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Thursday 21st October 2010

Driven: SLS AMG In The UK

A Gullwing leaves its mark on the green, green grass of home



Part of the joy of motoring is there's always something new to learn, but when I borrowed M-B's SLS Gullwing the other weekend I didn't expect to discover how quickly a warm AMG V8 would scorch its perfect outline into the mother-in-law's lovingly-tended lawn.


I'd parked it up on the hallowed sward - still ticking-hot from a quick blat around the local lanes - in order to explore the car's 'Transformer-esque' visual qualities. Significant charring ensued, and wrath was duly incurred. (Albeit at a lower than expected temperature, perhaps due to my esteemed German mother-in-law's understandable sense of national pride.)

Sadly I couldn't take a picture, as callous disregard for the dear lady's feelings may have caused a deeper rift in international relations, but the brown rectangle on the grass remains as a fine memento of a momentous car. In fact the scorched earth is interesting for two reasons. First, the engine is dry-sumped so sits very low in the chassis and close to the ground - the root of the problem, I feel. Second, was it not for the rear-mounted transaxle there'd have been a lot more hot metal up front and a commensurately bigger 'ground zero' effect. (Surely it can't be long before this line of forensic inquiry appears on CSI Miami..?)


Having previously only experienced the SLS on the road in California and round the Laguna Seca circuit (did I say only..?), getting to grips with it here in the UK was something of a revelation. When I drove it in the US on the road, the car seemed a little on the 'cruisey' side - to the extent that without an illuminating and exhilarating track session I might even have described the SLS experience as a little underwhelming. Laguna Seca put paid to that.

After driving the car here in the UK, the very idea seems ludicrous. Perhaps it's a 'scale' thing, but the just SLS feels bigger, louder, more charismatic, and generally more brutishly magnificent on British roads. It's a lion of a car - a genuine top predator with the capacity to make the hairs on your neck stand up.



The engine plays the major part, of course. The 6208cc litre V8 having been fettled to a bellowing 563bhp at 6800rpm and 479lb ft at 4750rpm. It fires up with a threatening rumble, and delivers its explosive rush of power with a thunderous roar. It's pretty theatrical stuff, more big block Chevy dragster than European supersports car, and possibly in gloriously poor taste by M-B's usually conservative standards.

Then there's the firmly-sprung, but incredibly well-balanced chassis that - in spite of that enormously long bonnet, 500hp rear-drive configuration and old-school 'passive' coil springs and dampers - defies attempts to unsettle its poise. On a dual carriageway or open A-road, this car absolutely monsters its way around fast sweeping corners, demonstrating astonishing grip, stability and an absolute absence of body roll. Even the steering imparts a useful degree of feel, and seated so far back in the car the driver feels incredibly connected to the driven back axle. Throw in that thundering V8 soundtrack, and a bit of traffic to overtake, and it all becomes fantastically thrilling.



Stray off the beaten track a little though, and if you're not respectful of all that performance, 'thrilling' may occasionally tend towards 'sphincter-clenching'. The taut suspension (without any computers making 'active' adjustments) takes to our lumpy-bumpy British back roads with a little less aplomb than they master the smoother stuff, and a couple of times on local roads I found myself chickening-out at 'experimental speeds' as the short-travel shocks seemed to run-out of ideas and the SLS momentarily took on the demeanour of a rocket-propelled roller-skate. I recall the Ferrari 599 HGTE feeling less skittish over similarly challenging ground, but more heroic/qualified pilotes may have sneered at my relative cowardice and pressed on. Either way, the SLS remains fiendishly fast under all conditions and pushing it is big, big fun.



On a practical level the car is pretty liveable-with too, thanks to a decent boot. Cabin space is limited, although even at my height (6'4") it's not too confining in spite of the pronounced 'tumblehome' effect. This is partly because the optional carbon fibre backed sports seats liberate extra headroom as they adjust manually, but I found them uncomfortably hollow in the lumbar region. My trusty reindeer cushion sorted the problem, but didn't really look the part. If you're thinking of checking this option, I'd recommend giving the seats a good long test drive first.



But enough of the petty niggles, and let's cut to the chase. From this desk £157,000 sounds like money well spent for one of the most thrilling front-engined supersports cars the world has ever seen. It's a spectacular, theatrical and utterly engaging drive, and let's not forget that awesome profile which makes the SLS one of the most effective extensions to a chap's manhood on the road today. Which is, of course, priceless.

Chris-R
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Author Discussion

TommyBuoy

Original Poster:

790 posts

55 months

[news] 
Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
Saw my fist 'in the flesh' SLS yesterday - got to say the front view is amazing, but I just don't like the rear - the front looks so agressive and purposeful, but the rear reminds my of a peugeot hatch.

