements will speed up the downshifts even further.

The SLS is revealed at Frankfurt in September. We’ll drive it on the road before the end of the year. On this evidence, it’ll be one of 2009’s highlights.

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  1. Simon_666 said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 10:39 am Link to comment Report comment

    looks good….not a fan of it in red though. First comment! Compare your lives to mine then kill yourselves!!!

  2. das stig said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 10:47 am Link to comment Report comment

    yes the gull wing doors are back i cant wait for this to be tested on the show speaking of the show what in f**** name has happened to the cool wall because this would be sub zero

  3. Stig's Irish Cousin said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 10:53 am Link to comment Report comment

    Jason could you not have ripped off a bit of the black tape “accidentally” and taken a better shot of it?!
    Looking forward to the return of gull wing doors on a real production car rather than a fanciful concept or a chav after market job. The name is a bit uninspiring though and since AMG built it you could nearly ditch the Mercedes tag.

  4. Waelious said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 10:57 am Link to comment Report comment

    I think that only the Aston DB7 is cooler than this in the motoring history

    please drive top gear and preferebly if you can compare it with somthing else

  5. IrishStiggy said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 11:11 am Link to comment Report comment

    Why are all modern Mercs (S class not withstanding) so sinfully ugly??????????????

  6. GC said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 11:29 am Link to comment Report comment

    Based on the pic above it looks shit.

    Ignoring the doors it looks like a slightly streched mx-5.

    Front half looks kinda like the SLR. Rear half – please don’t build this car.

  7. phyliss said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 11:37 am Link to comment Report comment

    merc’s gone all retro on the recession and i love it.

  8. james said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 12:03 pm Link to comment Report comment

    what the hell is everyone talking about? especially you GC! This car looks gorgeous! even with the tape on so i cant imagine what the real product will look like but i do know it will be srunning. Cant bloody wait for this one!

  9. Nat said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Looking good but I do not like the doors. Try to open those in a car park.

  10. mugen said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I want one already!

  11. The German Stiggi said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 12:39 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I wonder what it will belike, to see that overtaking you… Don’t really like the look till now… lokks like a normal slk with a new back and new doors… and they could have changed the inside… I hate it… Same material and look since 1998…

  12. Jean said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 12:55 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Looks great! Want one!

  13. Faejit said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 1:29 pm Link to comment Report comment

    looks great, not looking forward to all the copies on honda civics etc though!

  14. NH18 said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 1:37 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Cant wait til next year when AMG finally reveal the car.

  15. NorwegianFan said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 1:52 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I think seven gears is too much.
    Even though, it’ll probably be brilliant. I was a little dissapointed when i saw that it has got 50 less horsepower than the SLR.

  16. Tak said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 2:07 pm Link to comment Report comment

    ‘Forged pistons’? You mean they’re fake? : D
    I’m actually glad they didn’t give it more oompf than the SLR. Somebody must have realised that more hp is not necessarily more fun. I’m still in love with original Elise. Just about 120hp, face like a playful puppy and handling to match. Who needs more? Really?
    This SLS looks ffing good though…

  17. tgviewer46 said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm Link to comment Report comment

    i saw the roadster SLS testing in Valencia on the way back from the Spanish Championship Race and it looks amazing. AMG was also

  18. tgviewer46 said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm Link to comment Report comment

    testing the new CL65AMG and they both sounded amazing. the roadster doesn’t have gullwing doors though.

  19. Moiluck said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 3:23 pm Link to comment Report comment

    The car looks good, corrret… but, Will this guys from Mercedes have a new different idea someday? Every time I see a new model I wonder myself for a few seconds… Did I see it before? What a gang of bored guys!!!

  20. PetrolHead247 said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 3:39 pm Link to comment Report comment

    The old 300SL was the most iconic, glamourous and sexiest Merc ever built. Today it’s a classic, an icon. The Gullwing doors are also an icon and is, quite possibly, what made the 300SL so iconic. The 50′s was a great decade for iconic cars.

    50 years later we have an idiot running the country, there is a credit crunch, Woolworths no longer exists, everyone’s running around like nutters because of swine flu, Top Gear is world famous and the new Merc SLS is being tested to complete perfection.

