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True Grand Touring


Mercedes incorporates the best of its fabled Gullwing heritage in the SLS GT


Recreating an iconic car by reaching back into a company’s history is fraught with potential peril, especially when the icon was produced in the 1950s. So Mercedes-Benz was faced with the same challenges Ford encountered with its GT supercar. That is, can you recreate the magic that’s endured for decades without putting off loyal fans? And will style be allowed to trump substance?

Right Answers

Mercedes tasked its high performance team at AMG to create a new supercar with the same jaw-dropping persona as the original 300SL, the paternal father of the SL coupe/roadster class. AMG delivered, with a Gullwing coupe that has all the panache of the storied original with few of the drawbacks. Yes, the big wing doors still won’t win an ergonomic prize, there may be an occasional head bump, but real windows retract and rise with a flick of a switch. Retractable power windows may not sound like a big deal unless you’ve spent time in the original Gullwing.

The SLS is clearly a knockout as a design statement. I positioned it next to two other supercars at a recent gathering and the Mercedes garnered the most attention as it beckoned with its wings aloft in a kung fu pose. Mercedes also offers a roadster version of the SLS, but its statement isn’t nearly as dramatic as the Gullwing.

Delivering the Goods

There should be more to an exotic sports car than its high fashion, and the AMG folks made sure the SLS delivered supercar goods. In racecar fashion, the ground-up construction incorporates aluminum space frame design, the 6.3-liter V8 is dry sump, and a seven-speed, dual-clutch transaxle is mounted at the rear for traction and balance. This is a big GT car that is happy to provide a Dr. Jekyll persona on a long trip or a ferocious Mr. Hyde when inspired.

I was able to spend enough time in this true Grand Touring coupe to appreciate how well it performs its contrasting tasks. With 583 horsepower instantly available, zero-to-sixty happens in just 3.6 seconds and the top speed is “limited” to 197 mph. Impressive specifications to be sure, and in Sport mode, the sound is as thrilling as the acceleration. But what I found more impressive was its cool, collected demeanor when cruising is desired, like a long trip with the optional Bang & Olufsen surround sound providing entertainment.

 For many Mercedes aficionados who wish a substantial SL with added performance, the SL63 with its AMG tune-up provides plenty of speed with luxury. But the SLS is something else altogether. It’s a Mercedes-Benz flagship that’s not for everyone, but for the fortunate few. It’s fashionable touring in fast, grand style.   BRIAN DOUGLAS



Photography by Brian Douglas




2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS GT

TYPE:  Front engine, rear-wheel-drive

ENGINE:  6.3 liter V8

HORSEPOWER:  583 @ 6,800-RPM

TORQUE:  479 lb.ft. @ 4,750-RPM

BASE PRICE: $199,500

PRICE AS TESTED:  $225,255

FUEL CONSUMPTION:  13-city, 19-highway


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