2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: First Drive

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It's more than a half-century of progress by any measure: Ferrari's in its seventh decade, and the Corvette's well into its sixth. The Italian carmaker's uncorked a California vintage to celebrate, while Chevy's cheering its very survival with the most powerful 'Vette ever.

It's only right in this retro-tinged year--everyone's fondly recalling the good old days, even if they were as recent as September of 2008--that Mercedes-Benz is ready to ride the nostalgic wave with a new gullwing coupe, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

The successor to the legendary Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing from the 1950s, and a de facto replacement for the SLR, the SLS opened its north-south doors for the first time in production form today. MotorAuthority joined up with Mercedes-Benz in Monterey and Laguna Seca for the worldwide press launch crack at the revived gullwing, which has sprung from concept to reality in three years.

Though it follows on the cooled heels of the SLR, the new SLS AMG has been designed from scratch, says AMG chief Volker Mornhinweg, and it's not based on any other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It's the first car developed by the in-house tuners from Affalterbach, and while Mercedes builds the new two-seat coupe in a mainstream Benz factory in Sindelfingen, the heart of the SLS--the powertrain--still is assembed in Affalterbach, each drivetrain shepherded by a single assembler, from start to finish. 

That AMG tradition is just the newest touchstone tapped by the engineers in charge of the SLS. Philosophically it remains true to the original in a few definitive ways: it's still rear-wheel drive, it's still built on an aluminum chassis, and then, of course, there are the doors, its calling card. In almost all other ways, it's been transmogrified into a $200,000 supercar with few concessions to anything but power and traction.

It's a bridge between the starter-exotic ranks of the Corvette ZR1 and Viper, and thin-air lust objects like the insanely capable Porsche 911 Turbo. Or, to stuntware like the expensive, non-brand-correlative Lexus LFA. And, of course, it's the new gullwing--even the non-car-people guests at the Ritz-Carlton recognized it so.

But is it a piece of Mercedes history up to the epic moment of the original 300 SL? After a day of motoring around the Monterey Peninsula, one thing is clear.

The new gullwing has far more to it than wings.

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Comments (51)
  1. Wow, that's nice! I can now honestly say that I like Mercedes Gullwing's, or at least this one, hated the old one. This one is awesome.

  2. Sorta looks like an elongated Porsche Cayman S. It is a pretty car.

  3. If this is very close to the final design then...Wow! This is truly an amazing work of art, hats off to the design team for this masterpiece! The great thing about it is that if the Mercedes Badge wasn't on the car, you wouldn't know who made it..maybe BMW (Z8 like?) or Porsche. The point is that it's away from the usual recent/mainstream Mercedes designs. And the original Gullwing was and still is freakin' gorgeous.

  4. I think motorauthority has got it totally wrong again. The Shortened SL-platform is actually the Mercedes SLC and the black series is basically a more performance oreinted SL63 AMG like the black series of the CLK range. Between the SL and SLC there is no space for another car.

    The Black series SL looks brillliant though

  5. THE 300 slr is the best gullwing by far

  6. Ooooooooh... :)

  7. I'll have to see it in person before I render my verdict.

  8. I have to have one...but how to raise the money in time to get on the waiting list....ah I got it! Kidney for sale! Kidney for sale! Please inquire about other organs!

  9. YOW!

  10. this car looks awesome, although it could easily be mistaken for a porsce...maybe if it had double-circle lights like the SL it would be a bit more MB

  11. It's an absolutely beautiful Porsche Cayman S...uhm...I mean MB 300 SL Gullwing. Enough said.


    ...very hot but where is the Mercedes soul??? they are losing creativity.

  13. to die for. It is now my favourite merc ahead of the slr mclaren. i will buy one for sure

  14. modern design are all crap!!! the so called "retro" thing is cool,so this sl will be the best in many many years.
    the cars of the past are BY FAR the best looking cars and they are REAL cars.
    stop giving us wimpy ridicolous so called "modern" cars and give back us the REAL thing!

  15. Definitely a Alfa 8C Competizione Photoshop!!


  17. I think it looks like de Chrysler Crossfire

  18. That car between Cayman S and Alfa 8C Competizione

  19. what can I say?? it is absolutly a dream car. I am willing to spend rest of live to have it!

  20. why in gods name would you revive your halo car after 40 years and then make it on the current platform that is almost on its way to the junk yard instead of spending more time to develop a more current model that will be released in the next 2 years? WHY?!

  21. It will be a cool car!

  22. as craig s said

  23. Gorrrrrrrr

  24. Jussssss... :)

  25. Im with Chris.
    Make it on the platform of the new car and not the outgoing one. I for one love the shape and would deffo want one, but they need to make this cutting edge tech and not next years knock off

  26. ... and this is why Mercedes Benz are continuing their descent into mediocrity. Why, indeed? Why retain a 5 year old platform?

    Have you seen the 'new' CLC? It is a joke i tell ya! Just by slapping on together the front and rear of different cars does not a new model make.

