Thread: SLS
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      01-13-2013, 08:06 PM   #1
Palmnuts
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Drives: Merc SLS AMG & M3 (F80)
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Loughborough, UK

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SLS

Well then, where to start chaps

The bad....I think thats what I'll discuss first

The car is FAR from faultless and they say never meet your hero's....well, I guess having achieved a 'dream' is similar - so theres much room for disappointment!

Noises
First things, I know this is a cliché but this SLS feels like it's hewn from granite - structurally, I have never felt anything so 'solid'. It's such a shame then that there are a few intermittent buzzes coming from the trim in the back and, although now fixed, from the doors (where do you think I've been all weekend?).

Some of the problems are the actual build issues such as the rear deck rattling and a creaky seat, some of it (and the reason for my absence since I've had it) are just because of poor-quality 'modifications'. The car clearly had an all round tint, of which the front side windows ones had been removed very poorly. You could hear the remaining bits of tint (that were left dangling in the doors!) rattling away and there was residual glue visible all round the edges of the glass....all in all, a shower of sh!t. Today, I've had both door trims off and cleaned the windows out properly - do you realise just how difficult it is to remove door trims on a gullwing???

Then, the back window had a couple of cuts in the remaining tint (can you believe the car was given to me like this!!) so I set about removing that as it looked awful. Using a hairdryer, I squeezed my arms and hands in to get to the back window (there's hardly any space to get to it without removing the seats) and gently peeled back an edge of the tint - then the rest just pulled away VERY (too) easily. It looked an appalling quality tint but I thought it was I'd done a great job with just a few bits of what I initially thought to be glue left on the window.....until I realised it wasn't the glue I could see but in fact, it was the glass. The clear glass stood out because it was the rest of the window that was consistently covered in dried on glue Do you realise how difficult it is to scrub off cheap-arse dried-on glue from the inside of back window that you can't get to? 2pm to 6pm....says it all (after I'd spend the two previous hours removing the side steps from the Range Rover before we get rid of it this week)

I now have a car with no tints and clean windows and some of the rattles caused by the part-removed tints gone. It needs a new drivers seat to stop the creaking (what the feck is it with me and creaky seats....how can the last 3 cars I've had ALL had creaky seats ...this one's done just 3k miles and it's already bad!). It was an intermitted creak too, meaning it was going to be one of those issues that I'd probably struggle to get fixed but I've now found a way of replicating it by just moving round in the seat Oh how the simplest of things delight me.

One of the B+O subs in the back has blown (I knew this before I got the car) so it's got to go back to the dealer for the all the trim in back end to be taken out to replace the sub. And whilst it's there, they can fix the buzzes coming from those internal panels!

Comand Bluetooth
As you'll have seen from my other thread, I've had issues trying to get my contacts into Comand. Even the Jag system paired flawlessly, BMW's never have any issues so why do (did?) Merc insist on a system where you have to download contacts to the cars database rather than have the ability to read your phone contacts each time it syncs.

As it was, I spent far too long trying to find workarounds (pairing my laptop etc) but with no success after a few hours trying different things, I decided to do what I did in my C63. Luckily my car has the telephone pre-wire option which means that with a phone cradle and compatible phone, I could upload my contacts to the car. Out came my old iPhone 3GS (they don't do an iPhone 5 cradle yet) and I went on eBay to buy a 3GS cradle....luckily I found one ending today in Tamworth and arranged to go and pick it up this evening. And hurrah!...the cradle pairs and I don't even need my 3GS as my 5 pairs to the 3GS cradle and import my contacts. So, another frustartion turned to delight But what a dogshit process to get here.



And I think thats about it for the faults because, in every other respect, this car is just fabulous. My first proper drive of it other than getting home yesterday was when I went to get my phone cradle this evening and it seriously impressed me. It's hard to be genuinely impressed when I've had some really nice cars but heres the things that stand out for me.....

Engine
The engine in the SLS both sounds and feels quite different (much harder) to the '63 engine in my C63. For the record, I don't think there is a finer sounding car - I always liked my C63 and this is like a go-large C63. Which is crazy if you've ever heard a C63. It's so loud and so deep low down with a nice raise in pitch as the revs rise.....and it pops all the time on the overrun and when changing down It even has an expensive sounding starter motor It's so loud in fact that I can listen to the stereo quite loud and still very clearly here and enjoy the engine....anywhere. Town, motorway.....the engine dominates.

It's proper muscle car in character - it has that lazy idle (after an initial explosion) and rocking-body characteristic. It also feels quite lazy in normal driving, requiring a hefty shove of the throttle to get it moving (in total contrast to the razor sharp throttle of the XKR-S) and then it seems entirely natural to keep the revs low as it pulls so well and sounds sooooo loud higher up the rev range.

