The electrically assisted power steering of the Lexus takes 2.4 turns from lock-to-lock, about 0.4 turn less than the hydraulically boosted rack-and-pinion device fitted to the Benz. The helm of the LFA feels light and communicative, quick and responsive. The SLS has meatier steering, with slightly stronger self-centering action, but turn-in is equally attentive and feedback doesn't deteriorate on poor tarmac or when you wind on more lock. Both stability control systems offer an intermediate sport setting -- the Lexus setting deactivates traction control; the Mercedes raises the intervention threshold. On public roads, that's all it takes for a gentle nudge of power oversteer at the exit of an open bend.
On the track, you can remove the safety net completely, thereby clearing the stage for tail slides lurid enough to qualify for the next national drift challenge. In the LFA, the steering makes the car feel light and nimble and chuckable, but even the heaviest right foot must first get used to the sky-high revs required to smoke the tires. In the SLS, the balance between steering and throttle is more natural and better weighted. At very high velocities, the Gullwing needs fewer corrections to maintain a steady line, but it is more easily irritated by long undulations and sharp expansion joints.
With some 5700 miles on the odometer and a long weekend at the Nürburgring Nordschleife under its belt, our preproduction Lexus felt a little loose and tired. Although fitted with standard carbon-ceramic discs, it could have done with fresh brake pads to smooth the grinding noises and the rather rough response. The SLS was also equipped with carbon-ceramic brake rotors -- optional in its case -- which decelerate the coupe about as effectively as the thrust reverser of a jet engine. But it's not only the sheer stopping power that impresses, it's also how the car copes with split-friction turf, hot brake discs, and wet pavement. Despite its substantial size and weight, the SLS will actually outcorner most other sports cars on the planet. Although the numbers may tell a different story, the commendably progressive SLS feels as though it pulls more lateral g's than the LFA, which is hindered by a slight front-to-rear grip imbalance and a more brittle suspension. On the racetrack, this is rarely an issue. But through patchwork corners, the Lexus feels busier, more nervous, and less stable. In these conditions, which can also apply on ancient autobahn sections, a little more compliance would probably make a big difference.