Let’s cut to the chase: This is a 563-hp Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, those are its amazing doors, and I took this account in Mexico while blind out of the car at 50 mph. Safety is for pansies. Viva velocidad!
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The 2011 Mercedes SLS AMG is the aboriginal apple-pie area architecture from AMG and the new flagship for the…
Full disclosure: Mercedes-Benz flew us to Mexico Burghal and put us up in a nice auberge so that we could accompany you this story. While we were there, we met allegorical antagonism disciplinarian John Fitch and spent two hours talking to him about aggregate from Orville Wright and George Patton to the blush of Alfred Neubauer’s hat. He is 92 years old, he remembers everything, and he is amazing. Also, no amount what anyone says, the margarita is not your friend.
You will accordingly apprehend this and admiration about the details. You will admiration who paid for the accomplished shebang (Mercedes), who gave me the allotment to go off the filigree for about three canicule for a distinct adventure (Wert), and best of all, what business an SLS has in the belly of Mexico (mirrored history).
The capacity are irrelevant.
No, delay — that’s not true. A few capacity matter: In 1952, Karl Kling and Hans Klenk entered a ancestor Mercedes-Benz 300SL in Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana open-road race. They covered over 1900 afar of awful pavement at an boilerplate acceleration of aloof over 100 mph. They hit a banty at one point, antibacterial the SL’s windshield and animadversion Klenk unconscious. Aback he came to, he apprenticed Kling to accumulate going. Forty-three afar later, they assuredly had a adventitious to stop and absolve the car — and Klenk’s face — of blood, bird bits, and burst glass. The duo won the race, entering history as the best steely-eyed brace of Germans to anytime set bottom in los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.
The added important capacity attention the SLS. It is fast as hell and it affectionate of looks like a W194 (Kling and Klenk’s car) or W198 (the assembly “Gullwing” SL). Because Mercedes-Benz is the additional best history-conscious car architect on the planet (Ferrari and Porsche are angry for first), it absitively to fly a host of SLSs to Mexico for a announcer alley trip. The affect was not absent on us. Jalopnik accustomed an invitation, I begged Wert to let me go, and he said yes.
We activate our cruise in the boondocks of Puebla, about one hour arctic of Mexico City. Mercedes-Benz has assassin a army of Mexican badge admiral — federales — to escort us on our journey. They batter through the burghal like like men on a mission, darting and diving through traffic, atrociously acid a aisle against the hills. Aback we hit the outskirts of town, they bomb assimilate the motorway — one of them alike parks in advanced of affective cartage on the artery to bright the way — and anon advance to breach the acceleration of sound. Because we are not apathetic chumps, we are answerable to accumulate up.
“If you should accommodated a vulture on the way, do not drive to victory! Accord the bird a chance!” — Günther Molter, aloft columnist secretary to Mercedes-Benz motorsport arch Alfred Neubauer, in a taped greeting.
We are not answerable to acknowledge our speed, but answer it to say that a federale-spec Charger with a blinking ablaze bar on its roof is aloof about the best badass affair to hunt beyond a mural since, well, ever. And while you never absolutely get over the aberancy of afterward a dispatch badge car, you do not abeyance aback the occupants of said car appetite you to canyon them at triple-digit speeds. You are not stupid.
In animosity of it all, the SLS is irritable. The SLS does not appetite to go this slow. The SLS is loping, cruising, ambling. The alley is chapped and undulating. There is decidedly little cockpit amplitude for such a big car. Alley babble booms through the cabin. Aback we ability our exit, we stop for coffee at a aggregate tollbooth and accessibility store. I footfall out of the car, booty a few pictures, and anon activate arena with the doors: Up, down. Up, down. Hiss, hiss. You abatement into the bench and you lift your larboard arm up and you feel like Marty McFly. “Let us see,” you anticipate to yourself, “if ustedes bastardos can do 90.”
And again you giggle, because that is what you are declared to do afterwards sitting in a $183,000 supercar and assuming to be a hispanic Michael J. Fox. (“Si, senor. Esta ‘Power of Love’ con Alex P. Keaton.”)
Oh, the doors. Oh. They are absolutely possibly the coolest affair on the car, the one affection that makes up for any of the SLS’s faults. Yes, the SLS is nice to drive — it is both far quicker and far added active than you expect, lunging into corners like a apparatus bisected its admeasurement — but it is ultimately a ample and able grand-touring car, the affectionate of affair that middle-eastern ability will assuredly use to bisect huge expanses of arid in abundant comfort. Behind the wheel, you tend to be beneath absorbed in active captivation and added absorbed in chewing through miles. Satisfaction comes from fast prowl, not full-on attack.
I accept heard that this is what it is like to drive a 300 SL. Convenient, that.
Pace chosen, you activate to apprehension the details. At aboriginal glance, the SLS seems like little added than a affected aggregation of administration cues. The nose, the doors, the angled pillars — they all arise to accept been anxiously inventoried and accumulated with little attention for the actualization of the accomplished whole. The car oozes algid calculation. The SLS is not airedale — far from it, in actuality — but clashing the aboriginal Gullwing, it is not pretty.
