Tuesday, 11 March 2014

SLS AMG GT Final Edition

This is the last-ever version of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, dubbed the “GT Final Edition”. It's only available in a limited run of 350 models. In fact we should have labelled this a “last drive”. Mercedes took the uncomfortable decision to axe its halo, gullwinged supercar. AMG chief Tobias Moers said, "It was always only supposed to have a life cycle of three years. We've expanded it out to this year already. End of story."

It gets the same 583bhp, 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine as the SLS AMG "GT', 480lb-ft of torque, rear-wheel-drive (obviously), a double-clutch seven-speed gearbox with the faster mapping of the “GT” version – including a “race start” function, and AMG ride control offering up two levels of damping, Sport and Sport+. Then there's the carbon fibre bonnet with a central air outlet, a carbon fibre splitter on the front apron, a fixed carbon fibre rear wing nicked from Black Series SLS we love so much here at TG, forged light alloy wheels wrapped in special Dunlop Sport Maxx Race tires, matte graphite paintwork of our test car and gloss-black rear apron struts.

Inside, there's diamond-patterned black leather, contrast top-stitching in silver, silver seat belts, carbon fibre trim and a numbered plaque. You can flex your wallet a little more with some options: carbon fibre mirrors/engine cover/interior pack, ceramic brakes and the excellent Bang & Olufsen sound system. Though, this last option is unnecessary, because the only sound system you'll ever need is that 6.2-litre, naturally aspirated V8.

AMG discussed internally putting the engine and drivetrain from the Black into the Final Edition, but decided against, lest it ruin the exclusivity of the Big Yellow Benz. When you're driving through town, with the gearbox set to “comfort” and the suspension on its softer setting, the SLS Final Edition is like a big, powerful, friendly Mercedes. This is good. The ride is firm, it's no S-Class, but not crushingly so, and there's that sense of occasion you won't get from other big-engined Benzes; that long bonnet ahead, the gullwing doors. When you're driving on a fast B-road, with the gearbox set to “manual” and the suspension set to nasty and your mind set on having a riotously good time, the SLS is like a big, loud, unfriendly bear.  The ride is super stiff, the gearbox is snappy and sharp, the nose bites in cleanly and quickly, and the rear steps out if you show it. The optional AMG ceramic composite brakes we had on our test car were also superb: squeaky when cold, but once up to temp they felt incredibly strong and with plenty of proper bite.

The atmospheric V8 veers between hilarious and terrifying. Place your foot and you'll get from zero to 62mph in 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 199mph should the road allow. As ever with the SLS, it's the engine that almost tyrannises your experience. Wring it right up to its 7,050rpm redline, and it'll spear you off down the road in a cacophony of old-school noise. It's impossible to drive this car without giggling like you're on heavy painkillers. Which makes it all the more depressing that this is the last time we'll see it in action: AMG is killing off this lovely, naturally aspirated monster for good.

Dynamically, the Final Edition is just like the GT, though with a fraction keener bite into the corners thanks to that lighter bonnet and rejigged aero. If you are Tanner Foust or have complete mastery over the throttle, there's a great mass of grip with oversteer on demand. If you are not Tanner Foust or have no concept of “slow-in-fast-out”, we'd advise supergluing the ESP button on.

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