    MB has had its day, but the future belongs to the VW Audi group and BMW as they are always pushing progressively forward, pushing the envelope with chassis technology, drivetrain and brilliant engines.

  27. It looks odd and a bit wrong in some places..

  28. Visually, it's a farcry from its predecessor. And a good thing, too. This isn't 1954 anymore. The car fits most of Mercedes-Benz's current design theme, but truly stands out on its on. It's not a remake of a classic, but a re-birth.

  29. Why are Mercedes just so totally and completely blahin the styling deparment! To top it off we will all have to read test reviews that state the following: ok styling, wooden steering feel, and the traction control would cut in to soon.
    I mean seriously why bother! If your going to make a supercar make it, oh I don't know, super?

  30. hey good car i love it !

  31. Very nice,the front is a killer,it would be nice to hear the sound from those exhausts!!!!!!!!!

  32. B piller (or is that C?) looks horrible. Looks like they forgot something there. Overall looks desprate rather than refreshing.

  33. Ridiculous and unattractive car for poseurs with too much money and too little sense...
    ...and I agree w/ the others - appears that the B-Pillar of this thing was a design afterthought.

  34. Is it me or it looks like a Chrysler Crossfire? Sorry but I'm underwhelmed. If they were going to design a car to follow one of the most iconic cars ever they should have done better than this.
    I like it that the HP remain below 600. However, the SLR was still a prettier car, inside and out.

  35. haha everyone saying Caymen etc....have you had another look at it ? it is basically a Honda s2000 with a bigger front grill and some flaring. I would have expected more from AMG Merc and i have to admit after the wonderful SLR which i still lust after, i am extremely dissapointed by the new model. There doesnt seem to be any passion in the design.

  36. looks really unique and love the gullwings it really gives it that special something.

  37. Looks like a modern version of the old Gullwing

  38. Instead of an electric version, how about a hybrid diesel version, I thounk that would make great milage and torque.

  39. I don't like it :o(

  40. Wow it really looks like a love child from a Corvette and Viper......I wonder if they will make a AMG BLACK version??????

  41. um... so where's the first drive?

  42. One; for the fiftieth time you repost the same article - look at the date of first comment. Two, what happened to the first drive you so pompously added to the title Mr Padget and High Gear Media?
    All I see is a reposting of an article and the announcement that that Mercedes will launch a press event on the car.
    Great journalism

  43. Why not use the following title when you post a story "We'll be back on Sunday, November 1, with live coverage from our first drive of the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG! Thursday October 29, 2009 6:33 HighGearMedia"
    I got the above when I click on the link. If this was a Ford Festiva we most likely would'nt give a shit. But this is a supercar coming from the split of Mclaren and Merc after the unsucessful SLR.
    THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CREATING FANFARE AND FALSE ADVERTISING!!!!! How about we learn the difference.... please....

  44. My word, MyWheels. We're promoting something special coming up soon. it's editorial -- not advertising.
    Changing a title on the Web means breaking a URL--something we'd rather not do.
    Also: language, please. The children can hear you.

  45. Also, MaxBob--when we update a piece, we're adding information each time, not just reposting. We're driving it on Monday--this is your advance notice to come and get it, here or on Twitter. Have you ever watched the local news promo a story "after the next break?" Or seen a TV show's final minute of "next week on..."?

  46. Language? All I said was shit, are you a Morman? Oh well consider it pay back for earlier in the week when I showed my five year old the X5 video and he asked "Daddy, what to do the letters WTF spell?" He's currently learning to read so he asks lots of questions.....
    Also I have a question. How do you spread Editorial word? Answer: You advertise!!!! I can understand not wanting to break a URL and makes perfect sense. Keep up the good work as the site is clearly moving forward.

  47. Nearly every manufacturer can throw a big engine into a custom body nowadays and charge thru the nose for it - Big Deal.
    I'm also unimpressed w/ the gimmicky gullwing doors - The originals were created for the very reason that the 300SLR tubular chassis/frame was so high that standard doors were awkward - so the gullwing doors were a solution to an engineering problem - These are all show.
    Finally, the rear quarter is awfully clunky with that huge B-Pillar - where's the quarter window of the original? Certainly 50 years later, MBZ can use high-strength steels to maintain high roof rigidity and allow for near 360-degree views?
    Color me unimpressed.

  48. I'm sorry, but I don't like it. I like the exploration into design whilst still inheriting the original flowing designs of the original Gullwing, but just doesn't look...like...much.

  49. test drive with media photos? Stupid? cant take it seriosly.

  50. Luke, you're a cranky one! My original photos are in the later pages. Some decent ones, but we spent a lot of time on the road--and I was having a blast driving. Hope you enjoyed the comments.

  51. A great car (for me) starts with an interesting shape, and to be, this just doesn't cut it on any level. I sure hope it does perfom well, because there's really much to look at. It already looks dated, and would have been better introduced as a competiotr to the BMW Z8 from fews years back, because that's pretty much what it resembles anyway, and the gulwing dorrs can't hide that fact.

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