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.
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.
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.