2011 Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS review

Estimated MSRP: $200,000

The sleek, swank all-new Mercedes AMG SLS is aimed at purists. (Photo by Josh Max)

Florida’s Cape Canaveral seemed a more likely place to arrange the launch of Mercedes’ all-new SLS than the 5-star, white-gloved Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay, twenty minutes north of San Francisco, where a band of jet-lagged journalists gathered at dawn to gawk at and kick the tires of fourteen gleaming SLS’s making their American debut. Why Cape Canaveral? Because the SLS, up close, seems more Apollo 11 than car. Its roar is atomic. Its gullwing doors look as if astronauts or Green Berets will burst out and take over the planet. It’s also a marvel of engineering, speed and looks, and one of the most phenomenal Benzes you or I will ever drive.

A supercar (or 2 or 3 or 14) for breakfast outside the Ritz-Carlton at Half-Moon Bay, California

The morning presentation would be followed by individual journeys to Laguna Seca Raceway in Salinas, about 100 miles south, where we’d properly thrash the machines. As for me, I would turn this 2-day launch into a weeklong exploration of San Francisco as well as points a few hundred miles north and south of the city. In this moment, however, the SLS overshadowed anything else I had to do.

I popped a gull-wing door, ducked and slid in front of the flat-bottomed steering wheel of my tester, looked down to my right and saw a blizzard of knobs on my center console, all of which did something miraculous, I was sure. I’d discover their purposes later; all I wanted to do right then was go, Johnny, go.

I pressed a thumb against the starter button and that was the last the world saw of me for the next little while.

Some companies who manufacture supercars attempt to toss in extraneous comforts in aid of bragging, “And it’s good for getting around town, too!” Not this ride. Sure, you can get a few different body and seat color combinations, and the leather interior will give you olfactory orgasms.

Smell dat leather, feel dat ding.

But the SLS’s flavor is just plain nasty. Like the missile it resembles, it’s point, shoot and hold on.  You get out of this thing, whether at 7-11 or at a swank hotel, and you’re Iron Man.  At one rest stop, I emerged from a store and counted 15 people surrounding the SLS with cameras.

We park next to the Pacific to get some photos of this A-lister while a crowd gathers.

On the track, however, the difference between the AMG SLS and its Porsche and Ferrari competitors is taste.  If you’re an exotic enthusiast and have actually spent track time in an assortment of models, you know that every commercially available street exotic can blast you from 0-6 in 3 or so seconds, can bear-hug the curves and achieve ridiculously fast speeds on the straightaway.  Is the SLS the king of the street car racing world?  No—not automatically. But if you’re a Benz-fan or collector, this ride will surely reign supreme in your racing world like it did in mine—at 136 MPH on the straightaway.  And there’s more—much more. Click on this cheesy Benz AMG link for the skinny. – Josh Max, AutoGigolo

AutoGigolo tastes the wares.

TYPE OF VEHICLE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 379 cu in, 6208cc
Power (SAE net): 563 bhp @ 6800 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 479 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual
Wheelbase: 105.5 in Length: 182.6 in
Width: 76.3 in Height: 49.7 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 3600 lb

Zero to 60 mph: 3.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 11.7 sec @ 125 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 196 mph

EPA city/highway driving: 13/20 mpg