    The Merc SLS looks amazing, even with a disguise stuck all over it. The original sketches show you a futuristic 300SL with classic origins. The recipe already sounds incredible, but that’s just the start.

    The interior looks just right. It contains elements of classic – like the air vents – mixed with some futuristic elements too – the modern centre console for example. It’s also got some luxuries too which will make this bearable to live with every day.

    I’d love to see a supercharged version too. 573hp and 650nm are extreme figures, but stick a supercharger in there and you’ve got some biblical figures. Or maybe an SLS Black version, that would be insane!

    This is one of the best cars ever created. It’s got stunning, sharp looks, a huge amount of power and, best of all, it’s got those gullwing doors which give it a unique character. Think of it as a 300SL mated with an SLR and your just about there. This car is a future classic.

  21. veyronguy said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 3:44 pm Link to comment Report comment

    looks cool

  22. dord said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm Link to comment Report comment

    like it

  23. geronimo said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm Link to comment Report comment

    ph247..chillax brav ..and work your stylistics.. you’re almost there.. :D

    syntax.. :avreage
    compsition :good
    grammar :good
    vocabulary :satisfactory
    originality :needs work (a lot)

    keep on trying but for heavens sake..do it somewhere else :P

  24. Lloydy said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm Link to comment Report comment

    id still take a SL black….sorry i just can see from here that it isnt as cool as the black…. :)
    id also wait for the mclaren ;)

  25. geronimo said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 4:52 pm Link to comment Report comment

    ps. provoke yourself towards freedom, freedom to express passion, intense desire, attraction. Aim for a more intense emotion compelling feeling, emotion.. liven up some interest and amiration for a proposal or cause.. Where is the love ?
    If you’re going to use your time on writing.. do it right.

    and no offence ment.. hope none’s taken…:D

  26. Japantech said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 4:58 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Bla bla bla… Bigger lorry engine, different bumpers, lot of money… That´s a new Merc.

  27. MI4 SMia said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 5:29 pm Link to comment Report comment

    i bought the AMG CLS and its fantastic. all the comfort in the world and ridculous speed for when you need it. my younger brother bought the BMW m6 and thats brilliant but so uncomfortable. im just waiting for my father to sell his maserati and by a merc like that! hahahah

  28. Andy said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 6:13 pm Link to comment Report comment

    This car looks brilliant by the sounds of it. I would easily chhose it over the SL Black or the McLaren. It sounds like they’ve not overdone the power thus creating a much more fun car.

  29. Tak said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 6:29 pm Link to comment Report comment

    @geronimo: okay, so he’s got issues… I see newspaper clippings of Mercedesses stuck on all the walls of his 3rd floor appartment. In elementary he was voted ‘Boy most likely to be in the news one day’. Sorry ph, just joking. :D
    For myself, I stick to cynical nostalgia. Gee, that ol’ LaSalle ran great…

  30. Tak said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 6:30 pm Link to comment Report comment

    How did I get Smileys? I never ordered!

  31. geronimo said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 7:12 pm Link to comment Report comment

    :P

  32. A.Rasheed said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 8:19 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Looks good!

  33. The Right to Dream said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 8:56 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I hate the way the world works.most of the people that oooh and haaa about these expensive cars will not even be able to afford them.really.how accessible is a car of this magnitude to the average ‘joe’.so i will say ‘this is what dreams are made of.’

  34. Tak said...
    Tuesday July 14, 2009 at 10:21 pm Link to comment Report comment

    @33 True. But if you were, you’d get bored with this Mercedes as soon as the next Porsche came out. So what? That’s not the point. The dream is the real issue. As soon as you stop dreaming, you have no reason to live left.

