By Michael Bettencourt
What a difference a single letter makes. The Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR supercar developed in association with the famous F1 racing outfit is no more, and although execs insist it is not a replacement, the newest ultimate supercar from Mercedes is the reborn Gullwing, the 2011 SLS AMG.
The Gullwing was the apt nickname for the popular Mercedes-Benz 300SL coupe and convertible from the mid-60s, so dubbed because of its unique roof-hinged doors that opened like a bird taking off in flight. Similar gullwing doors were copied by a few craft car makers, notably Bricklin (check) and Delorean, of Back to the Future fame, but mention gullwing doors to anyone who loves cars, and it’s those early Benz SLs that spring to mind quickest.
And so the 2011 SLS that arrives this spring as a long delayed spiritual successor to that winged classic, but with loads more power, lightweight components throughout, and a focus on interior creature comforts of little concern to the race-derived original.
The SLS AMG’s engine is an AMG-designed 6.2-litre 563 hp V8 beast, capable of blasting it from rest to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds, to an electronically limited V-max of 317 km/h. Available in the spring at a cost of C$198,000, it’s not inexpensive, but it’s less than half the price of the previous US$400,000+ SLR.
Mercedes-Benz and the folks at their in-house AMG performance division are also planning an electric version of the exotic, reportedly to debut by the 2015 model year, which will offer launch times just a smidgen slower than that of its premium gasoline-only brethren. It will be slightly less powerful, with 392 kW (526 hp) of juice, with a top speed that maxes out at a much less exotic 200 km/h, for a price that will surely be higher than a regular SLS AMG.
On the plus side, it does feature more low-end torque (649 lb-ft versus the V8’s 479). The goal is the same acceleration ability as the V8 for environmentally conscious rich folks less concerned about ultimate performance, since it’ll also be heavier.