Mercedes-Benz SLS SLS AMG GT
The updated SLS GT is powered by a revised version of AMG's critically acclaimed 6.2-litre V8 engine
- Dramatic exterior has aged well and continues to turn heads
- In revised form, muscular 6.2-litre engine is full of character and not short of power
- Snug cabin adds to the SLS'S unique personality but has started to show its age
- Trademark gullwing doors are surprisingly practical
- This is not a car for shy, retiring types
- Performance might be impressive but fuel consumption and running costs are high
- Rear three-quarter vision isn't great
- Cabin oddment storage space is minimal
As a mainstream car maker, if you want to grab the headlines you need to create a 'halo' car. Usually it's something flash, expensive and fast. In the case of Mercedes and its SLS, it's all three. Some time after its initial launch, the car has received a sympathetic update focusing on making the car's considerable performance more accessible and sports a 'GT' badge so you can tell it apart from the original variant.
Well known for its rich motor racing heritage, Mercedes is inextricably linked to the glamorous and rapid 300SL Gullwing. The modern day gullwing SLS was introduced to celebrate 125 years of car production. This iteration shares the old car's trademark doors and thirst for speed, thanks manly to its AMG-tuned 6.2-litre V8 engine, while in 2013 model guise boasts a little more power and improved road manners.
There's no question that the SLS is an arresting sight even when stationary. The car boasts a long nose and small cabin set back with similar proportions to the likes of Caterhams and Lotus Sevens. And under that long bonnet is one of AMG's most impressive engines. It's powered C, E, SL and CL models and attracted considerable critical acclaim. In GT guise power has been boosted by 20 horsepower to a heady 591 horsepower.
It might sit at the head of the Mercedes family line-up and have more in common with Ferraris that an average family hatchback, but it's an easy car to drive and live with. Despite its dramatic looks it's no drama queen on the road. Granted, it's not a car for wallflowers, but you and the SLS will feel just at home pottering around town as you would thrashing the car on a race track.
Once familiar with the car's dimensions - there's no question it's a wide car - it's surprising how easy it is to drive briskly. And while the SLS might be a refined machine at low speeds it takes on a TVR-like personality when you push on. Loud, brash but always controllable, the SLS will rumble, growl and bark its way to your destination.
Our verdict on the Mercedes-Benz SLS SLS AMG GT
The SLS creates a sense of theatre every time you get behind the wheel - that's part of its USP, after all. Mercedes' low slung and dramatic-looking coupe is without rival when it comes to delivering such an experience. It's also a pretty entertaining car when piloted by a killed driver. Despite the handling tweaks there remains a slightly rough edge to its performance, which is no doubt a product of the combination of almost 600 horsepower, a long wheelbase and rear-wheel drive - a mix that's likely to have any serious petrolhead rubbing their hands with delight.
Fuel will likely be top of the list if you drive the car regularly, while insurance and servicing will be close behind. That said, if you seek this level of performance this is often a price worth paying.
Space and practicality
The SLS GT will easily accommodate two large adults in comfort. It's quite a sung cabin but you never feel cramped. Headroom is also good thanks to the presence of the gullwing doors. Storage space inside is modest, with the small glovebox and central armrest box providing most of the available space. The car's boot is reasonable though, and will easily swallow a few soft overnight bags.
Controls and display
All the car's major displays and controls will be familiar to existing Mercedes owners. The fascia is dominated by the Comand display unit and although not a touchscreen, its various menus and features prove reasonably intuitive after some practice.
Predictably you sit low down and cornering forces are efficiently dealt with by the car's supportive sports seats. The SLS GT still delivers a firm ride but it's now more composed on poorly surfaced roads than before. Engine noise is never far away, but being an AMG car that's a large part of the appeal.
The standard fit combination of remote locking, immobiliser and alarm is present, which should be enough to deter most thieves. For added peace of mind there's always a satellite tracking device - a feature sometimes recommended by insurers.
As with all other Mercedes cars the SLS GT boasts all the latest kit. There are enough airbags in the cabin to keep you safe, while the car's electronic stability systems have been sensibly tuned to allow a certain amount of slip before cutting in to please keen drivers.
Over its life much has been said about Mercedes' 6.2-litre AMG V8 engine - all of it positive. In the SLS GT it's been tuned further to output 591 horsepower, and it's always either rumbling away at idle or providing a Nascar-style soundtrack to your journey. Factoring in responsive direct steering and a firm ride and the SLS is a genuine supercar in the way it behaves on the road. If there's one complaint, it's that the car's auto gearbox could be faster acting, especially when in manual mode. That said, the SLS GT is full of character and can be a little tail happy if provoked despite the changes made to its suspension set-up.
Family car appeal
With only one spare seat and a modest amount of storage space available, the SLS GT is going to be relegated to second or third car in the family.
First car appeal
As you can imagine, the SLS is not a good choice for the novice driver. Expense aside, there's the not so small matter of the car's performance to consider.
Quality and image
As the 'halo' car the SLS GT is both a homage to the famous 300SL of old and a showcase for the firm's high output 6.2-litre AMG-tuned V8 petrol engine. It's a loud and visually distinctive car, which in reality is what being a flagship motor is all about.
It might be a strict two-seater and possess a particularly low driving position, but the car's trademark gullwing doors make entry and exit relatively straightforward. You will need to be reasonably agile though, as the trick to getting in is to slide you bottom over the car's wide door sill then lower yourself in to position. The reverse is true for exiting the car but gravity is against you. It's also important not to hit your head on the door on the way out.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Dominating the car's central fascia is a wide aspect display screen. From this you can access audio, telephone and sat-nav functions via Mercedes' now familiar rotary controller, although you will find yourself using the minor controls on the fascia too. Overall, sound quality is good and can be boosted with an optional higher quality system. The sat-nav functions are intuitive but the system has the look and feel of a system a generation behind that of newer Mercedes models.
Colours and trim
In a refreshing change from the norm, the SLS doesn't appear to be particularly colour sensitive. Dark hues work just as well as white or red. Of course, the former will help you blend in better with your surroundings. Inside the cabin dark trim and upholstery materials dominate and can make the environment feel a little claustrophobic, although lighter trim accents can be specified to promote a light and airy ambience.
You'll need to be good at judging the car's extremities from behind the wheel, but thankfully the parking sensors and reversing camera help matters. Rear three quarter vision isn't great as the car's thick rear pillars will test your reverse parking skills to the full.
Tyre mobility system fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 6.2-litre V8 (591bhp). Transmission options: seven-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: no separate trim levels.
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