The 300 SL ‘gullwing’ of the mid-1950s was a supremely tough act to follow. A car that’s passed into the hall-of-fame of all-time classics, how could any modern car hope to emulate that fabulous story, fusing grand touring with road-racing in such effortless style? Well, Mercedes-Benz had a plan, and the SLS AMG of 2010 was the answer: the first ever model to be fully conceived, designed and built by AMG. Up to this point, every AMG model had been based upon an existing Mercedes, but this sensational new sports tourer was a full-fat bespoke AMG product. The M159 engine under the bonnet shares the glory, being the first ever engine wholly designed and built by AMG, and much like the classic SL, the new-wave redux was available as a hard-top with gullwing doors or as an elegant roadster. But as you can see here, the elegance is underpinned by a simmering malevolence; it may be a civilised and pleasant thing to cruise in, but race-car lunacy is only a quick prod of the throttle away.
Designed with key input from F1 legend David Coulthard, and described by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear as ‘the greatest car in the world’ and ‘the thinking man’s supercar’, it’s certainly got the kudos to back up the performance. Oh, and what performance it is: 563bhp provides a 0-62mph time of 3.7s and a top speed tantalisingly close to 200mph, and it all happens in sumptuously trimmed comfort. It’s got all the toys and a decent-sized boot so it’s eminently usable, and the brimstone-gargling motor acts like a pussycat around town. The greatest car in the world? It’s certainly a strong contender…
The first thing you notice when you start scrutinising the SLS AMG market is that most of them are silver. Perhaps you’ll find a handful of cars which are white or black, but it’s extremely unusual to find a red one. This tells us that the first owner was a person of extraordinary good taste, as the Sapphire Red suits the SLS’s elegant lines absolutely perfectly; indeed, we’d go so far as to suggest that it’s the best possible colour for the car.
The SLS has evidently been cherished and pampered, having covered an extremely modest 14,750 miles since 2011, and it’s always been correctly serviced. It’s a high-spec car, and offered today in all-original and beautiful condition.
The car comes with all of the correct manuals, handbooks and literature, and it has a full service history. Records are extremely easy to track with modern Mercedes-Benzes, and there are full printouts of the electronic service records present showing precisely what’s been done, when, and by whom. The current owner bought the car from specialist dealer William Loughran in August 2015, and the invoice is present to show that it was bought for £155,000.
The interior of the SLS is finished in Exclusive Black Anthracite trim, which complements the vivid exterior colour perfectly. Equipment includes the optional carbon fibre interior pack, as well as integrated nav and media with iPod function, DAB radio, garage door opener, reversing camera, air-scarf, memory seats, blind spot assist, and the AMG heated steering wheel. As you’d expect of a car with such low miles, the seats and steering wheel show no obvious signs of wear, it all feels crisp and fresh inside. All of the buttons, dials and switchgear are working as they should, as is all of the interior lighting. There are no scuffs, stains or scratches anywhere, the windows seal properly against the hood, and everything is present with no trim pieces missing. It really is a very well presented interior indeed.
The Sapphire Red paint is stunning, quite frankly, and takes on new levels of extraordinary depth in the bright sunshine. To complement the interior’s carbon details, the SLS is also equipped with the exterior carbon pack, which includes carbon fibre wing mirror caps. It’s evident that the car has been very well looked after, as we were unable to find any evidence of stonechips, scratches, parking dings or scuffs. All of the correct trim is in place, and the panel fit is as impeccable as you’d expect. The roof is in excellent condition, and raises and lowers extremely quickly – Mercedes-Benz quoted an operating time of eleven seconds when the car was new, and it doesn’t seem to have slowed down any since.
The wheels on this model are of staggered diameter, with 19” rims up front and 20” out back; all four show no signs of corrosion and just a very light amount of kerbing to the passenger-side wheels which would be a simple fix. They all wear quality Continental tyres with plenty of tread. The active rear spoiler works as it should, and raises and lowers on the button too.
The beating heart of this imposing machine is the glorious M159 engine, and what’s particularly interesting about its development is that it was always intended to be a race engine that also happened to be used in road cars, rather than the other way around; the dry-sumped variant is used in the AMG GT3 race cars as well as the SLS AMG, which makes for a superb pub boast. Also, fun fact – this family of engines is always badged as ‘6.3’ (you can see the chrome emblems on the front wings), but it’s actually a 6.2 – the badging is a homage to Mercedes’ first production V8, the old 6.3 that was used in the plutocrat-spec Grosser.
This SLS’s engine is in very fine fettle, having always been meticulously looked after. The service history shows how well it’s been cared for, and as you’d expect it fires up immediately on the first push of the button, registers all the right temperatures and pressures, idles correctly, and pulls like a freight train with the hammer down. Magnificent fun! There are no issues with the transmission either, it shifts smoothly when it should; we can see from the paperwork that the fluid has been changed at the correct date intervals despite the car’s low mileage. All is well with the suspension, steering and brakes, and it’s a neat touch that the brake calipers are colour-coded.
The SLS AMG is something of a modern marvel. It’s no surprise that the critics loved it, as this was a car built entirely without compromise. It’s improbably quick thanks to that mighty, bespoke AMG motor; the sublime chassis is perfectly set up to offer a fusion of cosseting comfort when cruising and cat-like agility when it’s playtime, and the superbly appointed interior (and, in particular, the completely wonderful seats) means that it’s the consummate grand tourer as well as an extremely credible supercar in the truest sense.
All SLSs are desirable, and while the gullwings have a strong retro appeal, it’s the drop-top variant that makes most sense as a complete package; it offers everything that you could ever wish for from a performance car, along with the alluring ability to lower the roof and really hear that road-racer powerplant. But it’s the colour which makes this SLS more desirable than most. Whether you’re cruising to the riviera, clipping apexes at Silverstone, or parking up outside Harrods, all eyes will be on the lipstick-red roadster. Forget all those everyday silver ones – this is how you spec an SLS properly.
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