What is it?
Thumping great big GT/sports car with a Mercedes badge but engineered by performance arm AMG, the long-bonneted and cab-rearward SLS comes with a gruff and gorgeous-sounding 6.2-litre V8 and attention-grabbing gullwing doors. And even though it has the numbers to make it a serious player (0–62mph in 3.8 seconds and a limited top speed of 197mph), the SLS feels much more like a super-quick and sporting GT than an out-and-out racer. There’s an official FIA GT3 version, an electric variant called the E-Cell with four driven wheels, the Roadster joined the lineup last year with a fabric roof and conventional doors, and there are even rumours of a ‘Black’ limited-edition lightweight with a 250+kg weight loss. Phew.
Merc’s seven-speed AMG Speedshift DCT dual-clutch provides the necessary torque to the rear wheels, and comes with four modes of operation C (controlled efficiency), S (sport), S+ (sport plus) or M for manual. Though that just means manual control of the wheel-mounted paddles rather than the sudden sprouting of a clutch pedal. The steering is good but not truly great, and the sensation of peering out over acres of bonnet doesn’t help to make the SLS shrink around you, but get into a loping rhythm, and the SLS can cover ground very quickly indeed. It’s a joy. In fact, it feels very much like a V8 muscle car, all slithery goodness and apocalyptic soundtrack, and it’s all the better for that. Who’d have thought that German engineers had such a sense of humour? OK, so we always suspected that AMG engineers did, but…
On the inside
The inside of the SLS isn’t stark exactly, but the carbon centre console and rectangular theme isn’t overloaded. In fact, it’s all quite Bauhaus and soothing. Obviously, you have to be careful not to smack yourself in the face with the upward-swinging doors, and remember to pull them closed after yourself – especially if you’re short of stature – but once inside, there’s a great deal to like. There’s even a shallow but useful boot.
More than anything, the SLS comes across as a GT car, so it should be well used to being a daily driver. The auto mode on the dual clutch ’box is good enough to totter around town without too much discomfort, and if you’re not massively committed on the throttle, you can keep the V8’s chocolatey burble just the right side of head-turning. The more time you spend with it, the more you appreciate it. And, weighing in at £168,450, it’s relatively ‘cheap’ in the market.