2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: First Drive

The Mercedes SLS AMG is as beautiful to drive, as it is to look at

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: First Drive

AMG and Mercedes-Benz have done many great things together. Not only can you add the 2011 SLS AMG to the list; you can put it at the top!

Just look at it. This modern redesign of the classic 1955 300SL coupe is beautiful. The gull-wing doors, which first appeared on the original 300SLR Silver Arrow race cars in 1954, are back.

Designed and developed entirely by Mercedes-AMG in Affalterbach, the SLS AMG is the new flagship for the Mercedes-Benz brand.


1. The SLS AMG is the first ground-up vehicle built by AMG.

2. The 6.2L engine is the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 on the planet with 563-hp and 479 ft-lbs of torque.

3. Thanks in part to an AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed dual-clutch transmission it can hit 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds.

4. It will cost you $183,000 to get your hands on this masterpiece.


Underpinned by an aluminum spaceframe that weighs just 531 pounds and motivated by a hand-built 6.2-liter DOHC 32-valve AMG V8, the modern gull-wing coupe is no red sow.

Sitting low in the chassis and behind the front axle, the front mid-mounted engine makes 563 horsepower and 479 ft-lbs of torque for rear wheels to digest via the driveshaft, carbon fiber torque tube and a standard limited-slip differential.

The torque peak comes at 4750 rpm and AMG’s dual-clutch seven-speed transmission (transaxle-mounted) makes quick work of the shifting duties by pre-selecting the next gear.

Featuring changes to the engine’s breathing, oil supply and crank, more than 120 parts are either new or significantly improved on the M159 engine. Add to that a dry sump lubrication system that eliminates the need for an oil pan and the SLS AMG further benefits from a near perfect 47/53 weight distribution and road-hugging stance.


Although the gull-wing doors are significantly lighter than earlier attempts, and easy enough to pull down and shut, those with short arms might find themselves having to get up out of the seat to do so.

Once snugly in the driver’s seat, everything is nearby and of the utmost quality. The cabin is loaded to the brim with features like Comand APS with HDD navigation and power everything (with memory), and finished off in style with standard Alcantara headliner and designo leather upholstery.

On the day I tested the car, I believe my specific model even came with the available Bang and Olufsen 11-speaker 1,000-watt surround sound system; but I could have cared less. All that mattered was to enjoy what little time I had to drive it, properly, on a race track – Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada no less.

Though this is the production version (a GT3 race version was shown at the New York auto show) there’s a push-button race start on the carbonized center console amongst other sporty controls like AMG Speedshift, ESP, spoiler control and driving modes.

The difference between economically-inclined cruising and goosebumps-inducing performance is mere button pushes away. The transmission has four driving modes: “C” for Controlled Efficiency, “S” for Sport, “S+” for Sport Plus, and “M” for Manual. In addition, it features a race start function.


In my time at the wheel, I had the tranny set to sport plus (S+) with the ESP in sport mode. In can be thoroughly disengaged for track use, however.

Launches are hard but not violent. Bury the gas pedal and the gull-wing zips by 62 mph in about 3.8 seconds. That’s a hair faster than the V10-powered Audi R8 and, not too shabby for an all-motor RWD stock vehicle – and I should mention the 6.2-liter unit is currently the most powerful naturally-aspirated V8 in the world. Top speed is electronically limited to 197 mph.

Dual headers help the high-revving, big displacement engine play a symphonic exhaust note accompanied by smooth, precise and instantaneous responses from the transmission. It’s great in both automatic and manual modes and the AMG steering wheel is the perfect size too, with the flappy paddles at nine and three o’clock.

Sized 19×9.5-inches in the front and 20×11-inches in the rear, the AMG 10-spoke forged rims are shod with 265/35 and 295/30 series Continental ContiSportContacts that provide excellent grip and stability.

The optional massive carbon-ceramic AMG four-wheel disc brakes on my test car inspire confidence and make late-apexing (or any other kind of braking technique for that matter) in this car a breeze. With ABS and brake assist, they have heaps of stopping power and, during my afternoon at the track, didn’t fade at all.

They fill out the wheels nicely, too. Don’t you think?


A ride height under four inches, wheelbase of 105.5-inches and overall length of 182.6-inches translates into a potent handling package for road and track use. The speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering kit is communicative in fast sweeping corners and sharp turns alike.

The optional sport suspension stiffens the standard double-wishbone independent kit to offer handling that’s smoother and far more communicative than either the Nissan GT-R or Audi R8 (both of which benefit from AWD of course).

The SLS AMG chassis stays flat and predictable through corners and at times you even forget that it’s rear-wheel drive with such acceleration coming out of corners.


The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is already on sale in most markets with base MSRP price of $183,000. My mule sported some extras that bump it $20-30 grand. The upgraded AMG binders command at least ten grand while other options not already mentioned (the Le Mans Red metallic paint, carbon fiber engine covers, center console trim and AMG extended interior carbon fiber trims, for example) add even more to the already exclusive ticket.

All told, while it does cost more than an Audi R8 5.2 FSI with the R-Tronic transmission, the SLS AMG offers more power (from a V8 too), true rear-wheel drive performance and even sexier looks (did I really just say that?) And, if I had the cake and could eat it too, I would. Having had the opportunity to drive both machines in (different) track settings, a fully-loaded SLS AMG is my new number one choice.

Porsche’s 911 Turbo S, GT2 and the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni (the only current RWD Lambo) are more direct competition that could be considered.

Don’t expect fuel economy to be great and the A-pillars, combined with the long nose, do hinder visibility somewhat. A standard rearview camera with Parktronic technology tries to compensate.

Everything else is tickety-boo, but the fact remains that I got nowhere near the limits of this incredible car. If I had a couple hundred Gs burning a hole in my pocket, I’d certainly give it another go.


2009 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series 2010 Audi R8 V10 5.2 FSI: First Drive 2009 Ferrari F430 Scuderia 2009 Ferrari California: First Drive 2010 Lamborghini LP560-4 Spyder Review 2010 Lamborghini Murciélago LP640 Roadster Review 2009 Maserati GranTurismo S 2009 Aston Martin DBS 2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante: First Drive 2010 Jaguar XKR Review 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 2009 Dodge Viper ACR 2009 Nissan GT-R

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked