There are those who claim that Mercedes-Benz has gone soft, that the brand is trying to appeal to too many people at once, that build quality and the bank-vault principles for which Stuttgart was once known have - shall we say - slipped.
We're not inclined to argue with most of those claims, but we do take issue with the first one. Soft? We don't think so; not in the era of the AMG Black Series cars or the 507-hp E63 station wagon. And the hot rod that you see above backs us up.
In early 2010, Mercedes-Benz will reveal its Gullwing coupe, a project that so far has existed under the designation C197. Several names have been tossed about - including the storied SLR moniker, which will be used only if the proposed Mercedes-McLaren SLR speedster bites the dust - but nothing has been settled yet. One thing is almost certain: the Gullwing won't be badged a Mercedes - it will be an AMG.
The coupe is projected to cost some $200,000, which makes it only marginally more expensive than a top-of-the-line SL. A superlight aluminum spaceframe, said to weigh slightly less than 800 pounds when bare, carries a tuned version of AMG's 6.2-liter V-8. Power should be in the neighborhood of 570 hp; torque approaches 480 lb-ft. Weight checks in at about 3600 pounds, and power is routed through an eight-speed automatic transaxle, complete with a multiplate clutch in place of a traditional torque converter.
What's most shocking, however, is the new coupe's styling. Early proposals showed a design language much like that of the current SL, complete with heavily creased sheetmetal and angular, modern forms. The current approach, on the other hand, favors upright headlamps, a horizontally split front air intake, blistered "eyebrow" wheel arches, and a rounded-off rear end with relatively small taillights. In other words, a host of cues taken directly from the original 300SL Gullwing coupe.
BRING IT ON. THAT'S ALL WE HAVE TO SAY: Seriously. A new Gullwing, complete with AMG's snarling 6.2-liter V-8? Looks like it's time to take out another mortgage.