The regular SLS AMG GT is unchanged, but the exclusive new SLS AMG Black Series coupe makes headlines with its 622-horsepower V8 and extensive performance modifications.
"Supercar" isn't exactly the first word that comes to mind when we think of the three-pointed star, but the 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT's credentials are hard to ignore. From the coupe's 300SL-inspired gullwing doors to the hand-built, 583-horsepower V8 engine roaring under that ridiculously long hood, the SLS AMG GT is nothing if not poster-worthy. In fact, the SLS is the first car to be designed and built entirely in-house at AMG, Mercedes' speed-obsessed skunkworks. If that's not a supercar resumé, we're not sure what is.
The SLS AMG GT has actually become a bit more super over the course of its production run. As Mercedes enthusiasts will recall, the car was known simply as the SLS AMG when it debuted a few years back, and it came with 20 fewer horses and a slightly less aggressive suspension. Also, the soft-top roadster model -- which loses the gullwing doors but gains the great outdoors -- wasn't initially available. But perhaps most significantly, the number of other AMG models using the hand-assembled, 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 has dwindled to just one this year, and with due respect to the less powerful C63 AMG, the SLS AMG GT is clearly the car to have if you want this classic engine in your collection.
Well, there's also one other candidate, at least temporarily. That would be the 2014 SLS AMG Black Series, which is an SLS AMG GT coupe gone completely mental. With a massaged 622-hp version of the 6.2-liter V8 (never mind that AMG insists on calling it a 6.3), the Black Series smashes the magical 100 hp/liter barrier for naturally aspirated engines, aided by a special 8,000-rpm redline. Decked out with a big rear spoiler, flared fenders and wider front and rear tracks, the steroidal SLS Black looks like a racecar, and for better or worse, it drives like one, too. Get one while you can; according to Mercedes, it will only be produced for the 2014 model year, and in very limited quantities at that.
Now, if the visceral thrill of what might be Germany's best-ever V8 engine means less to you than precision handling on a track, other supercars will serve you better. In corners, the Ferrari 458 Italia and McLaren MP4-12C play scalpel to the Benz's chainsaw, while the 2014 Audi R8 features an appealing blend of German rationality and Italian athleticism. On the other end of the spectrum, we suggest sampling Mercedes' own SL65 AMG, as its more spacious and livable interior is likely to be appreciated should you want to drive your supercar over long distances. And with a twin-turbo V12, it offers just as much straight-line, tire-smoking fun.
But nothing else offers iconic gullwing doors or anything like the glorious roar of that AMG V8. Respectable long-distance comfort (for proof, check out our one-year test of a 2012 SLS AMG and Mercedes' user-friendly cabin technology are other benefits. The 2014 SLS AMG GT is a supercar, no doubt, but it's also an enjoyable car in ordinary driving, and that's a particularly exotic feature in this class.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The two-seat 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT is offered in both coupe and soft-top convertible body styles, while the SLS AMG Black Series is a coupe-only proposition.
Standard features on the SLS AMG GT coupe include 19-inch front/20-inch rear alloy wheels, a limited-slip differential, adaptive suspension dampers, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, keyless ignition/entry, auto-dimming mirrors with exterior power folding, a blind-spot monitoring system, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. Inside you'll find dual-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar and bolster adjustments), driver memory settings, leather upholstery, the COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth, voice control, a navigation system and a six-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an iPod interface and both auxiliary and USB audio jacks.
The SLS AMG roadster adds a three-layer power-folding soft top, a removable wind deflector and the AirScarf neck-level heating system.
Options include several different forged alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, various carbon-fiber exterior and interior trim pieces, AMG Performance Media (onboard telemetry that displays performance data and lap times on the COMAND screen) and an 11-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system. A variety of optional AMG "designo" packages offer numerous interior color combinations, upgraded leather and carbon-fiber or aluminum trim on the dashboard and center console.
As for the SLS AMG Black Series coupe, it's distinguished by its adjustable rear spoiler, pumped-up fenders, wider front and rear tracks, quad exhaust tips, standard carbon-ceramic brakes, stronger engine with an 8,000-rpm redline (versus 7,500 rpm for the standard version), stiffer suspension, quicker steering ratio, leather/synthetic-suede interior trim, standard AMG Performance Media and extensive use of carbon fiber, which helps cut weight by about 150 pounds. Options include the Bang & Olufsen sound system and an "exclusive" Solarbeam Yellow paint job that'll run you a cool $14,000.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 583 hp and 479 pound-feet of torque, while the SLS AMG Black Series gets a souped-up version good for 622 hp and 486 lb-ft. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual is the only transmission available. It features aluminum shift paddles on the steering wheel and a choice of several shift programs intended to work well both around town and on track.
Every SLS delivers scintillating acceleration. In Edmunds testing, the SLS AMG GT Roadster sped from zero to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds, while Mercedes estimates a 3.5-second sprint for the Black Series. The EPA rates the regular SLS AMG GT at 15 mpg combined (13 city/19 highway); the Black Series drops to 14 mpg combined (13 city/17 highway).
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, side airbags, side curtain airbags (the roadster substitutes these with taller side airbags), knee airbags and a blind-spot monitoring system. Also standard is Mercedes-Benz's "mbrace" emergency telematics system, which includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location assistance, alarm notification, remote lock/unlock and a variety of other app-based services.
In Edmunds testing, an SLS AMG GT roadster with the standard brakes stopped from 60 mph in 113 feet, which is longer than normal for this class of car. In previous testing, a 2011 SLS AMG coupe with the carbon-ceramic brakes stopped from 60 mph in an exceptionally short 98 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The SLS AMG GT coupe's gullwing-style doors swing skyward to reveal a seemingly generous entrance, but the wide door sill can be tricky to navigate, and closing the door once you're seated may require an uncomfortable vertical stretch. The roadster features conventionally hinged doors that are considerably easier to deal with, though also considerably less cool.
The interior is thick with stitched leather panels, while the other cabin materials are of similarly lofty provenance. Perceived build quality is beyond reproach. Much of the SLS's switchgear is familiar from other Mercedes products, and the general dashboard layout recalls both the SLK-Class and SL-Class roadsters. That's a good thing, as we wish more supercars were this user-friendly inside.
Cabin space is respectable for this class of car, though taller drivers may find legroom tight. The Roadster also has a bit less headroom and its visibility (hardly a virtue in the coupe) is further compromised. Trunk capacity is barely more than 6 cubic feet in either model, but it's a useful shape with a large opening that provides enough room for a set of golf clubs or a couple's weekend luggage. The Roadster's top operates rapidly, cycling up or down in about 11 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS has one of the best high-performance engines we've ever had the pleasure of testing. The mighty AMG V8 makes big power practically everywhere on the tachometer, and it charges toward redline with an eagerness that Benz's newer turbocharged V8s struggle to match.
If you want to make time on a winding road, the regular SLS AMG GT frankly isn't the best option, as its formidable length and unpredictable at-the-limit handling put a damper on enthusiastic cornering. But long-distance trips are a treat by supercar standards (as long as you're not too tall), with the miles flying by thanks to the richly appointed cabin, decent ride and endlessly entertaining engine.
As for the Black Series coupe, it'll certainly navigate those corners more skillfully, but it sacrifices much of the regular car's civility to achieve this end. In other words, it's more like a traditional supercar than a Mercedes supercar, which would seem to defeat the purpose of the SLS. They'll still sell every last specimen, of course.
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