SOME days are good, some days are great. And no doubt about it: being driven around Goodwood in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG gullwing supercar by former F1 world champion Jody Scheckter is a great experience. Scheckter, now an organic farmer at Laverstoke Park Farm, says he’s not been on a race track in years. I believe him. I’m the first hack to ride in Mr Sheckter’s SLS taxi and his first lap seems slow. However by lap four he’s flying like the seasoned pro he is. And that’s the difference between the professionals and the merely mortal. Progression and the speed of it.
As for me, my progress at Goodwood behind the wheel of the SLS AMG is slower. The improvement my driving makes over the course of this track day is what could be politely described as incremental. But it’s the measure of the car that I just want to get back in it time and time again.
No bones about it: the SLS is a wonderful sports car. Just climbing in and working out how to shut its marvellous gullwing door from the driver’s seat is drama enough (though all you need to do is reach for it, it’s not as far away as it looks). And whichever way you look at, tearing around Goodwood is a great way to demonstrate its performance.
And what a car it is to look at. It may not be as elegant as the iconic 300SL but it certainly succeeds as a badass, modern day, technological version of it. It’s not perfect. It’s face isn’t as pretty as it could have been but I love the long bonnet and the short rear end. With both doors raised above the roof the car simply looks very cool. We’d forgotten how dramatic ingress and egress can be. Thank you, Mercedes-Benz, for reminding us a second time. On the SLS, even the door handles are part of the performance, the handles slide out from the bodywork when you unlock it and then slide back in again when the car pulls away. Bruce Wayne could drive an SLS as his daily commuter and still lament the fact that his Batmobile doesn’t have them.
Once inside, the interior is obviously expensive, even though it’s understated. Clad in leather and aluminium, there’s something of a retro feel to the cockpit and other than the specially designed dials and an inset info screen, it’s a largely uncluttered and simple layout – something that is not always true of Mercedes-Benz cars in recent years. It’s so simple that its crosshair air vents really stand out. The view too is dramatic. The bonnet is vast.
The SLS is the first car to be built from the tyres up by German tuners AMG, so it’s hardly a surprise how good the car is on track. With a powerful 563bhp V8 engine that drives the SLS from zero to 62mph time in just 3.8 seconds and on to 197mph, it’s clearly a very fast car. But that’s really just academic. It’s how the SLS AMG does it that is so exhilarating. The V8 engine sits within an all-new aluminium chassis and the car’s weight is distributed almost evenly. Combine this with the rigid chassis and its wide stance, and the car handles beautifully. On the track it feels super reactive, the steering direct. I feel more and more confident as the day goes on. The seven-speed automatic transmission has a double clutch and is super quick, particularly in Sports+ mode.
I love it’s aggression and I love the hellish growl the engine makes and I really love the doors. It’s a car for super heroes this, for great heroic days on road or track and it’s as dramatic as sports cars get.
MERCEDES-BENZ SLS AMG
0-62mph: 3.8 secs
Top speed: 197mph
CO2 g/km: 308g/km
MPG Combined: 21.4 mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY