We were driving along in Mike's 2014 final edition SLS AMG on the freeway, when all of a sudden he pulls over onto the shoulder. I started thinking… "Hmm, did something go wrong with the car? Is he sick of me...does he want to kick me out?"
As we slowly come to a stop, he glances at me and says "You can drive home."
I thought I was dreaming but fortunately, this wasn't a dream. This was really happening.
And just like that, I found myself at the wheel of a rare supercar built by Mercedes. This was going to be the best day of my life. You might be thinking that it's an exaggeration, but not really. Considering the fact that I had never driven a supercar before, this was absolutely thrilling.
But let me say that wasn't just any supercar. This was the final edition version of the SLS AMG GT of which only 350 were built. Mike bought this with no intention of selling it and treats it more as a collector's item than just a weekend exotic. He plans on keeping it forever and handing it down to his grandchildren some day; he even has a logbook where he meticulously tracks every mile driven which he plans to preserve along with the car itself. So you can see - this AMG is something special.
Mike has been a lifelong Mercedes fan, purchasing his first one in 1975 which was the Mercedes 280. When he found out that Mercedes was going to stop production of the SLS, he scrambled to find one. There were a couple he came across but none of them had the exact options he was looking for. After all, if you're spending the kind of money on a car that you could buy a house with, you would want it to be perfect.
He almost gave up hope after not being able to find an SLS anywhere with the specific options he was looking for. However, miraculously, he was able to get a purchase order through and secured himself to be one of the owners of the 350 Final Edition SLS AMG GT coupes that were being built in the last year.
The SLS AMG was such a blast to drive. The monstrous 6.2L V8 seems to have endless amounts of power as you move through the gears in the AMG's 7-speed dual clutch transmission that shifts blindingly fast. In "sport" mode, the throttle was sensitive and reactive with the steering being extremely precise and communicative.
This is what it's like the drive the SLS. As soon as the light turns green, tap the throttle ever so slightly and you'll find yourself propelling forward and before you know it, you hit the speed limit. Then you realize that the speed limit is so low that you get bored and find yourself itching to go way faster. Mercedes has even made a point to emphasize this. Take a look at the speedometer below.
It took me a while to figure out where the hell 45 mph even was! It is buried way down below on the dial. When you quickly glance down at the speedometer, you can easily spot the markings of 100 mph and greater. But where is 60 mph? 40 mph? Do they not even exist??….oh…there it is…way down there.
Mercedes is basically telling you that 40-50 mph, or even 60 mph is so insignificant that it's not even worth it to inform you of those speeds.
120 mph? 130 mph? Now that's more like it. Anything below that? Worthless.
In "sport" mode I constantly felt like I was driving this monster that was wanting to be let loose - sort of like walking a German shepherd on a leash who is desperately trying to escape to chase after a cat. In "comfort" mode things were toned down slightly, but not by much. The car really does belong on a track. You can drive it on regular roads but it just does not do the car justice and you don't really get a feel for what the car is actually capable of. This is one AMG unlike any others I've driven.
I don't think a Lamborghini and Ferrari attract as much attention as this car. Heads literally turned everywhere we went. I don't think most people even knew what the car was. As if the car didn't stand out enough, Mike's car has a carbon-fiber hood and spoiler with an aggressive color combination of black and red throughout.
It was interesting for me to note people's reactions. Kids loved the car. When we pulled up at a stoplight next to a school bus all the kids in the bus started clapping and yelling; they were ecstatic to see a car that looked like it was from a different planet.
With adults, you had your usual people who stared at the car in admiration and/or appreciation with the occasional thumbs up. Then there were people who literally had this look of loathing and disgust on their faces - an expression that screamed "I can't believe you bought this - you should be ashamed of yourself." Or maybe their expression resulted from catching a glimpse a pet owner not picking up their dog's poop on the sidewalk….
After driving around for a while, we did what anyone should do in an SLS - a 0-60 mph timed test. Using the AMG media center, we switched to the "track display" and engaged "race start" mode. We then took off. Mike didn't really go all out but even so we hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds which is very fast considering I was in the car weighing it down. The SLS can supposedly 60 mph in mid-3 second range which totally seems doable to me.
In typical Mercedes style, there was lots of luxury in the car to be enjoyed. The cockpit felt similar to a Viper - fairly tight with small windows situated behind a huge engine. The big difference, of course, was that we were surrounded by tons of buttons, switches and loads of carbon-fiber and Alcantara everwhere. The fit and finish were amazing.
The ride was relatively stiff which is to be expected from a car built for the race track. The coolest feature, well, I should say one of the coolest features, was the track layout option in the AMG's media center. There were a couple German tracks pre-built into the system so you can monitor your driving performance as you race around the track.
Not in Germany? No worries - you can set the computer to create a track as you race around it - the Circuit of the Americas, for example. And once it maps out the track and stores it, you can start tracking your performance.
What does all this tell you? This car belongs on a race track.
I assumed that you could raise and lower these gull-wing doors with the push of a button, but I was wrong. These doors are actually manual and you have to pull them down (honestly knowing how Mercedes is, I thought it would all be powered without you ever having to lift a finger). This actually can be a little bit of a problem if you don't have long enough arms but hey - the gull-wings look insanely awesome and it was pretty cool the raise and lower the doors.
I was surprised by how loud the exhaust is from the outside - I tried to capture the sounds in the video. I think Mercedes does a nice job of retaining enough of a "muscle car"-like V8 sound without muting it too much. It sounds incredible from outside the car.
After getting a chance to check out the SLS, I tried to convince Mike that he should try the car out at the Circuit of the Americas. I'm sure that he would gain a new appreciation for the car if he takes it out there.
At the end of the day, Mike had me sign in his SLS logbook. If this car ends up being a classic and sells for $50M many years from now, I'll be a tiny part of this AMG's history. What a car.
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