I don't think I exceeded 4k rpm until I drove it this evening but, by golly gosh when I did, there was nothing lazy about it. It's always great to have a massive naturally aspirated engine....the Jag just went fast from very low revs but the acceleration was very linear to the red line. This, if anything, feels even more instantly responsive when you get over the (false) feel of it being lazy (my other half noted it feeling quicker as a passenger under normal driving) and then as the revs go past 5 and then 6k, it's rate of acceleration increases in way that's pure supercar. This is easily as quick as my (manual) 997.2 Turbo - the SLS being the only other car I've had that creates that same 'take your breath away' feel in your gut as you take it higher up the rev range A bit like what you feel in your stomach on a fast rollercoaster. YouTube indicates SLS vs. PDK 997.2 Turbo are very evenly matched


Transmission
This car gets a lot of stick for having a relatively slow dual clutch tranny and, to be honest, it's not the fastest in manual mode.

Don't get me wrong, the actual change is instant like any other DCT, it's just theres a half second delay between pulling the paddle and the comand getting through. Theres a good piece on PH about this exact subject and why this is the case....apparently the Getrag gearbox didn't pass durability tests when it was hooked up to such a torquey engine with a faster response. I actually don't have issue with it because with the gearchange being so fast, the end to end process of changing gear is no slower than what I'm used to. Then there's how it behaves in Sport or Sport+ modes....simply unreal. This is a revelation after the Jag which so poor in Sport, I never used it. The SLS is ALWAYS in the right gear and it always changes down at the right time. It brings back great memories of my C63 which, like this, had an almost other-worldly way of doing exactly what you want it to do.

On the whole, I think it's a great gearbox and I do like the DCT character that gives the instant change and seamless acceleration, even if they're not auto-smooth from a standing start.

With regards the gearbox 'interaction points', the gearlever looks really cool as it's shaped like a aircraft throttle and as for the paddles, AMG simply have the best ones in all their cars - proper aluminium with a very well engineered click to them. In contrast, all my non-manual BMW's weren't bad in feel but they were still plastic, the Jags were plastic and the feel of them one of the worst parts of that car.


Ride & Handling
Now, this car has a lot to live up to because the XKR-S was VERY good. And I'll get to the point straight away.....on a bumpy twisty road in the DRY, the Jag would probably pull away from the SLS - it's body movements were less, if more at the same time! Let me explain....

The SLS is stiff, very very stiff (if not GT-R stiff as on the motorway, it's also very comfortable). It has significantly less body roll than the Jag which makes it feel great when shooting round bends or roundabouts. This stiffness does, however, create a lot of body movement as the car follows the road surface very closely, unlike the Jag which soaked it up. So, whilst the Jag's body tended to move about more, this meant it could soak up really bad roads where the SLS just pummels them.

However, the SLS feels like no other. The fact you're sat right near the back wheels and a long bonnet out front not only gives you a very different perspective to most other cars (a bit like piloting a oil tanker I imagine!), but it feels totally different on the road. It's very sharp to steer (so much so, I currently keep steering too much) and the back very easily pivots around you to make it feel extremely agile. The Jag's back end was quite snappy, the SLS's back end goes where you want it and feels a little more controllable and easier to place. The C63 was always very easy to get mildly sideways on every roundabout, this has that same DNA but from a lot further back!

The SLS does have a considerable traction advantage in the damp in comparison to the Jag as it can relatively easily put it's power down and create more forward thrust. OK, it's not 4wd 911 effective, but its one of the better RWD cars I've had, a good result when you consider that apart from the Jag, this has 10-15% more power than anything else I've had.

The steering feels really odd at first....well, it does when you've come out of the Jag's, which was extremely light. This isn't - it's almost as heavy as I remember my 335i being (which IIRC, is very heavy....do I remember this right???). But it's very, very nice steering (all Mercs have nice steering these days) with a consistent and (what appears) genuine feel. Most of all, I love the steering wheel - like my C63's, nice and thick (but not M-Sport squidgy, although I like them too), with good shaping and a nice flat bottom. It's also part Alcantara, part leather which is always my favourite combination (rather than all of one or the other).


Refinement
This car really is right up my street as its what I'd class as a 'proper' GT. Very little wind noise, a bit of tyre roar and lots of engine and exhaust sound - pretty much perfect in my eyes.

The suspension is quiet and it just has that feel of indestructibility as you drive along - AND, unlike my C63, the steering column on this car feels very solidly attached to it Mid corner bumps cause no apparent flex in the body and this solidity means it feels like the most torsionally rigid car I've had.


