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2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Preview

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Preview

By Jeff Youngs,
2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGCritical Knowledge:
  • All-new Mercedes-Benz flagship model
  • Inspired by the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing"
  • Automaker's first all-aluminum "spaceframe" design
  • Unique roof-hinged doors
  • 563-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 engine
  • 7-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Top speed of 195 mph (manufacturer's claim)
  • Assembled in Germany
  • Arrives in the spring of 2010
The all-new 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was directly inspired by the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" coupe-aptly named for its roof-hinged doors which opened like the flying wings of a gull. Arguably one of the most artfully sculpted and beautiful Mercedes models of all time, the original Gullwing was developed into a successful race car during its prime. Today, the 300SL "Gullwing" has become a highly desired collectible.

In an attempt to capture the traits embodied by the classic Gullwing, Mercedes-Benz and its performance subsidiary, AMG, have created an all-new sports car with a purist design incorporating lightweight materials and advanced engineering technologies. While most automakers seek function and utility with their latest models, the Mercedes SLS AMG puts distinctive design and driving passion first. With the new SLS, the automaker is attempting to "create the classic car of the future and put the most beautiful sports car of the 21st century on the road," says Mercedes.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG will be assembled in Germany and arrives in the spring of 2010.

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2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGDesign
The two-seat SLS AMG features a long hood, with a passenger greenhouse situated very far back on the platform. A wide track, short front and rear overhangs, and a low-slung chassis leave little doubt that the SLS is designed for performance. While the side gills with their bright chrome accents are historically styled, the most unique feature-defining the retro-classic Mercedes look-are the twin roof-hinged "gullwing" doors which open wide over the passenger compartment.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the cabin design was inspired by aircraft to evoke an ambience associated with a plane cockpit. The dashboard, with its "wing-like profile" creates an impression of width, while the ventilation nozzles, each with "silver shadow" electroplating, call to mind jet engines. Even the SLS's transmission shifter, set between the passenger seats, recalls a jet's thrust regulator. The cabin is upholstered with fine Napa leather, while real metals and carbon fiber accent the trim.

The unique "gullwing" passenger doors are designed to swing upwards 70 degrees to ease ingress and egress. When opened, they rest 5 feet above the road surface leaving a generous passage between the open doors and the low side skirts of the SLS AMG, says Mercedes. To assist passengers, each of the doors is fitted with dual gas dampers. Very little effort is required for their operation. It is interesting to note that this type of door may be opened in less room than a conventional swing-out door when in a tight parking space, and they can be operated in any standard-sized garage. Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz has fitted each door with a pyrotechnic charge to release the hinges-easing exit-in the event the SLS AMG is overturned in an accident.

Model Lineup
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is sold in a single level of specification with few options, not unusual for a vehicle of this caliber. Standard equipment includes two-tone leather upholstery, the Mercedes-Benz COMAND APS infotainment system, Keyless-Go start function, parking assist, rain sensors, heated seats, and a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG surround sound system with 6-disc DVD changer.

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGHardware
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is equipped with a 6.2-liter V-8 engine. While the engine is shared with several other models in the automaker's lineup (such as the SL63 AMG and E63 AMG), it has been specially tuned for the SLS, rated at 563 horsepower and 479 lb.-ft. of torque. Engine power is sent to the rear-mounted transaxle via a carbon-fiber drive shaft, designed to be strong yet very lightweight, Mercedes says. The transmission is a 7-speed AMG Speedshift DCT dual-clutch sports transmission, capable of shifting gears in just 100 milliseconds without interrupting traction, according to the automaker. There are four different driving programs: Controlled Efficiency, Sport, Sport Plus and Manual. According to Mercedes, the SLS AMG can accelerate to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds towards a top speed of 195 mph.

All four of the SLS AMG's wheels are suspended by dual A-arms with track rods-a design commonly used in Formula One racing. This double-wishbone suspension offers high strength and directional stability. The A-arms, steering knuckles and hub carriers are all manufactured from forged aluminum for high strength and low weight. The steering system is a traditional rack-and-pinion design, with a constant mechanical gear ratio for improved steering feel, Mercedes says. The brakes are ceramic-composite, offering both weight savings and improved resistance to fade and wear, the automaker claims. The standard front wheels are 19-inch light alloys, while the rear wheels are slightly taller 20-inch light alloys. Special tires, developed specifically for the SLS AMG, ensure top performance, the company says.

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGSafety
According to Mercedes-Benz, the rigid and lightweight aluminum "spaceframe" construction of the SLS AMG forms the basis for providing outstanding passive safety in a strong passenger compartment. In addition, the SLS is fitted with seat belt tensioners, belt-force limiters, and 8 air bags (dual front, dual side, a knee bag for each passenger, and two window bags which are triggered out of the door).

For the first time ever, Mercedes-Benz and AMG have developed an automobile whose chassis and body are made of an aluminum alloy "spaceframe." The process and materials are used in aircraft, as the aluminum construction is both lightweight and strong-plus it offers excellent corrosion resistance. With safety a high priority, the automaker has also utilized high-tensile steel in the A-pillars (primarily in the windshield surround) for occupant protection, but it comprises less than 5 percent of the metal material weight. The body-in-white (chassis minus engine and other components) weighs just 531 pounds. This low starting point helps keep overall vehicle mass very low for such a powerful GT sports car (the SLS AMG's curb weight is a relatively light 3,571 pounds), improving handling and acceleration while reducing fuel consumption, Mercedes says.

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