The W198, or known to motoring enthusiasts as the Mercedes-Benz 300SL or Gullwing was the beautiful car, known for its doors hinged at the roof and based on the German manufacturer’s 1952 race car, the W194.
Fast forward nearly 60 years and the manufacturer unveiled, what has often been described as its spiritual successor, the SLS AMG.
There are cars you dream of driving and it’s safe to say you always think you never will. One of those ‘dans mes reves’ is the SLS. I’m like a kid if I ever see one on the road and tend to switch off to anything around me at that point and normal conversation is halted abruptly whilst I become mute and drool over the exquisite car.
When I received an invite for the Mercedes-Benz ‘Power and Performance’ Day and saw the cars available to drive, I realised my dream was going to become reality.
AMG is known the world over as the company that takes an already fine Mercedes and adds another dimension in terms of looks and performance.
Founded in 1967 by two former engineers from Mercedes, Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, the name came from their surnames and Grobaspach, the birthplace of Hans. To this day, all AMG engines are hand built and each builder stamps the engine they produce with a plaque depicting their signature.
So imagine my utter delight when I was handed the keys to the SLS AMG Coupe.
Sat in the car-park the ‘designo Magno Allanite Grey’ car stood out like a jewel in a crown. Distinctive, because of its long bonnet which measures nearly 2 metres, the enormous lairy front grille with the dominating three-pointed star and this car definitely means business.
The entirely aluminium lightweight spaceframe, with the cabin perching on the rear axle, shows off bold lines leading to a short, smooth and understated rear. Two chromed twin tailpipes and the rear wing spoiler give it some clout, whilst the LED fog light takes it cue from Formula One, as it’s mounted low and in the middle like the race cars.
To finish it off are the Gullwing doors, harking back to the days of old and although not making it the easiest car to get in and out of, (I didn’t look very sophisticated and just narrowly avoided hitting my head when alighting) they add to the history of the design. And fear not, if the car ever ended up on its roof, the hinges contain explosive bolts. Makes the well known film line from Michael Caine: ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’ seem quite apt.
Shining like beacons on the car are the 6.3 and AMG badges. This is where the excitement starts to build. The 6.3-litre V8 engine produces 571 bhp and switching it on produces a burble that would excite any petrolhead.
It is a very solid car and once you put your foot down, the engine responds perfectly. With it developing peak torque at 4750 rpm, it goes from 0 - 62 mph in 3.8 seconds and has a top speed of 197 mph. Despite its racetrack performance, it still makes for a great drive when you’re not on a circuit.
With a lower centre of gravity, the light alloy wheels increase the driving dynamics and the double-wishbone suspension makes the ride very comfortable on normal roads, that are not always the best road surfaces. You can throw it into a corner and not feel worried about what it might do next. The retractable rear spoiler, aided by the AMG high-performance brakes will stop you dead and assists with stability and handling. The only thing that takes a bit of time getting used to is the bonnet and the size of the front window. If the car had been black, I could have attached my cape and started mumbling in a low voice, as I felt like I was driving the Batmobile.
It still got as much attention as that movie car, and I couldn’t help but drive with the windows down to hear the engine sound as I revved through the power range.
The cockpit is more plane than car with its aviation inspired centre console, air vents and AMG dual-clutch 7-speed transmission knob. With four driving modes, C for Controlled Efficiency, S, naturally for Sport, S + for Sport Plus and M for Manual, there is also a Race Start function should you suddenly find yourself turning your Gran Turismo starts into reality.
The single-tone Designo red leather and aluminium add a vibrancy to the interior, and the sports seats have enough lumbar support to make the coupe one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever sat in.
Replacing the McLaren-built SLR it is a much better proposition, not only in the style stakes but in price too. Coming in at just under £170,000, it is over £200,000 cheaper.
Some may baulk at the combined 21.4 mpg fuel consumption, but if you’re buying one, then money is probably no object.
As for me, I’m saving up. Although it’ll be a classic by the time I’ve filled my money box! Being at Mercedes-Benz World and driving the SLS AMG, I realized I just had to buy one – blow the expense. I could only afford a 1:18 scale version, but I’ll just push it around my lounge floor, make engine noises and continue dreaming.
By Olivia Gauch
Fri, 21 Sep 2012