My day today began with mixed emotions. There I was on my way to the Mercedes-Benz World facility at Brooklands to drive the SLS AMG GT. A good day by anyones standards, but why was I also a bit glum? This would be the last time I was to drive this car that has captured my attention since its conception in 2010. The SLS’ production run has now ended. As the sun rose above the empty motorway I knew that it would inevitably set closing the day and my final taste of this fantastic machine.
Upon my arrival a shining echo of the past drew up. An original 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL, the forefather of the SLS, welcomed me. As one of the most iconic cars in the world, the “gullwing” captured the attention of everyone around it. Its long proud bonnet and curvaceous profile creates a silhouette that is not only instantly recognisable, but also astonishingly beautiful. From under a rising gullwing door appeared Rob Durrent, Communications Executive at Mercedes-Benz World and the exceedingly helpful chap who helped arrange this day. I was to get a passenger ride in the 300SL around the track before, chronologically, stepping back into the modern day and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT. As the 3.0 litre straight six engine fired into life and idled you could feel this cars pulse. It buzzed with majesty, brimmed with history and set off with the mechanical clicks and whines you only get with a classic car. Once up to temperature Rob did not hold back on “the old girl.” Driving with utter commitment, and a bit sideways at times, the 300SL roared into its prime reliving its race car heritage once again. This was a real treat and something that utterly disproved the “never meet your heroes” cliche. The living legend was impressive, not just for a 59 year-old car, but full stop.
I was then presented with my Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT. All warmed up and ready to go, this was quite the example in a deep grey paint scheme that gave it extra presence. Just like its 60 year old predecessor, the profile can not be mistaken. Built in the image of the 300SL, this supercar for the iPod generation blends its purebred bloodline with bold modern design. As the gullwing doors came down, we took flight.
The soundtrack of the 6.2 litre naturally aspirated engine is sonorous. It rumbles and thunders shouting at the world around it with all of its 583 horses that it contains under the bonnet stretching to the horizon. Turning into sharp corners you can feel the weight of the car shift as you place the SLS right on the apex utilising its accurate steering. Putting your foot down in this car feels like you are tearing a hole in the fabric of reality. 650Nm of torque surges you onwards before slamming on those brakes, which were very effective even being the standard non-carbon discs, and clicking down the gears. It cracks and pops with all the theatre of an artillery battle!
I couldn’t allow my final drive in the SLS to pass without some sideways action and so entered the joyous world of oversteer. On a low friction surface it was with ease that you could make this GT dance sideways. Through the seat of your pants the car communicates allowing for delicate throttle adjustment and fingertip inputs to the steering. As the car glided sideways in a moment of rubber burning joy, I pondered if the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG would become as iconic as the 300SL in 60 years time. I hope so.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is an analogue hero for our digital world, a car that needs you as much as you need it. As this machines chapter comes to a close, I can’t help but think I shall miss it dearly.