MagicalTrevor

5,464 posts

117 months

[news] 
Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
TommyBuoy said:
Saw my fist 'in the flesh' SLS yesterday - got to say the front view is amazing, but I just don't like the rear - the front looks so agressive and purposeful, but the rear reminds my of a peugeot hatch.
Ah! That's what it reminded me of, a Peugeot! I know what you mean

clorenzen

2,220 posts

123 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
Nice write up. I have seen quite a few on the road recently and they do have presence, but I agree with the rear 3/4 view which is a bit dull. Good news for us 6 ft+ guys that there is enough headroom despite the doors - btw you don't comment on the doors - can you live with them or is it a gimmick.

Johnpidge

588 posts

77 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
This is the dogs bks - stunning and have seen several at MBworld - its now top of my "If I ever win the Lottery" (together with the new McLaren)

I'll have mine in Black with Black leather please................

B.J.W

4,401 posts

103 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
divided opinion on 'looks' aside.... It sounds epic.
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Insight

601 posts

86 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
Ok, fair enough, don't take a picture of the burnt grass...but a picture of your angry German mother law with the Merc would be great!

britsportscars

270 posts

66 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
Good to hear it's a proper drive. I find the SLS a bit underwhelming to look at though, am I the only one??

Wadeski

6,167 posts

101 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
has anyone driven this and the McMerc?

how do the two compare?

1000TCR

130 posts

96 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
As I'm working for Daimler in Stuttgart atm., I am glad enough to see it on daily basis. Honestly, its getting more and more beautiful every time you see it. One day in the near future, I will lick the bonnet!

Beefmeister

12,046 posts

118 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
I wholeheartedly agree!

Obviously

thumbup

Benny Saltstein

567 posts

101 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
I saw one this morning from my bedroom window. Sadly not on my driveway but driving down the road through the middle of Twyford, white as well.

How many are in the UK?


130R

4,848 posts

94 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
Out of curiosity - how much space do those gullwing doors need to open? If you parked the SLS between 2 cars in a typical car park space would there be enough room to open the door right up?

anything fast

978 posts

52 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
IMO the best looking Merc made in many years.. love it to death..cloud9cloud9

Beefmeister

12,046 posts

118 months

[news] 
Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
130R said:
Out of curiosity - how much space do those gullwing doors need to open? If you parked the SLS between 2 cars in a typical car park space would there be enough room to open the door right up?
It opens about 10 inches out i think. Less than a normal door, certainly.

The problem is that it's a very wide car, so you're closer to the next car anyway.

The real problem comes with the height, you have to be careful not to hit the doors when you have a low ceiling...

soad

20,470 posts

64 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
Saw one locally last month - sounded so nice.

Looks damn good too, on Santa's wish list!

whoami

9,881 posts

128 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
130R said:
Out of curiosity - how much space do those gullwing doors need to open? If you parked the SLS between 2 cars in a typical car park space would there be enough room to open the door right up?
14 inches.

mrmac1980

22 posts

50 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
I saw a red one in Leeds a couple of weeks back, i never normally but i had to change course to walk past and have a look, just gorgeous! 2010 has been a good year for sports cars, the SLS and the 458 Italia.. ace!

ThatPhilBrettGuy

11,623 posts

128 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
Beefmeister said:
130R said:
Out of curiosity - how much space do those gullwing doors need to open? If you parked the SLS between 2 cars in a typical car park space would there be enough room to open the door right up?
It opens about 10 inches out i think. Less than a normal door, certainly.

The problem is that it's a very wide car, so you're closer to the next car anyway.

The real problem comes with the height, you have to be careful not to hit the doors when you have a low ceiling...
It's a sod to get in and out of anyway to be honest. The interior isn't anything above a 'normal' SL either.

DB9VolanteDriver

1,418 posts

64 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
britsportscars said:
Good to hear it's a proper drive. I find the SLS a bit underwhelming to look at though, am I the only one??
You're not the only one. Not very attractive. It's like two different design teams did the front and back. A 458 or DB9/DBS are miles ahead in terms of appealing design.

cheadle hulme

2,025 posts

70 months

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Thursday 21st October 2010 quote quote all
TommyBuoy said:
but the rear reminds my of a peugeot hatch.
Hmmm, not sure about that. Mazda maybe?



This one was outside the office this morning. Apparently the MD is taking it for a spin. I must say it looks very underwhelming in grey. Certainly less menacing than a GTR in s similar colour. Wheels were nice though.


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