Wednesday, January 30, 2013

David Gandy Drives: Mercedes SLS AMG Coupé

Gandy Drives: Mercedes SLS AMG Coupe

30 January 2013

As I parked the SLS on my street, flipped open the Gullwing door and got out doing my best Marty McFly impression, a young boy holding his dad's hand walked by. Staring open-mouthed at gorgeous dark Monaco blue car, the child tugged at the bottom of his father's jacket and quietly said, "Dad, it's Batman!"Now I'm not suggesting that the young boy thought I was Christian Bale, nor am I criticising his car knowledge in mistaking my car for Bruce Wayne's Lamborghini Aventador. Merely that, for me, this is the reason for choosing an SLS over its super-car rivals: it will make you look, and feel, like you are driving the Batmobile. Nothing more to be said! End of discussion! But in the interests of balanced reviewing, here are my thoughts on the car for any budding Batmen…


In short, simply stunning. The SLS doesn't make you look back just once after you've parked, it makes you look back until it's out of sight. I often find people standing around the car having their pictures taken. The chassis takes the finest design elements of the classic 300SL and gives them a modern interpretation. Then again, not everyone likes someone with a car that gets this amount of attention. Correction: Audi drivers don't like it. They wont let you out of junctions or lane change and will always attempt to race you. One such gentleman once deliberately drove into my car.It's a very wide car, so not ideal for London or British country lanes. Each width restriction barrier really is a clenched buttock cheeks, eyes closed moment.

Gullwing Doors

The reason this car is so unique and of course the main element that links it to the Fifties original. In reality they're hugely practical. They open up, not out, therefore only needing 30-something centimetres of space.The theatre of opening them up and climbing out never gets boring. The only drawback? Shorter people can't reach to close them. I've suggested electronic doors to Mercedes. Imagine pressing the key fob and the doors unlock and open while you walk up to the car. Please make this happen, Mercedes. Please, please, please

The engine

The SLS offers the best sounding V8 in the world, both stationery and at full throttle. (Sorry Aston and Ferrari.) It sounds like your very own Spitfire. It scares small children and the elderly. It almost insults your senses. To use full throttle in this car you either have to be slightly unhinged or be having a really, really bad day. Fuel-wise, a constant 75mph journey the SLS can return 25mpg - although on anything other than a constant 75mph run, it can return anything south of 12mpg

The interior

Surprisingly practical.  The boot is a good size and in the coupé you have the shelf behind the seats.  Can easily be packed for a week away, not just a weekend. The ergonomics are superb ergonomics. Every control is within a fingertip reach/ The cons? It's not quite special enough. At this price it needs to feel bespoke or handmade, but instead it feels more like a regular E-Class. I've also never been able to get used to difficult-to-use COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data system) rotary wheel/joystick.  A touch screen would be much quicker and intuitive. On the other hand, optional sports seats are the best seats in any car I have ever driven. I've experienced 300 mile trips without backache. I'm thinking of getting them for my living room.


The exploitable chassis is an absolute joy and feels like a larger, more powerful Lotus Elise. ESP and traction make the car virtually idiot proof (and more importantly, very safe) but can be turned down or off for the more advanced driver. The ride is hard but never uncomfortable and the SLS is versatile: this model can go from track car to long distance GT.The brakes are progressive and powerful. You don't think about them, you just know they are there when you need them…and you will!The steering and seats provide so much feedback, I now understand where the term "drive by the seat of your pants" comes from. Cons: as it's so low to the ground, the coupé  has a tendency to catch its nose on speed bumps and uneven surfaces, even at a snail's pace. What's more, this car will bite. Keep a change of underwear on hand if you're thinking about turning the ESP off. Brutal fun but slides are easy to catch and just about as much fun you can have with said pants on.


In full attack automatic mode, the SLS' gear box works well. However, it's slow witted and takes forever to engage from drive to reverse (and vice versa).In "C" mode the gearbox holds as high a gear as possible and is not intuitive. Go for a quick squeeze of the throttle at a roundabout or to overtake and the gearbox doesn't react. It's titanically slow, which can be dangerous.


Give me £160k to spend on a car at the moment and this would be it. Yes, there are a few cars that will handle better and are quicker around a track, but today on roads filled with traffic, not to mention more cameras than a Canon showroom, and you need more than just speed and handling from your ride. Enter the SLS. Opening the doors and getting in is an event (in fact it's an event to just approach this car!). There's an old school brutality, finesse and class that harks back to the Fifties, the era of the original 300SL. You never feel the crassness or slight embarrassment you feel when driving, say, a Ferrari or Aston along with various footballers or middle aged bankers. Every drive in this car feels like a privilege. The length of the bonnet, the doors and the engine noise all come together to make you feel that you are driving something very special. Is it too expensive? Yes. But that just cements it's uniqueness - you rarely see, never mind pass, another SLS on the road. If I bought this car it would stay in my family for the next 60 years, not just because we won't see another car of this calibre for a very long time, but simply because it's that special.


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