Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
We take to the track for a drive in the most hardcore SLS yet to see if it can live up to Mercedes rich motorsport history.
Mercedes is racing ahead of the competition with a GT3-spec version of the SLS AMG. The stripped-out machine uses the roadgoing supercar as a starting point, but tweaks the suspension, brakes and aerodynamics to make something even more extreme – and we were first to see whether the SLS stacks up on the track.
Gullwing Mercs have a rich motorsport history, and the firm is hoping the SLS AMG can enjoy similar success. Despite it packing 20bhp less than the road car, due to regulation air restrictors for racing, acceleration, braking and gearshifts are brutal – but our confidence builds all the time.
Several laps in, it feels like driving a giant go-kart – its reactions are so much more immediate than the road car’s. With its cabin hanging out over the rear wheels, the SLS by no means cuts a classic race car silhouette. But its dynamic proportions make it instantly recognisable and stylish.
Aerodynamics dictate the body changes, which include a new apron, bonnet cooling vent plus a 50mm-wider front and back. More vents in the arches and side skirts help brake cooling, while a smooth underbody, rear wing and diffuser help to suck the car on to the tarmac at high speeds.
Inside, the road car’s switches and screen are replaced with only the essential controls, including toggles to adjust the traction control and brake balance and activate the fire extinguisher. A display behind the cut-off steering wheel shows all relevant data such as speed, rpm, lap times and gear, while the roll cage not only offers protection for the driver but adds to the rigidity of the chassis.
As an out-of-the-box race car, the SLS is an expensive,but attractive proposition. It delivers searing pace and cat-like reactions. Most importantly, it proves a more hardcore machine than its retro styling suggests.
Rival: Audi R8 LMS
Packing a high-revving 500bhp 5.2-litre V10 powerplant which is mated to a six-speed sequential transmission, the R8 LMS is Audi’s ready-to-drive race machine. However, performance and exclusivity rarely come cheap, and each example costs £206,000.