  35. notintheuk said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 12:34 am Link to comment Report comment

    “We attract the rebels, the outlaws”, sorry but what a load of bs. I like the cars, but they more likely attract the bankers and mid-life crisis managers …

  36. tommyms said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 12:49 am Link to comment Report comment

    it looks great

  37. oliroolz said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 5:01 am Link to comment Report comment

    i dont think it looks that good in the black and red colour scheme, and the black doesnt look like its been painted on very well…

  38. HerCarsMania said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 8:12 am Link to comment Report comment

    I think all imaginative people already know how awsome its gonna look after taking this tape off, and also the inside looks interesting. Top Gear guys simply know what they are showing to us.
    P.S. so what that an average Joe cannot afford it…
    Average Joe cannot also date with MEGAN FOX but does it mean he cannot admire her????

  39. Turboface said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 8:46 am Link to comment Report comment

    A true design classic, can’t wait for this to arrive in the metal!
    I’m liking how the car industry is following the the hollywood trend… by taking a classic and doing modern remake. Good stuff!
    http://www.welbeckdesign. com

  40. Tak said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to comment Report comment

    @35 Rebels=MLC’s, Outlaws=Bankers. What’s your point? ;)

  41. geronimo said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to comment Report comment

    .. @tak you’re really in element.. finally somenone NORMAL! :D

  42. geronimo said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 11:26 am Link to comment Report comment

    ..on the sls.. mini-mcmerc chassis stuffed with slk interrior spiced with gullwings.. the only merc so far, besides the Mc, able to reminisce and conjour the mezmerizing divinity of the original sl, in my opinion, is the cls.. unique,majestic, ..simply magical.

  43. top gear ultimate fa said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm Link to comment Report comment

    i wonder what it will look like after they take the tape off…?

  44. KN08 OUT said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm Link to comment Report comment

    THATS THE SHIZNIT!

  45. pUREsTORM9267 said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm Link to comment Report comment

    It looks to be an impressive addition to the AMG line-up. Not sure about the red/black exterior. Looks patchy.

  46. Barracuda said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 5:38 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I don’t know… it looked better in drawing…

    from the side it almost has the same sillouet as a Mazda MX5… albeit streched out alot…

    Will judge it when it’s revealed… maybe it will still look good in full trim :)

  47. Sye Roberts said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm Link to comment Report comment

    If they made another back to the future movie……. would make a good choice of vehicle!

  48. si said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I recken the car is going to look disgusting when it is officially released anyway.

  49. Nathan said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 7:16 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Excited for the revealing! :D

  50. jb said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 8:21 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Hope it will have nice classic intirior. Not sure about the intiror on the pic.

  51. Mikeado said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 8:26 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Long review is very long.

    The SLS looks kinda small in that picture. Btw, that’s an actual picture of the actual interior.

  52. geronimo said...
    Wednesday July 15, 2009 at 9:02 pm Link to comment Report comment

    oh forgive my slightly slagish tone on the sls.. after having seen the pix on autotrader, I take it all back ! This is a magnificent looking merc..most excellent even.P Love it !!Not quite sure about the steering wheel but everything else is really rather astonishing ! :D

  53. YankeeDoodle said...
    Thursday July 16, 2009 at 10:13 am Link to comment Report comment

    how come he got to try it still with the tape on…

  54. m_jo said...
    Thursday July 16, 2009 at 10:36 am Link to comment Report comment

    this car looks like an slr meclaren

  55. Cypriot Stig said...
    Thursday July 16, 2009 at 10:42 am Link to comment Report comment

    To: IrishStiggy

    SLR Sterling Moss, that alone proves how beautiful mercedes can be.

  56. shervin said...
    Thursday July 16, 2009 at 1:24 pm Link to comment Report comment

    i think it’s very very nice and hot

  57. kirby said...
    Thursday July 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Its an example of a beutifful car

  58. fanatic110 said...
    Friday July 17, 2009 at 7:21 am Link to comment Report comment

    I wonder when will TG test drive aston’s new one-77
    It is the best looking aston ever made

  59. fanatic110 said...
    Friday July 17, 2009 at 7:30 am Link to comment Report comment

    one-77 is a 700 bhp car

  60. Andy,10 said...
    Friday July 17, 2009 at 9:30 am Link to comment Report comment

    It Looks Amazing!!! And Thats With All The Details Hidden!!! And The Figures Are Good Aswell!!!

