Used 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT
Edmunds' Expert Review
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.
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.
Trim levels & features
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.
Performance & mpg
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 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.
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.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Supercar buyers are not very forgiving of yesterday's heroes.
They consider 2010 a long time ago, which is one reason Mercedes-Benz felt the need to develop a stronger and faster GT version of its already over-the-top SLS supercar.
Available in both coupe and roadster body styles, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS GT delivers a touch more power than the standard SLS AMG but that's not its main selling point. For once, its rumbling, burbling, howling AMG engine isn't the centerpiece.
Instead, the core of the GT's upgrades is centered on changes to the seven-speed transmission and a reworked suspension. There are visual changes, too, but the SLS is hardly a car that needed more visibility, so they are understandably subtle. And given that the GT takes over as the sole model in the U.S. lineup, it's probably better that AMG didn't get too radical with the changes.
Just a Bit More Engine
Like few other cars on the market, the SLS is dominated by its engine. The 6.2-liter V8 feels like a masterpiece of American hot-rodding brutality stuffed inside the best of European chassis engineering. The GT doesn't do much to tweak that mix.
The only major upgrade to the engine is a bigger intake manifold, but AMG claims it's enough to help make another 20 horsepower, which lifts its rating to 583 hp at 6,800 rpm. Torque is unchanged at 479 pound-feet from 4,750 rpm. The result is a 0-60 spring that drops by a tenth to 3.7 seconds. It goes on to hit 124 mph 7.5 seconds later on its way to a 198-mph top speed.
Yes, it goes, something you might already presume from the way the SLS GT looks. But it's the sound that lulls you into believing the GT has an extra 300 horses on board. It's a tough thing to feel 20 hp in a car that already has plenty. In this case, it feels every bit as quick as it ever has, without feeling appreciably different.
The Big Switch
The biggest improvement doesn't come from the engine, though; it comes from the transmission. AMG's seven-speed gearboxes are a combination of heavily reinforced standard Mercedes-Benz torque-converter automatics with the torque converter bits taken off the back and replaced with computer-controlled clutch packs.
Compared to cars like the Ferrari 458 Italia (whose dual-clutch transmission was actually rejected by AMG) and the McLaren MP4-12C, the SLS used to take a bit too long to react whenever the driver pulled the + paddle in Manual mode.
The AMG engineers have attacked the problem of less-than-ideal shifts with a combination of software tweaks and some fine-tuning to the clutch pack. There's now less hesitation than before, so it now switches gears more or less when you ask it to.
Now, the SLS GT slams up to the next gear in 60 milliseconds, or about half the time it took the previous SLS to do the same job.
AMGs have always combined dripping luxury with outrageous straight-line performance, and the SLS is no different. But the GT has taken one option away that knocks it down a notch on the luxury scale in return for better performance.
We're talking about the "Comfort" mode of the adjustable suspension. That means the SLS GT has only Normal, Sport, Sport + and Manual modes, and these modes cover the suspension damping, the ESP behavior and the throttle response. Just in case you miss the point, it runs slivers of rubber on 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inch wheels at the back.
Still, if it's comfort you want out of an SLS GT, you might as well take the Roadster. Its sills are lower and it has conventional doors, so it's easier and far more dignified to get into and out of. And its trunk is only a six-pack shy of the Gullwing coupe's.
Harder, but Not Always Better
It's hard to actually say whether the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS GT is a better road car. In some ways the new transmission's behavior makes it a no-brainer. In other areas, the lack of a Comfort mode makes it far less usable as a daily driver.
There is none of the jerkiness the previous SLS's clutches delivered when you're working your way out of parking lots with a cold gearbox. There are no snappy, wobbling shifts from 1st into 2nd on part throttle, either. It feels a lot more like a developed unit than it ever did before.
On the flip side, the suspension is edging toward the crude side. Never a gentle ride, the SLS GT is a very firm car — almost uncomfortably so on broken city streets. Sure, there's more grip on offer at the extremes of handling, but there are so few chances to exploit that it seems wasteful. It's a similar story with the brakes. They're fine in standard form, but opting for the carbon-ceramic discs will be a waste of cash for most people.
None of the minor shortcomings make this SLS any less spectacular on a proper road, however, as it moves with stunning speed and quickness that belies its considerably size. You find yourself changing down gears with absolutely no need, just to hear the engine pop and rumble. The Italians may have the high-pitched thing down pat, but AMG has carved its own sound path and it works.
All or Nothing
In Europe, Mercedes plans to continue selling the standard SLS alongside the harder-edged SLS GT, while in the U.S. it's an all-or-nothing deal. You either go all-out for the SLS GT or step down to the far less radical SL.
Problem is, as good as the GT can be on a perfect road, it's far less enjoyable nearly everywhere else. We would call it a track car, but track cars that cost nearly $200,000 usually have numbers painted on the side and much less leather.
So in this case, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS GT is actually a track car for those who don't go to the track that often, if ever. Good bragging rights maybe, but best to have an S-Class around for when you need to get somewhere without spilling your coffee.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Overview
The Used 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT is offered in the following submodels: SLS AMG GT Coupe, SLS AMG GT Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible (6.2L 8cyl 7AM), and 2dr Coupe (6.2L 8cyl 7AM).
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Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.