What it is is a apparatus best accepted piecemeal. The birr vents are affected updates of the age-old Benz cross-hair vent; they don’t accord with the draft of the modern, carbon-fiber-clad interior, but they assignment able-bodied on their own. The chunky, T-shaped about-face batten is fun to comedy with and looks cool, but it seems too chaste for the blatant centermost console. Every detail on the car follows this pattern, from the broad advanced barbecue to the beastly vents in the advanced fenders. Viewed as a whole, the SLS doesn’t absolutely mesh.
And so you acquisition yourself amorous of the Mercedes’s alone parts, none of which are added alluring than the angular aperture doors. They arc into the air on hydraulic struts as blubbery as timberline trunks. They are contemporary and bewitched all at once, and you acquisition yourself attractive advanced to every gas stop aloof because you get to nonchalantly cast them accessible or shut. They can additionally be opened at speed, which lets you get abroad with things like this:
…and lets you bigger apprehend the cracklesnortpopboom of the SLS’s 6.2-liter, 563-hp V-8. It is a growly, thunderous, angry adaptation of an already annoyed engine, as if addition took the V-8 from a C63 AMG and poked it again with a aciculate stick. Your draft legs draft in the breeze and hot, carbon-filled air hits you in the face and the alone affair that keeps you from accomplishing it all day is the actuality that the Warning! Door Is Open! buzzer won’t shut up.
Note: Aloft 5000 rpm, wind and agent babble ensure that you cannot apprehend the buzzer. Aloof sayin’.
We absorb best of our 200-something-mile adventure cerebration about Klink and Klenk. And buzzards. And John Fitch, the American Mercedes disciplinarian who assertive Stuttgart that La Carrera was account active and that a appropriately sorted European sports car could calmly win it. The Germans were not absorbed at first, but Fitch apprenticed them, ultimately aggressive in the hunt alongside Kling and Klenk. Were it not for a technicality — he illegally accustomed a artisan to blow his car during the hunt — he would accept podiumed in the ’52 event.
Men, antagonism drivers, and cars are all altered now. Mexico? Not so much. Again as now, the anchorage were about paved in places, bland and collapsed in others. Aback we accommodated Fitch afterwards that day, he talks about what the aboriginal Gullwings were like at aerial acceleration (stable, if a bit ablaze in the nose) and what it was like to run the Mille Miglia (he won it in a near-stock 300 SL in 1955). Mexico, he says, reminds him of 1950s Italy.
Interesting Random Actuality Department: The Carrera W194s ran with travel-limiting straps on their swing-axle rear suspensions, the bigger to accord with Mexico’s aflutter roads. Beneath biking equals beneath activating camber change — article aboriginal beat axles were accepted for — equals Car Wants to Kill You a Bit Less. Makes sense.
“We about died several times anyway,” says Fitch.
He again gain to acquaint me about what it was like active the Corvette branch antagonism affairs in the 1950s. (He was the team’s aboriginal accepted manager, adopted because “Zora [Arkus-Duntov] said the cars would accomplish abhorrent antagonism cars and wouldn’t blow the abuse things.”) And what it was like active alongside Pierre Levegh in the 1955 Le Mans tragedy. And what it was like actuality alone absolved from a POW affected by George Patton. And how Briggs Cunningham was a affectionate and affable man. And and and. Or maybe I aloof asked him a lot of questions and he answered them. I’m not sure. Aback you accommodated your heroes, you tend to lose clue of time. (Take bristles account out of your day and apprehend the wiki entry, folks. The man has done everything.)
What happens aback you batter a adopted SLS over several hundred afar of aged Mexican artery and are again affected to accord it back? Easy: You appear abroad with a renewed acknowledgment for the amount of accumulated personality. Aloft all, the SLS is an old-school Mercedes: It is ablaze but not wispy, active but not nervous, austere but not staid. In animosity of its looks, it references history after abject to it. This is annihilation beneath than a accessory miracle.
What was Mexico like? As I mentioned above, the capacity do not matter. It is aggregate you apprehend it to be, a acreage of amazing abjection and acute beauty, of arresting anchorage and acutely absurd size. In its aureate years, the Carrera Panamericana was a hunt like no added — it accumulated branch teams and world-class active aptitude with some of the best barbarous anchorage on Earth. For bigger or worse, rural Mexico has not afflicted abundant since; the glimpse into the accomplished that it provides helps put the SLS in perspective, alike if the bond is a bit artificial.
Is the 21st-century Gullwing a aces almsman to the boss 300 SL? Apparently not, but who cares? The car is a atypical admonition that history affairs to Mercedes-Benz, and that there are some qualities that cannot be invented by a business department. It’s fun in animosity of its flaws. We apparently didn’t accept to go to Mexico to acquisition that out, but we abiding as hell aren’t complaining.
As always, don’t balloon to hit the galleries for the draft of the story!
Photo Credits: Profile building attempt address of Mercedes-Benz; all added images, Sam Smith
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