2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: First Drive Page 5

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2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: last impressions

It's unquestionably a great performer, and with the gullwings, a verifiable spectacle. Does the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG only win because it's a new gullwing, though, or because it's a stunning, 571-hp AMG supercar with ground-swallowing speed?  

My first instinct was to call it a Mercedes-Benz Viper--based on its enormous powertrain roar, and the narrow slot for passengers, wedged in between big displacement and huge wheels. And while the packaging and power are in the same ballpark as the Viper, there's not much comparison when you roll in the  gullwing's suave aesthetics, its controllable handling and electronic interventions. Also, it's fully executed inside--the interior's small but it's bejeweled, compared to the Viper's black plastic pit.

So what is the SLS AMG, in the world of exotic two-seaters? Ferraris are about the rapture of engine noises and the cult; Bentleys about the conflict of intense performance with the unique British idiom of veneer and handwork, which is also Rolls-Royce, minus the emphasis on intensity. The Viper and less so, the Corvette? Raw displays of power, unqualified American expression. And the world has enough of that, right?

This Mercedes occupies a middle zone. The SLS doesn't abandon technical refinement, but it does let its hair down with the loopy vintage bellow of that huge, hardly adulterated V-8. It compromises the actual driving experience to a degree, for the mythic appeal--and the visual impact--of gullwing doors. It's partly American in its tendency to speak out, part Italian in its cool-first aesthetic, and uncharacteristically Mercedes-Benz in its blend of the two, as anyone used to trundling to Pottery Barn in their GL450 4Matic can confirm.

We can think of two perfect scenarios for the use of the SLS AMG. One, cruising Miami's South Beach and making the most play with those fantastic standout gullwing doors. Two, putting the SLS to occasional track use out of a garage of seven or eight modern classics, probably during the annual Pebble Beach weekend.

It's a first-world dilemma, for sure--trying to figure out why you want one, and how to get one. The two-seat 2010 SLS AMG will be a limited production vehicle. Then there's the issue of future versions. A convertible is almost certainly guaranteed for the 2011 model year--and there's every chance it will correct the styling fall-off at the car's rear quarters. Mercedes is working on an electric version of the SLS due in 2013, and the interesting new partnership with Tesla will come into play in some compelling way, I'm guessing.

The SLS' starting price in Germany is set at approximately $257,000, but it's expected the American sticker price will come in below $200,000, since America's usually been given a price break due to currency concerns, and the fact that, as the U.S. PR team points out, we "buy in bulk" compared to the rest of the world. The first SLS AMGs will arrive in owner's hands in April 2010.

If you're not among them...don't say we didn't tip you off.

TheCarConnection.com has more photos at our 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG page, and even more details and video over at MotorAuthority's Benz SLS pages.

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