Mercedes SLS AMG review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The flagship Mercedes SLS AMG supercar has a thumping V8 engine and gullwing doors that add a sense of occasion to every drive

For: 
Stunning looks, incredible soundtrack, exclusive gullwing doors
Against: 
Not as engaging to drive as its rivals, high running costs, depreciation

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The Mercedes SLS AMG – renamed SLS AMG GT in late 2012 – is the kind of car you spend a lottery win on, mainly because it has a fabulous set of gullwing doors. Oh, and the fact it has a thunderous 6.3-litre V8 engine under the bonnet. It's not particularly sophisticated, though, and is better suited to high-speed cruising and driving like a hooligan than being threaded down twisty back roads. What's more, you can have the sharper handling McLaren 12C for the same money, while a Ferrari 458 Italia is not much more. But then neither of those have gullwing doors, do they?

Our choice: SLS AMG GT

Styling

5

The Mercedes SLS AMG is an incredible piece of design. We love the long bonnet, the huge vents down the side and the pert tail. But we love those amazing gullwing doors the most. They're opened by subtle flip-out handles, and although you have to stretch a little bit to close them when seated, it's worth the effort. The SLS is available in a wide variety of colours, but should you have a spare £10,000 or so, you can have it in an amazing satin matte-effect finish. Inside, there are stunning jet-engine air vents, beautifully trimmed leather seats (with quilted leather and red stitching in the faster GT version) and classy metal trim. The GT version also adds darkened light clusters, red brake callipers and the option of red seatbelts.

Driving

4.4

If you want a car that makes you grin like an idiot, the Mercedes SLS is it. Just starting up the 583bhp 6.3-litre V8 is enough to have you giggling, and when you floor the throttle in a tunnel, your ears will be greeted by the kind of thunderous V8 soundtrack usually heard at a NASCAR race. Lift off, and there are some hilarious pops and bangs from the exhaust. With a 0-62mph time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 199mph, the SLS is very nearly as fast as a Ferrari 458 Italia. It feels very big and wide around corners, so it's not as engaging but it's still lots of fun to drive. The GT model benefits from firmer suspension, which means a harsher ride but that the car stays flatter in the bends. The seven-speed auto ‘box was a weak point on early cars, but revised software on the GT model makes shifts faster and smoother.

Reliability

4.2

It's a flagship hand-built Mercedes, so the SLS AMG is certainly safe. It has lots of airbags, traction control (with two stages of electronic intervention), adaptive cruise control as well as a fatigue monitoring system that can spot if you're about to fall asleep at the wheel. As if you would. Build quality is fantastic, and although the SLS is far from simple, it's likely to be just as reliable as it's cousin, the SL63 AMG. Mercedes finished an impressive eighth as a brand in the 2012 Driver Power survey, too.

Practicality

2.6

The Mercedes SLS AMG is pretty much 70 per cent bonnet. That means that the cabin is quite cramped, with just enough space for two. The boot is tinier than a VW up!'s with just 176 litres of luggage space, so you'd better pack light if you want to go away for the weekend. Think squashy bags not suitcases. Despite a wide sill, it's quite easy to get into the SLS, even if you do have to reach up to close the doors. Be careful in multi-storey car parks with low roofs, otherwise you might end up with some nasty scratches.

Running Costs

1.8

Mercedes officially claims 21.4mpg for the SLS, but you will be lucky to get more than 15mpg even in regular driving, while servicing, road tax (it emits 308g/km of CO2) and insurance costs will be astronomical, too. That's no different to any other supercar at this price point though. What you must be even more wary of is depreciation - in the first year of ownership, you can expect an SLS AMG to lose £50,000 off its value. Frightening.

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I had the great, good fortune to get a test drive in the car when part ex'ing my car for a merc. Apart from the sound, acceleration, etc... that were awsome as expected, the two things that made the greatest impression were (1) the (designed) exhaust popping on deceleration accompanied by the double de-clutching carried out by the auto box, and (2) the surprising agility round a country lane and the steering feel/response/feedback; I really felt part of the car. I really was grinning like a Cheshire cat during and after the experience. Magnificent car!

Last updated: 30 Jan, 2013

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