Taking Wing

A legend bids farewell: The last Gullwing left the factory this summer. Six experts and enthusiasts describe the fascination of this Mercedes-Benz supercar.

When the SLS AMG was unveiled to the public for the first time in 2009, it caused an immediate sensation. The supercar, with its aluminium spaceframe body, 6.2-litre front-mid V8 engine and double-wishbone sports suspension, was capable of accelerating from 0–100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and cut a figure as elegant as it was sporty. The first car developed independently by Mercedes-AMG wasted no time in racking up countless major awards, and it came out on top in numerous comparison tests. The car was duly launched in a variety of guises: Coupe, open-top Roadster, GT, Black Series, Final Edition, as well as the GT3 racing version and SLS AMG Electric Drive – the latter the world’s most powerful production car with an electric drive system. After more than four years in production, the final Gullwing rolled off the assembly line in the middle of this year. But a new supercar is already in the starting blocks at AMG in Affalterbach, Germany. The Mercedes-AMG GT, the second sports car designed from nose to tail in Affalterbach, hits Canadian shores this fall. “We’ve clearly benefited from our experience with the development of the SLS,” explains AMG head Tobias Moers. “The bar’s been set high, but we’re looking at the Mercedes-AMG GT as a stand-alone car, not a successor to the SLS.” Before the new model takes to the road, we asked six experts to put words to the mystique and allure of the SLS AMG, a car that, in its many different guises, has already become a collector’s item.

The Boss

Tobias Moers

Tobias Moers, Chief Executive of Mercedes-AMG

“A new era began for us with the unveiling of the SLS AMG in 2009. It was the first car we had developed entirely in-house. For me as part of the development team, it was a very special experience to bring a supercar of this kind from drawing board to road. Its innovative technology and design have earned the SLS AMG iconic status – and its many variants and triumphs in motorsports have won it fans around the world. The new Mercedes-AMG GT, which we are unveiling this autumn, will give us the opportunity to position AMG even more aggressively as a dynamic sports car maker. A pure-bred sports car with AMG DNA is evidence of our ability to convert our high standards of driving dynamics, agility and sports performance into reality.”

The GT3 expert

Thomas Jager

Thomas Jäger, AMG Customer Sports Driver

“The SLS AMG GT3 racing car represents AMG’s entry into the world of customer motorsports. The aim was to lay down a new benchmark for the GT3 race series in terms of safety, drivability and running costs. The biggest difference between the race-spec machine and the standard road car is that all the comfort-related equipment has been stripped to reduce weight. The car also rides very low. The suspension minimizes tire wear, which allows the car to continue setting very strong lap times over longer distances. That gives it a major advantage over its rivals on the track. However, to win races you don’t just need speed, you need reliability as well – and the SLS AMG GT3 has proven it has that with an impressive number of victories in endurance racing.”

The Visionary

Lutz Fugener

Lutz Fügener, professor of vehicle design, Pforzheim University

“The gullwing doors are clearly the defining feature of the SLS – they make it what it is. But its proportions are also very successful. The front end doesn’t look over-the-top aggressive and, while the rear is surprising, everything fits together very well. It’s like the car has been cut from a single mould. But the SLS AMG doesn’t only look like a sports car, it drives like one. It delivers on the promise made by its design. And it references Mercedes-Benz history – clearly a good idea when you’ve got that kind of heritage to draw on. This kind of retro concept is one thing, but I think it’s more interesting to explore how the sports car of the future will look. That’s why I can’t wait for the Mercedes-AMG GT.”

The Racing Driver

Bernd Maylander

Bernd Mayländer, driver of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Official F1 Safety Car

“I was handed my first Safety Car in 2000, a CL 55 AMG with a 5.5-litre V8 engine developing 360 hp. Nowadays I drive an SLS AMG GT, which also has a V8 but comes with a whole lot more power – 591 hp, to be precise. So the SLS AMG GT is not that far from the standard output of Formula 1 cars, when their turbo and energy recovery systems aren’t in play. It’s a good thing I can count on a powerful engine: At the Grand Prix in Monza, for example, I’m hitting between 275 km/h and 280 km/h during a Safety Car phase. When it’s raining, in particular, the SLS can hold its own very respectably among the F1 cars – even though they carry half the weight. The SLS AMG is a very direct car, i.e. it responds quickly at the front axle, which allows you to maintain a very tight line. With every evolutionary stage the car has become more modern, more comfortable, faster and more direct. The Safety Car is fitted with two monitors, a radio, GPS, a camera system – and, I’m pleased to say, air conditioning. When I’m out for a long time in the Safety Car I sometimes miss a nice sound system [smiles]. But that’s been taken out for good reason, of course.”

The Fan

Kazunori Yamauchi

Kazunori Yamauchi, developer of video game Gran Turismo and amateur racing driver

“Of course, the SLS AMG is one of the cars you can drive in our Gran Turismo racing game. As a motor racing fan myself, I’ve already driven the road-spec version as well as the GT3 racing car on the Nordschleife course at Nürburgring. Its wide track, long wheelbase and optimum weight distribution for a rear-wheel-drive car show that the Mercedes-AMG engineers have focused their attention not only on speed but also on good drivability. The SLS is extremely fast, but also enjoyable to drive. This type of car allows you to focus your mind 100 percent on the business of driving when you’re behind the wheel: You’re not fighting the car, so you can concentrate fully on improving your lap times. Plus, I’ve felt very safe in the SLS – and that’s not a sensation you get in many supercars.”

The Owner


Guido Hommel, businessman and car collector

“I was one of the first people to buy an SLS AMG. When I picked it up that winter, there were 15 centimetres of snow on the ground. But I didn’t care, I couldn’t wait any longer. I’ve been collecting cars for 40 years – to drive them, not watch them gathering dust in a garage. I’m always on the lookout for special cars. That explains why I also own an old SL 300. Clearly, there’s a world of difference between the classic SL and the modern SLS, but the gullwing doors make them both a magnet for attention. My favourite aspects of the SLS AMG are its dynamic repertoire and the sound it makes. Once I was even flagged down by a group of youngsters who just wanted me to rev the engine a few times.”

The List: Fall 2014
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