Interior
It's a lovely place to sit and, I know I say this a lot but the SLS has, so far, the best seats I've ever sat in! Anyone who has sat in a C63 saloon knows how good those seats are....these are very similar in the back rest support (but with even more of it - the bolsters are massive and envelope you) but the base has similarly supportive sides that actually have some metal structure in them (IIRC, the C63's are just padding on the base side supports). The lumbar and side support adjustments are very effective, if poorly positioned at the front of the seat under your left leg

I love the dash design and the way the centre console slopes down as it goes from the back of the car to dashboard, then curves up towards the heater controls and Comand screen. It's not perfect - prod a few bits here and there and theres the odd creak as the plastic gives (I didn't remember my C63 doing this so is probably a consequence of the car being hand built) but everything is covered in leather and Alcantara.

I love the colour combo of black/porcelain, the contrast stitching is of a very high quality and the carbon fibre option makes the centre console look very expensive. The quality of leather is also noticeable so it must be good given I didn't exactly have a poorly appointed car previously!

Driving position....simply, it's perfection. Straight legs, bent arms (even without having the steering wheel at it's furthest-out point like I have to in so many cars), very low seating position (extremely so, I think everything from my chin down is hidden from the outside!) and as I've said above, the seats are awesome. I actually thought the driving position in the new 991 was as good as it gets and this matches it....but then the SLS adds in much lower and better bolstered seats. Getting in and out is not the chore you'd think it is - I'm already used to it and the only challenge is fitting between the seat bolster and steering wheel. I'm yet to bang my head

The audio system, despite being broken, does sound quite fantastic. It had a lot to live up to against the Jag's Bowers and Wilkins system but, this Bang and Olufsen system is pretty special. What it'll sound like when fixed I don't know but as it stands, the crispness and cleanness of sound without being at all 'bright' is impressive. It has some very cool tweeters (which are also illuminated - you may just see them in the pictures below) that sit proud of the dash and the front mid-range/subs are built into the footwells so have a much more rigid fixing point than is normally achieved in doors.

So, buzzing from the back and creaky seat aside (both will be fixed soon, I hope), I don't think ambiences look or feel much better. From what I've seen, maybe only Bentley do it better but it'd be close.


Design
Well, make your own minds up on this....

It's not prettiest car, certainly not in comparison to the Jag's but, one thing that stands out (not sure if the pics below capture this well enough) is the width. It's 2.1m wide and looks it - looking a it dead on, the bonnet is flat and very low, the headlights are pushed right out to the edge (exaggerating the width), the wheels flush with the outside of the arches and it looks very imposing.

The car has monstrous presence and I've never experienced the kind of positive attention (although the Jag came very close, but that was more to do with the colour)....driving on the M1 people would drive past with their gobs wide open, some meat-head in a van wound his window down as he drove past me at 90+mph to give me the thumbs up and everyone pretty much rubber-necks.

The car has optional forged wheels but, as I like all the SLS wheels, I didn't really care what wheels it had. They're 19's on the front and 20's on the back which enhances the nose down attitude of the car...something I really like (I hate it when cars look lower at the back than the front). The 'Imola Grey' was also optional and whilst I normally hate greys and silvers, I've always said this is one car (Astons also) that looks good in those colours. I did wonder if I'd really like it but, seeing it in real life, it just suits the car so well it's hard not to.



So, is this the dream car I always wanted? Has my hero disappointed me?

Well, it would have been nice to be the first owner so my OCD tendencies weren't triggered by having to correct the wrongs of been owned by someone less fussy or particular than me (people who buy cars from me need never buy new again!). It would also be nice to not have yet another car with a creaky seat but, other than the few faults and frustrations from this weekend, it is very much still my dream and I can't actually believe it that I'm driving this car. I'm sure you can tell my enthusiasm for how it drives and how it makes me feel so, long may this last as I'm not sure much else has the sense of occasion that this car delivers.

I didn't have time for any decent pictures this weekend but I stopped off at a petrol station to take few snaps this evening which will have to do you until next weekend when it gets properly detailed.




























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Andrew
Current: '11 Merc SLS AMG | '14 BMW M3 F80
Previous: '13 BMW M6 Comp Pack | '11 Merc SLS AMG | '12 Jag XKR-S | '11 Range Rover Sport TDV6 | '11 Jag XKR | '10 Jag XFR | '11 BMW M3 DCT | '08 Maserati Granturismo S | '10 Porsche 911 Turbo | '10 Merc C63 AMG PPP | '09 Merc C63 AMG PP | '06 BMW M6 | '08 BMW M3 | '07 BMW 335i | '04 Alfa 147 GTA + Many others
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