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With iconic, head-turning style and breathtaking performance, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT certainly qualifies as an exotic supercar. It's also comfortable and practical enough for daily driving, but just barely.
Glorious V8 engine and exhaust note; outstanding brakes; respectable everyday functionality; exotic door design.
Coupe's gullwing doors are hard to close; edgy handling at the limit.
Available SLS AMG GT Coupe Models
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Available SLS AMG GT Convertible Models
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Though it's largely the same as last year, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG has been renamed as the SLS AMG GT for 2013. Upgrades this year include a modest bump in horsepower, a more firmly tuned suspension, more standard equipment and revised styling cues.
It would take a discerning eye to spot the differences between previous years' SLS AMG coupes and roadsters and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT models. With so few ever seen in the wild and nearly each personalized to an owner's tastes, every public sighting becomes a finger-pointing, gob-smacking occasion in itself. "Gullwing!"
For 2013, only Mercedes-Benz historians would notice subtle changes to the grille, headlamps, taillights and alphabet-soup trunk badge. Even at the Edmunds test track, we weren't able to detect the 20-horsepower increase in engine output that comes this year as a result of more than 120 component changes within the engine. And it would certainly take a familiarity with the outgoing SLS and sensitive backside to detect this year's revised suspension tuning. Yes, these are all minute changes, and we're glad because the SLS is nearly a masterpiece as is.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT carries on the tradition of being the first-ever car entirely designed and built by the company's high-performance division. Each engine is painstakingly assembled by hand by one person, from crankshaft to autographed plaque atop. That 6.2-liter V8 carries over, but now cranks out 583 hp. Torque remains consistent at 479 pound-feet. Through a carbon-fiber driveshaft, power is directed to the seven-speed automated manual transmission that AMG has tuned to deliver shorter, smoother shifts.
Elsewhere, the suspension gets a thorough recalibration, with stiffer spring and damper rates. The ride quality is correspondingly a bit firmer this year, though as exotic sports cars go the SLS is still a pretty good traveling companion. At the same time, interior materials, build quality and overall design presentation remain second-to-none in this niche class. Passenger and cargo space is roomy, and the SLS also benefits from Mercedes' easy-to-use COMAND electronics interface.
It's true that while the SLS's performance and handling are exhilarating, the car doesn't set any particular benchmarks. For those who can afford to shop in this category, there are quicker, perhaps even more exotic, choices such as the Ferrari 458 Italia or McLaren MP4-12C. The Audi R8 V10 is another supremely awesome choice. Still, there's so much to like about the classically penned gullwing SLS AMG GT coupe and drop-top SLS AMG GT roadster that it takes its rightful place in the pantheon of exotic sports cars.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT is offered in both coupe and convertible body styles. Standard features include 19-inch front/20-inch rear alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, bi-xenon headlights, keyless entry/ignition, power-folding mirrors, a blind-spot monitoring system, auto-dimming mirrors, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. Inside you'll find leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar and bolster adjustments), driver memory settings, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, the COMAND interface, Bluetooth, voice commands, a navigation system and a six-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio and iPod integration. The SLS AMG roadster adds a three-layer power-folding soft top, a removable wind deflector and AirScarf, a feature that gently blows warm air from the seatbacks.
Options for this year include several different forged-alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes with gold-painted calipers, a wide array of carbon-fiber exterior and interior parts, AMG Performance Media (onboard telemetry that measures performance data and lap times) and an 11-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system. A variety of optional AMG "designo" packages offer multiple interior color combinations, upgraded leather and extended leather or carbon-fiber trim on the dashboard and center console.
Powering every 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT is a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 583 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automated manual is the only transmission available, but it features aluminum shift paddles on the steering wheel and a choice of several modes that range from comfortable, smooth shifts to a "Race Start" program and seamless, lightning-quick shifts for the track.
As expected, performance is thrilling. In Edmunds testing, the 2013 SLS AMG GT Roadster leapt to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds. Regardless of model, EPA fuel mileage estimates stand at 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, side airbags, side curtain airbags (head protection airbags for the roadster), knee airbags, blind-spot monitoring and Mercedes-Benz's "mbrace" emergency telematics system. As expected, the SLS's brakes are very powerful and suited to extreme track use. In Edmunds testing, an SLS AMG GT roadster stopped from 60 mph in 113 feet, which is longer than normal for this class of car.
The SLS coupe's gullwing-style doors swing upward, revealing a larger, less obstructed opening than is typical of cars with conventional doors. This advantage is offset somewhat by the need to step over a relatively wide sill before you can lower yourself into the cockpit. It's also a long reach up to pull the door down once seated. The SLS roadster features conventionally hinged doors.
The interior features finely stitched leather not only on the seats but also on the dash, console and doors. If you're familiar with other Mercedes products, you'll recognize a fair amount of the SLS's switchgear, but the high-gloss black trim on the center console, door panels and trim rings of the metal air vents provide a sporty touch, while the overall fit and finish is to the highest standards.
Driver space is excellent for this class of car (especially the coupe), with a good driving position even for tall drivers. The Coupe's official trunk capacity is just 6.2 cubic feet (6.1 cubes for the Roadster), but it's still enough to stow a set of golf clubs or a couple's weekend luggage. It takes a little more than 10 seconds to either raise or lower the Roadster's top at speeds up to 30 mph.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT has the engine of a muscle car, the balance of a sports car and the shape of a classic. Thanks in part to that potent V8 sitting entirely behind the front axle as well as the transmission incorporated into the rear axle, the long-nose/short-deck SLS makes good on the promises its archetypal design makes.
Now with just two levels of damping from which to choose (previously three), the ride is decidedly firm or firmer, but always well controlled. The firmer setting is intended for ultra-smooth surfaces only. The SLS points quickly into a corner like a sports car, yet odds are you'll run out of talent before the SLS AMG GT does. Still, at its handling limits on a racetrack, the SLS is trickier to control than cars like the Audi R8 or Porsche 911 GT3.We feel that the three-stage electronic stability control system should be left either entirely on, or in "ESC Sport" mode and never shut off except by professional drivers at the track.
Back in the real world, though, the SLS works very well as a grand tourer. The suspension manages to take the edge off most broken pavement seams, and ground clearance is less of an issue compared to some low-slung exotics, allowing the SLS to enter driveways or parking structures without the requisite gritted teeth and occasional scraping noises.
The intoxicating V8 gives the SLS a proper exotic car soundtrack with its powerful and entertaining staccato rumble. In concert with the engine, the versatile seven-speed transmission contributes significantly to the SLS GT's overall ambience. On one hand, it can provide a relaxed, muted soundtrack from the engine and exhaust, or alternatively racecar-like response and roar when the manual-shift mode is selected. Some have even suggested that the SLS's breathtaking bodywork and aluminum-intensive chassis are merely there to transport and showcase the brilliant engine.
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