The crunching, thumping SLS AMG Black Series has already been announced, but before the lucky few get theirs, the new mid-spec SLS GT is already here.
This review was first publishes in MOTOR magazine's January 2013 issue.
Running in both Gullwing Coupe and swingy-openy Roadster shells, the GT brings the AMG flagship a touch more power and, at the same time, slightly reduces the dominant hold that 6.2-litre dry-sumped V8 has over the rest of the car.
The twin cores of the upgrade are actually the gearbox and the suspension, with the seven-speed dual-clutch tranny getting tweaks to make it shift faster and smoother and the bouncy bits getting tweaks to make them rougher.
Go figure? Oh, there are visual changes that you might spot under an electron microscope, but you’ll be hard pressed to bother looking when the machinery is such a modern-day AC Cobra: all thumping American-style muscle inside sophisticated European chassis technology.
That’s how it feels, with another 20 horses lifting the SLS GT to 435kW at 6800rpm, but the only solid thing altered in the engine is its embiggened intake manifold, which doesn’t lift the torque from its 650Nm mark.
Still, it’s an impressive thing, firing up all angry at the world and spitting and burbling and gargling and snapping when on the move. And when it hammers, its deep, ripping engine note makes V8 Supercars seem detuned as its launch control thumps it to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds. It’ll hit 200km/h in another 7.5 seconds, too, and burst beyond 320km/h.
Around Hockenheim’s confines, the coupe topped out around the 270-kay mark before its rock-solid anchors backed it off, it whipped into corners and slid progressively out of them, but it feels even faster on the road than the track.
Some of that is, subconsciously, because part of you knows that it’s just plain rude to make noises like this on public streets in full view of the kiddies, even if they stand open-mouthed as it bellows past. But its gearbox hasn’t been so universally loved, being stretched beyond original intent so that it was slower than the rest and jerky now and again.
It's not like that any more. They’ve attacked the software and the clutches and now it bangs through in 60 milliseconds. Thankfully, it doesn’t make you look like you’ve got Parkinson’s at light throttle like the regular one and the gearbox changes make it much easier to live with.
Oh, you’ll still find yourself shifting down unnecessarily, just to hear the engine try to rip leaves off trees and you’ll still stab the throttle now and again, just to hear it burble when you lift off again. Sometimes you might even want to drive it hard. The real downside is that the Comfort button for the suspension that was added when the Roadster arrived has gone missing.
By all accounts, the SLS is not at its best on Australian blacktop and it’s hard to imagine the omission will help, because the GT also gets firmer springs and dampers. What it really proves is that the best SLS GT to buy is the Roadster. It not only looks better but it’s more practical (its sills are lower) and it rides better and seems to manage mid-corner bumps better, too.
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But both versions ride harder than the standard SLS models and even though it has more handling ability and grip, there’s a downside. The firmer suspension hasn’t made either car easier to live with in the real world, and you probably won’t notice 20 horses in amongst the rest of the string.
In fact, you’re better off waiting until this gearbox upgrade filters down and then get the stock SLS. With the Comfort mode. But none of this matters for us here in Oz, as Mercedes, unfortunately, won’t be adding the GT to local showrooms.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Specs:
Engine: 6208cc V8, DOHC, 32v
Power: 435kW @ 6800rpm
Torque: 650Nm @ 4750rpm
0-100km/h: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 320km/h