You may remember Mercedes’ last attempt at a “price no object” supercar: the Mercedes McLaren SLR. It was a thundering achievement, but the big Merc’s brakes were as touchy as an seventy-year-old Argentinian security officer at a Truth and Reconciliation hearing. That’s a guardrail of not good. There were other “issues”: leg room, trunk space (or a complete lack thereof), steering feel, road noise, autobox only and the fact that Paris Hilton owned one. Truth be told, the SLR was compromised from the git-go; McLaren designers were hamstrung by the car’s front mid-engined layout. The project left a bitter taste in both companies’ metaphorical mouths. McLaren went its own way and built its own supercar (whose American debut has been delayed). Mercedes took a clean sheet of paper to their in-house tuning wizards, AMG. For some unfathomable reason, TTAC wasn’t invited to the press event to drive the SLS AMG. But we can read. And when Car and Driver complains about a car’s handling, you know there’s trouble in fluss stadt.
The SLS has plenty of grip from its fat Continental tires (265/35-19 front, 295/30-20 rear), the speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering delivers feel and accuracy that approaches perfection, the brakes are formidable, and, of course, there’s no shortage of power. But for all that, there was sliding about that came on with little or no warning. This chassis is exceptional, but for some reason it wasn’t telling us everything we needed to know about its limits.
We hasten to add that these little episodes of slippin’ and slidin’ weren’t remotely fraught with peril or even excessive drama. Still, they did add seconds to our lap times. And the responses of the transmission in pure manual mode seemed a little slow compared to other dual-clutch units we’ve encountered. Perhaps more track time would improve our performance, and thus our reaction to the SLS as a track-day ride? We’re happy to volunteer.
If there’s a better example of Car and Driver‘s mealy-mouthed craven capitulation to advertiser sensibilities, I’m sure it’s easy enough to find (open the magazine for a start). And if SLS drivers don’t care about their car’s on the limit handling, perhaps they should. Note: the original Gullwing had a nasty reputation for on-the-limit instability. What goes around . . . ?