By on November 6, 2009

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 . . . ?

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20 Comments on “SLS AMG Another Mercedes Death Car?...”


  • avatar
    superbadd75

    This car, regardless of its supercar power, is made for the rich to tool around in with style. That’s pretty much it. The Paris Hiltons and Britney Spearses (Spearsii?) of the world will be just fine with its scary at-the-limit handling considering the fact that their cars will never be driven to within a country mile of it. The Black Series Benzes are more of what the real enthusiast looks for.

  • avatar
    John R

    LFA for FTW?

  • avatar
    Vega

    Please Robert. Death Car? And for that matter: ANOTHER Death Car? Hyperbole much? Linkbait?

    I really enjoy your insights about the state of the American auto industry, but sometimes the line between uncovering corruption and conspiracy theory gets a little blurry.

    From a safe distance, “death cars” and “ABS victims” look awfully like white wales, Ahab…

  • avatar
    pk1

    Check out Henry Catchpole from EVO UK: http://www.evo.co.uk/news/evonews/244504/mercedes_sls_amg.html

    The tend to be pretty critical, up there with Tog Gear and Car. Gee, is it possible that having no critical automotive press might have helped the downfall of the American auto industry?

    Anyway, the 458 is probably technically far more advanced, offers better on- and off track handling, and more comfots. Still, the SLS is hot.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    We’ll be watching wreckedexotics.com for the follow up.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I wouldn’t be too hasty to judge any car by what C/D said about it, particularly since no here at TTAC has driven it. Give it time and we’ll see if it’s just a great looking toy or a real track performer.

  • avatar
    wrxer

    SLS. The answer to a need that doesn’t exist. And a vehicle designed during the credit swollen 2000′s when any fugly design with the right badge on it would sell like hotcakes to poseurs and wanna-bes. Yes, I’m looking at you BMW, Benz and Porsche.

  • avatar
    TZ

    I thought we had long ago concluded that C&D’s opinion on most things should be disregarded.

  • avatar
    imag

    Superbadd is right. And the black series will be the real track car.

    In the end, though, the car will always be a Merc more than a track weapon. Personally, I think it’s nice that there’s a supercar out there with a different focus. And while oversteer slows one down, it’s also more fun than the usually obligatory understeer. My guess is that no one will be really trying to set records with this car anyway…

    On handling, more than one mag has said the ZR1 is not easy to drive fast. People complain about the GT-R being the opposite. I would love to have a chance to complain about any of them from the driver’s seat. In the end, though, a true manual is requisite for my dream car.

  • avatar
    avus9

    review reminds me of the 5th gear episode between the M3 and C63 –
    recall the C63 sliding and drifting everywhere around the track

  • avatar
    Hognose

    Back in the 1960s there was a fantastic magazine called Sports Car Graphic. A number of the writers were pukka racers — Ken Miles, for one (RIP). (Miles was the guy that clueless Ford suits screwed out of the Le Mans win he’d earned, for the sake of a photo op. If you think Detroit management gormlessness is new, you must be young).

    Anyway, even before C&D got sucked into the homogenizing maw of Hachette Fillipacchi, the beaux ecríteurs of SCG called it, “Carp & Drivel.” (It’s competitor on newsstands but near-peer in babyfood blandness was, to Sports Car Graphic, “Rod & Truck.” Which later wound up mulched into HF as well. Maybe it wasn’t baby food that I was thinking of.

    I still think of the magazines by those pet names, lo these many years on. I suppose C&D is still testing “five sport sedans” and concluding with gushing praise for this year’s BMW, for which a two-page ad centers the rag.

  • avatar
    Seth L

    So it will be like the CLR then?

  • avatar

    I don’t know. if Patrice likes it THAT much, it must be pretty damn good.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Meh, cars don’t kill people. People kill people, and usually they kill only themselves flying off the LA hills in cars like these. Besides, the celebutards who buy these are just as likely to OD.

  • avatar

    Lots of power, questionable styling that supposedly is heritage without any of the elegance of the original, handling a bit dodgy.

    This would not even be near the top of their list for anyone who was a driver, but for the rich who want something different than their buddy next mansion over? Sounds about right.

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    You may remember Mercedes’ last attempt at a “price no object” supercar: the Mercedes McLaren SLR.

    I remember it being nothing special as far as supercars go, and hideous to boot. Mercedes HAS built a hell of a “price no object” supercar fairly recently, though – the CLK GTR. Now that was a proper supercar. Let’s see Paris drive one of those.

  • avatar

    The SLR is notable for the most blantantly phallic front end in automotive history, which is saying a lot. I’ll let RF decide how the SLR and a certain Subaru might belong in the same sentence.

    Thankfully they’ve backed off on the styling this time around.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    I’ll have an LF-A thanks.

  • avatar
    cwmoo740

    Edmunds seems to like it, and that’s good enough for me. Edmunds Inside Line mentioned that they were using the racing TC setting for all their laps, and that it was pretty lenient with the throttle oversteer. Maybe C&D is just too used to having TC save their ass and needs some more sensitivity training.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Maybe Im getting old..

    Maybe Im losing “faith” in all things MB being fantastic..

    But this.. just doesnt strike me as a vehicle I even want a picture or a 1/18 diecast of..

    Looks as boring as a E Class, with more nanny features than any one person should have.

    The car’s design is a retro one.. where the doors are where the design as started.

    Just like the current Camaro..
    What is going to be more valuable in 2050.. a 2010 model or a 1967?

    On top of..
    Im sure every trampy, coked up celeb, who really has no actual driving ability (and normally drives a Slade / GL) will love this.. for the fact of just “buying” errr leasing it.


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