Though its sheetmetal and gullwing doors harken back to the iconic 300SL coupe of the 1950s, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT is a thoroughly modern gentleman's supercar that combines aluminum-intensive construction with a coddling interior and a superb V8. It's also the first vehicle to be designed from the ground up by Mercedes' AMG performance division.
Mercedes revised the SLS AMG for the previous model year, ratcheting up the power of its 6.2-liter V8 ever so slightly, firming up the suspension and also adding new wheels. Previously known as the SLS AMG Gullwing, the supercar is now called the SLS AMG GT.
Additionally, Mercedes created a hard-core, 622 horsepower variant called the SLS AMG Black Series for truly performance-focused drivers.
This year, which will be the SLS' last on the market, Mercedes launched a commemorative "Final Edition" model that sports a host of unique exterior and interior flourishes.
Bold, retro-flavored and impossible to ignore, the SLS AMG isn't the car for shy and retiring types. Though it borrows numerous elements from the classic 300SL, the supercar avoids being a slavish imitation by virtue of its uniquely extravagant proportions - including one of the longest hoods of the modern automotive era. Perhaps its defining stylistic feature is a pair of roof-hinged gullwing doors that rise dramatically towards the sky when opened.
Underneath its elongated hood, the SLS AMG features a 6.2-liter V8 that's incredibly responsive in addition to being one of the more operatic engines currently in production. Under full throttle, it sounds a throaty, big-bore roar; deceleration is accompanied by a glorious, burbling soundtrack of pops and crackles.
For the new model year, Mercedes has tweaked the engine for an additional 20 horsepower, bringing the total up to 583 horsepower at 6800 rpm. Torque remains at 479 lb-ft at 4750 rpm. All of that power is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle with several different modes that allow the driver to choose between smooth, languid shifts or blindingly-quick ratio changes. A manual mode and metal paddle shifters are also included, and the gearbox performs rev-matched downshifts that prevent uncouth driveline behavior.
When given the cane, the SLS AMG can sprint from zero-to-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 197 mph. In mellower driving situations, the EPA says that it is capable of returning 13 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.
The SLS AMG is fitted as standard with vented and grooved disc brakes with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers. Available as an option are enormous carbon ceramic brakes with rotors that measure 15.8 inches up front and 14.2 inches at the rear.
Aside from steel A-pillars and a carbon-fiber driveshaft, the SLS AMG is constructed entirely from aluminum in the interest of weight savings. Even so, it checks in at a not-quite-svelte 3800-pounds, although that's not excessive when the coupe's combination of performance and luxury is taken into consideration.
Inside, the SLS AMG is no minimalistic track-day special, boasting supple leather, aluminum trim and an elegant, aviation-themed dashboard with a full complement of HVAC, entertainment and navigation systems. A three-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel finished in perforated nappa leather and four turbine-inspired air vents lend the cabin a bit of unique flair.
An available GT package gives the interior a sinister stygian look, adding black leather and alcantara upholstery, piano black trim, red seatbelts, red contrast stitching and a red neutral mark on the steering wheel.
The standard sound system is a six-speaker, 100-watt AM/FM/CD/DVD setup, but audiophiles will want to opt for the available 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen upgrade unit with 11 speakers - including 250-watt subwoofers on the parcel shelves and two illuminated 50-watt tweeters on the dash. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, as is an iPod/MP3 interface.
With six cubic feet of trunk space, the SLS AMG has enough room for a weekend getaway s worth of luggage. Thanks to its AMG Ride Control sports suspension, it can also provide a relatively cushy highway ride.
The Ride Control system includes electronically controlled adaptive dampers and three settings - Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus - that can transform the suspension to suit long-distance cruising or hot laps on the racetrack.
Mercedes is celebrating the end of the SLS' production run with a limited-production model known as the Final Edition. Outside, it's distinguished by a number of downforce-enhancing carbon fiber exterior elements, including a front splitter, a fixed rear spoiler and a special hood - cribbed from the SLS AMG Black Series - with a central air outlet that serves to dissipate engine heat and improve aerodynamics.
Unique, staggered AMG forged alloy wheels measuring 19 inches at the front and 20 inches in back provide another special touch. Available with either a partial or full matte black finish, they can be fitted with high-performance "Dunlop Sport Maxx Race" Cup tires that were developed especially for Mercedes-AMG.
The Final Edition treatment continues in the cabin, which is finished with desingo diamond-pattern leather upholstery with contrasting silver topstitching, high gloss carbon fiber trim and a special badge on the center console. An Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel with a sliver 12 o'clock marking and high-gloss black metal inserts - which match the trim adorning the air vents - completes the revisions.
The SLS AMG GT comes standard with dual front, side, knee and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
When it comes to comparing supercars, things can get a bit tricky: do you use acceleration? Top speed? Engine size? Rarity? Prestige? Styling? Price? The answer is that it varies based on the buyer, but for this coupe don't be surprised to see the Aston Martin Vanquish, Audi R8 V10 and Lamborghini Gallardo on the short list.