If you’re bemused by the SLS AMG’s R140 000 carbon ceramic brake option (discs only – the standard pads are adequate), look on the bright side. The upgrade provides a lifespan up to four times longer than steel’s. Checking wear can get interesting, though, because steel discs wear down visibly; carbon ones don’t. The material itself degenerates, needing special equipment to measure it.
The new supercar from Mercedes-Benz is a landmark in many ways, notably for being the first independently conceived model from the company’s performance division, AMG. To gain some insights, PM took time off from the launch of the new car at Kyalami to talk SLS with AMG’s Michael Liebchen.
PM: Why is the new car called SLS? Well, the SL refers to the fact that it is a two-seater. The S denotes sport.
PM: What is the design philosophy behind the SLS? How does it differ from other AMGs, which are versions of standard Mercedes-Benz cars? And how much influence did the original 300SL gullwing have?
Liebchen: Well, there are common features within the Mercedes-Benz family. This applies also to expected areas such as safety and luxury.
As to influences, every car is in its time. SLS is a car of today. If you look at the technical features, it is quite clear. Obviously, it is able to draw on a heritage. Nobody else has a heritage like this. Regarding the gullwing door solution, for me it is more or less the cream on the coffee.
PM: What were the design parameters and limitations?
Liebchen: We started with a front-middle concept. If you look at the weight balance of the finished car, that was the right decision.
PM: Why aluminium space frame and not carbon fibre construction for the body?
We have been following this for about 10 years. Cost is one issue. Bear in mind that, with aluminium, there are repair opportunities in workshops. Aluminium spaceframe technology is available.
PM: A characterful powertrain has always been intrinsic to AMGs. How does this square with the electric version of the SLS… is this what your customers really want?
Our customers are asking for performance. They are not asking for diesel or V8, or for a normal fuel engine. They are asking for performance.
Even with electricity you can achieve high performance. That is the reason that we have a team looking ahead to the future. As an AMG person the biggest thing for me is in the engine concept. And electric is surely the future. Having said that, there are issues to be resolved, specifically infrastructure and battery technology.
In fact, the SLS is a perfect basis for an electric car.
SLS AMG: by the numbers
Space taken up by gullwing door opening, compared with normal door
Personnel dedicated to building the AMG’s engine, according to the company’s maxim, “one man, one engine”
Approximate number of hours to build an engine
Force, in newton metres (the maximum allowed under German regulations), of the explosive door-release mechanism that triggers during rollovers
Speed, in km/h, at which the rear wing deploys
Speed, in km/h, that the SLS will not exceed if the rear wing fails to deploy
Downforce, in newtons, of the rear wing at 200 km/h
Cost, in rand, of optional carbon ceramic brakes
Number to be built annually
Total cost, in rand, before carbon tax