The gullwing is finally cleared for take-off
The first official flight of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG begins this week, although it will not reach cruising altitude until production reaches top gear next year following a preview on the opening day of the Frankfurt Motor Show in a fortnight.
The German supercar is already confirmed with a soaring pricetag beyond $500,000 and now Benz has revealed the road-ready car and its full technical specification.
The obvious highlight is the upward-opening ‘gullwing’ doors that – like the front-end styling – take their inspiration from the classic Mercedes SL coupe of the 1950s. But the 21st century gullwing is a thoroughly modern machine with an aluminium space-frame body, a 420 kiloWatt V8 engine set just ahead of the two-seater cabin, 19-inch front and 20-inch rear alloys, and AMG’s first seven-speed dual-clutch manu-matic transmission.
Much of the early talk about the gullwing — no-one seriously expects it to be called the SLS – is about the styling, from the unique doors to the fifties-inspired air intakes and the muscular way the body is wrapped around the wheels. But the GLS is an AMG road rocket and that means it is a genuine supercar with a top speed which has to be held back to 317km/h and a 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.8 seconds. In some ways the SLS AMG is a successor to the McLaren-Mercedes SLR, but it is around one-third of the price and is a full-on Benz production, not a collaboration with its Formula One partner.
“The obvious difference is that the SLS is available in right-hand drive. So we have an allocation of 50 cars in the first year, in a total production run of around 1200 cars,” says David McCarthy, spokesman for Mercedes-Benz Australia.
“One thing the SLR demonstrated was technology, and it was a step along the road to this car. The SLR was a joint effort, but the SLS is entirely a product of AMG and Mercedes, so it’s one company. It’s a demonstration, more than anything else, of what the company can do.“
Customers are already lined up in Australia for the first gullwings, which are expected to land in the first quarter of next year and to feature at the exclusive AMG drive day held at Albert Park on the Australian Grand Prix circuit.
“Yes, we are holding sizeable deposits on the car. We have orders currently for five cars and we think the biggest problem is that our allocation will not be big enough,” McCarthy says. “We do not have the final price yet but it will be competitive in the class. Companies like Ferrari and others make supercars, but we’re talking a production run of around 1200 cars and that’s pretty serious numbers.“
Mercedes spent a lot of time ensuring the gullwing is both fast and refined, a major criticism of the track-tuned SLR. It still weighs 1620 kilograms and the seats are only 369mm above the road, but the seat backs are made from magnesium, there is a useable glovebox and a Bang&Olufsen surround sound system.
“It is unmistakably a Mercedes. There is an awful lot of 300SL in the design, but it is not a copy. It is a homage, but it moves the history along,” says McCarthy.
“When we specified the cars there were two items we’ve made standard – the fitted car cover and the trickle charger. It means the car can sit in the garage and be ready for instant action.“