Sunday, April 11, 2010
A super cool new interpretation of Mercedes-Benz's fabled "Gullwing" car model, called the SLS AMG, will be one of the stars at this months Frankfurt Motor Show.
Gone are the familiar rounded nose, circular headlights and triangular rear quarter-lights of the 1950s model. In their place, the German firm will unveil a chiselled, aerodynamic new model with vertically slanted headlights, a steeply-raked windscreen and taut, muscular, ground-hugging lines. Doors that pivot from the roof and that fold up and out are, however, instantly reminiscent of the car's famous forbear; so too are not-so-discreet air vents just aft of the front wheels.
Mercedes SLS AMG Video
Equipped with a front-mid AMG-tuned 6.3-litre V8 producing 571 horsepower at 6,800rpm and seven-speed dual clutch transmission, Mercedes says the SLS AMG will be good for 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds. Expected to cost around £150,000, it will be on sale by summer 2010.
Inside the Mercedes SLS AMG
The interior is strictly 21st century, however. Designed under the direction of Hartmut Sinkwitz, it's notable for its simplicity and aviation-inspired motifs. "The new Gullwing bears the stamp of aircraft construction for good reason," says AMG chairman Volker Mornhinweg. "For decades, aircraft cockpits have represented intelligent lightweight construction, the highest level of functionality, concentration on the pilots' needs, and aesthetics in every detail."
The main instruments are housed in a simple binnacle directly in front of the driver. On the left is a large circular speedometer that reads to 360km/h (223mph) that includes a fuel gauge in its lower right quadrant.
On the right is a tachometer redlined at 7300rpm with a temperature gauge in the lower right quadrant. Between the two instruments is a version of Mercedes' information screen that gives a variety of digital readouts, and above that an F1-style shift light panel that's designed to help you time manual shifts of the seven speed dual clutch transmission to the last rev.
Four large circular air vents, styled to resemble jet engine intakes, dominate the otherwise plain dash. The screen for the latest generation COMAND multi-media system is situated between the middle two vents. The SLS will come standard with satellite navigation, along with climate control air conditioning, radar cruise control, and a specially developed Bang&Olufsen audio system.
The COMAND and HVAC controls are all located in the SLS's center console which is a trick light-metal casting with a bright silver finish. A carbon fiber version -- real, structural carbon fiber, not just an applique -- will be available as an option. In the center of the console is a transmission shifter that has been styled to resemble the thrust control lever of a jet, plus the rotary controller for the COMAND system. Arranged in a line along the left hand are the rotary controller for the four transmission modes, the engine stop/start button, the stability and traction control selector, a button that can be programmed to recall your favorite vehicle settings, and a button for the retractable rear spoiler.
Although the cockpit is generously proportioned for a supercar, the SLS is still a car you slide into like a tight pair of jeans. The sills are about as high as the seat cushion and about 10 inches wide. The central section of the roof is tight if you're anywhere near six foot, but the trim on the gullwing doors has been scalloped to provide sufficient headroom. It feels snug and purposeful.
When will the Mercedes SLS AMG become available and how much will it cost?
The SLS will arrive in the U.S. in 2010. It's way too early to talk pricing, insist M-B USA insiders, but it's likely the car will sticker for around $250,000, considerably above the $160,000 SL63 AMG, but way below the $455,000-$500,000 charged for the SLR McLaren. Given the SLS will be virtually as fast as the SLR, and promises to be a more agile, better handling supercar, I guess you could say it's impressive value for money -- for those who can afford it.