There's some confusion as to whether the new Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT (to give it its full title) is a replacement or an addition to the SLS stable. The official line is that it is a faster and more focused additional model but it seems likely that the standard SLS will quietly disappear. It make less and less sense in the face of the monstrous SL 63 and 65s now available. The SLS GT, however, makes perfect sense - it fixes the niggle that every single reviewer has complained about since day one. Gearbox, gearbox, gearbox.
There was almost universal praise for the power delivery, design presence and engine note of the original SLS Coupe when launched. The one thing that did not seem to fit the car’s clear character was the gearbox. In manual mode the unit was simply too slow to change gears, seemingly at odds with that outrageous engine and the power on tap. What made this more curious was the fact that the same gearbox is used in the Ferrari California where it snaps home with the speed and sureness befitting the Italian marque.
Was this Mercedes playing safe and sensible in even its most brutal vehicle? Actually no. Because of development time constraints on the SLS and the fact that it didn’t have the expertise on board at the time, AMG had to use a default electronic gear-change mapping from the gearbox manufacturers and build the drive chain around it. How they must have winced every time a reviewer mentioned the sluggish gear change.
That pain is over now, however, since its clear that huge efforts have been made to ensure that manual changes are super-snappy and the trick double de-clutch rev blip on down-changes has been accentuated, accompanied no doubt by ostentatious banging from the exhausts on the overrun.
Of course, any makeover selling itself on performance and the obligatory Nurburgring references has to include an increase in power, whether you need it or not. Power is now up to 591 hp (435 kW) and torque is increased to 480 ft lbs (650 Nm). Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions remain something that you really don’t want to think about.
If you haven’t got the point yet, AMG has modified the active suspension system software to be smarter but essentially stiffer. Indeed the "comfort" setting of the original has been removed – a slightly worrying development.
To celebrate all this “sportiness” the interior sees a few previous options becoming standard, such as black Alcantara on all the driver touch-points. The instrument package even gets "rev-limit" LEDs like a race car. Gloss black and chrome with red highlights becomes the overall theme unless you option the new "designo" leather interior package with two color combinations and contrasting hand stitching.
Externally there is little difference, and why would there be. The design is coherent and purposeful and even pretty in the case of the Roadster. To add just enough "bling" for those-in-the-know to notice, the three-pointed star and grill bar are now chromed, as are the side air-duct strakes. Brake calipers are painted red and there are three new AMG wheel designs in different colors. The final touch is a chromed GT badge on the rear. Not a lot but still a good excuse for some nice new pictures.
(GT used to mean “Grand Touring" now it seems to mean "faster." Probably by association with GT racing series. I blame Porsche.)
Both Coupé and Roadster models will be available from October this year and will cost approximately US$208,000 and $221,000 respectively excluding taxes (201,680 and 213,010 euros including taxes).