Panamericana Reborn: Puebla To Oaxaca In The 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

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As you round the bend, a single solid yellow line dividing the two-lane stretch of smooth, undulating blacktop stretched along the side of a Oaxacan canyon, you flick the right paddle to grab the next gear, rocketing forward on a wave of eight-cylinder sound, quickly moving to the brake, flicking the left paddle, a smooth turn-in, apex--don’t pause to marvel at the grip, no time--back on the gas, flick the right paddle, cactus and burros flashing by in your peripheral. For the next 50 miles.

Disclaimer: Mercedes-AMG flew us down to Mexico, plied us with drink (in the evenings, naturally) and put us up in classic adobe convents -turned-hotels to do their best to make us love the car. Turns out all they needed was a tank of gas and a winding road.

This is what it's like hammering the 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG at seven tenths along the route of the classic Carrera Panamericana, and yes, you really do wish you were there.

Born out of Mercedes-Benz's earliest post-war racing efforts, the original racing 300 SL, known internally as the W194, was largely a mashup of available parts--except for the tubular steel frame, which without compromise to comfort and in search of stiffness, gave birth to the now-legendary gullwing doors. Tracing its lineage from those inauspicious beginnings and along the 300 SL's storied path, the new 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG represents both the latest in technology and the deepest of heritage at AMG.

Mercedes SLS AMG Carrera Panamericana drive

Mercedes SLS AMG Carrera Panamericana drive

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That heritage is what Mercedes-Benz is celebrating in anticipation of the car's sales launch in the U.S. this month. Motor Authority was on hand to take the car as near to the limit as any sane person would, given the 500-foot drops, sheer cliffs, rather unpredictable mammalian traffic and the car's near-$200,000 sticker price. With the SLS AMG's prodigious grip, willing engine, and rifle-bolt transmission, the limit is high--very high.

So high, in fact, that few people are likely to approach the car's extremes even in the relatively safe environment of a track. Not that they won't have endless laps of fun trying.

We've already delivered you the full details on the car, including its all-aluminum chassis, its 563-horsepower V-8 engine, and our first-drive report on the car from Laguna Seca. The car’s history, its heritage to the Carrera Panamericana and Le Mans-winning 300 SL, and its iconic gullwings have all been made plain. So what, exactly, are we on about?

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