  61. skylinegtrturbo said...
    Friday July 17, 2009 at 1:38 pm Link to comment Report comment

    r u blind it is like the back end of a cow.u should have gone 2 specksavers

  62. the guy said...
    Sunday July 19, 2009 at 8:43 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Jason, Jason, Jason. Get some anger management. destroy a Morris Marina or something.

  63. daihatsu interior gd said...
    Monday July 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm Link to comment Report comment

    this car looks like jeremy’s buttok and its tyres are smaller than hammond’s balls and the glasses are thinner than james’ hair

  64. bhp said...
    Monday July 20, 2009 at 11:08 pm Link to comment Report comment

    it says on youtube that ssc ultimate aero is most powerful car in the world with 1183 bhp everyone disagrees

  65. carking said...
    Monday July 20, 2009 at 11:10 pm Link to comment Report comment

    anyone think the 0ne-77 will beat the gumpert???

  66. car mad said...
    Tuesday July 21, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to comment Report comment

    why are people saying think the one-77 will beat the gumpert??? its a new mercedes and people are talkin about an aston martin and the apollo !!!

  67. e-bunny said...
    Tuesday July 21, 2009 at 6:59 pm Link to comment Report comment

    @66 ..they’re bored.. and a bit lonely.. and thick…

  68. Mikeado said...
    Wednesday July 22, 2009 at 8:35 pm Link to comment Report comment

    REAL PICTURES

    http://www.autoexpress.co .uk/news/autoexpressnews/ 238906/gullwing_merc_is_b ack.html

    I’m not sure it’s particularly handsome tbh.

  69. lol said...
    Tuesday July 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm Link to comment Report comment

    i want that car when i have the money

  70. greghalliday said...
    Tuesday July 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm Link to comment Report comment

    what the hell is that

  71. supercarsuperfan said...
    Friday July 31, 2009 at 3:14 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I think the SLS will be a fantastic car when it finally comes on sale ( and when we get to have a proper look at it!) but I`m not so sure about the interior. It looks like a combination of McMerc SLR Stirling Moss with a bit of E-coupe thrown in. Generally, I do think the car is fantastic.

  72. lukeage9 said...
    Wednesday August 19, 2009 at 4:16 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I sort of agree with what GC said about it’s looks, but I reckon when the black tape and cladding is taken off it will look quite stunning. I also thought that the weight distribution would be 53-47 (front and rear) not the other way round. (What makes the back so heavy? It is front engined, isn’t it?)Interior is miles better than I thought it was going to be before I saw the pics. But I thought the idea of gullwing doors was banned many years ago?

  73. skyhussar said...
    Friday August 21, 2009 at 1:39 pm Link to comment Report comment

    How do you get out of it if it rolls onto its roof? I seem to remember in the Countach you had to kick the windscreen out…

  74. sumus said...
    Thursday August 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm Link to comment Report comment

    The stig should test this wild beast of a car…
    The Zenvo st1… http://www.youtube.com/wa tch?v=ZuZ0IzPeAnI

  75. newcastle647 said...
    Saturday August 29, 2009 at 10:03 am Link to comment Report comment

    I think it will be cool if the changed the colour of it

  76. Weird Al said...
    Saturday October 3, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to comment Report comment

    What’s the big deal, what’s the big deal about this car?

    Besides Britney Spears, linked at elbows with Lindsay Lohan, hitching a ride with Paris Hilton in one of those older SLRs, of course (yes, 3 in a 2-seater! – not big girls, for sure, even Britney).

    The big deal is why is it this way? Not Bugatti, not 599 GTB, and not even evil, dripping and frightening with evil venom, Viper?
    Well, let me explain it to you:
    1) take a V8 and supercharge it;
    2) attach a gearbox of your choice to its (engine’s) rear;
    3) screw it onto the carbon frame;
    4) slide the driveshaft in and attach the rear axle to the rear of the carbon frame;
    5) attach the front axle, carefully manipulating its components in the vicinity of the engine;
    6) attach the body panels, styled as specified;
    7) outfit the interior, to match the engine, gearbox and exterior style.
    ENJOY!

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