First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Equally impressive are the brakes. One can specify extra-large carbon-ceramic rotors which are immune to high temperatures and offer a 40 percent weight advantage, but even the standard steel discs are very good at neutralizing excess kinetic energy. Despite the commendably short pedal travel, the massive six- and four-pot calipers cover the complete deceleration spectrum from touch-then-go-again to all-anchors-dropped.

No, we don't know yet how the SLS fares on broken pavement, on twisty autobahn sections, or in stop-and-go traffic. If the performance on the track is any indication, the new AMG-Mercedes promises to be one of the true greats.

Look for the SLS to make its public debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September and U.S. sales to start next summer, with production capped at 5000 per year. Next in the five-year cycle of the project is the roadster, which goes on sale in early 2011. Three and a half years later, we are going to see a limited-edition farewell Black Series gullwing. And believe it or not, there is also a zero-emission version in the works for 2012.

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

Engine: 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)

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