Future Cars

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

The marriage between Mercedes-Benz and McLaren has been something of a disappointment. Their co-created product, the SLR McLaren, has never met sales expectations, and its marketers have resorted to increasingly gimmicky special models in order to reach their contractually obligated goal of 4000 total units. There’s been the convertible, the 722 edition, and most recently the totally topless, essentially windshield-less, and all but pointless SLR Stirling Moss, which is the final special edition before SLR production shuts down forever later this spring.

Mercedes has finally announced its next supercar, which will reach showrooms in 2010. As detailed in the pages of Automobile Magazine more than 2 years ago, the new ultimate sports machine, the SLS AMG, is a modern-day take on the classic Gullwing of the 1950s. In contrast to the SLR, McLaren is not a part of the project, which is instead being engineered entirely by Mercedes’ long-time in-house tuner, AMG.

With the SLS, AMG for the first time ever is responsible for the development of an entire vehicle, and the new Gullwing is an ambitious, ground-up effort. The car uses an aluminum body draped over an aluminum spaceframe chassis, which is a first for Mercedes-Benz. The extensive use of lightweight metal helps it reach a target curb weight of 3571 pounds. And, of course, the two-seater will use the characteristic gullwing doors, made famous by the Mercedes 300SL more than fifty years ago.

The new car uses the familiar 6.2-liter AMG V-8, set back behind the front axle. Here it will produce 563 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 38 hp and 15 pound-feet compared to the current V-8. AMG claims that the handbuilt engines have more than 120 new parts, largely in the intake and exhaust system, the dry sump lubrication system, and the crank mechanism. The engine is also lighter (only 454 lbs), due in part to the use of aluminum instead of steel for the crankcase and the engine bolts, forged rather than cast pistons, and a magnesium intake manifold. The dry sump lubrication system uses a remote reservoir, eliminating the oil pan and allowing for a lower profile.

The engine’s power is transferred to a rear-mounted, 7-speed dual clutch transaxle via a carbon-fiber driveshaft enclosed within an aluminum torque tube. The use of a rear transaxle helps the car achieve a 48/52 front/rear weight distribution.

The chassis uses aluminum double wishbones at all four wheels and composite brakes–or optional ceramic composite brakes (with telltale gold calipers)–to help keep the SLS on the road. Massive, 265/35 R19 front and 295/30 R20 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sports tires provide the grip–as much as 1.2g in lateral acceleration.

AMG is predicting a 3.8 second 0-to-62 mph sprint, and 0-to-124 mph in less than 12 seconds. As to the Nurburging lap time, AMG engineers would only say that it is “well under” 8 minutes. The top speed is electronically limited to 196 mph–oh, and the fuel economy rating is 18 mpg combined (Euro cycle), as if any buyers will care.

Look for the SLS AMG to appear undisguised at the Frankfurt auto show this fall, and to rumble into Mercedes-Benz dealerships in April 2010. Compared to the SLR, which runs nearly $500,000, the currently estimated price looks to be a relative bargain at around $250,000, but — even though production volume hasn’t yet been announced — we’re guessing the new Gullwing will be a lot harder to come by.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG – Preliminary Specifications (per manufacturer)

6.2-liter, 32-valve DOHC V-8
Power: 563 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
7200 rpm max engine speed

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive: rear-wheel

Wheels: 9.5 x 19 inch front, 11.0 x 20 inch rear
Tire size: 265/35 R19 front, 295/30 R 20 rear

Length: 183 in
Width: 76 in
Wheelbase: 105.5 in
Track front/rear: 66/65 in
Curb weight 3571 lbs

0-62 mph: 3.8 seconds
Top speed: 196 mph
Fuel economy: 18 mpg (city/hwy combined on Euro cycle)

On sale: spring 2010