IMPA, or the International Motor Press Association, invited a bunch of journalists up to Bear Mountain in upstate NY to have a go at some of the best new cars on the market. I arrived at 7:45 am with coffee in hand, parked the car and proceeded to do my initial recognizance lap of the cars that were already unloaded and waiting in the parking lot. There were about 60 cars in the lot, all of which were available to each and every journalist present. Nissan, Cadillac, Mercedes, Audi, Rolls Royce… there was a lot of big gun high dollar stuff rolling around, and in truth, it was like walking into the worlds biggest Hot Wheels box.
As journalists we live for these days as the basic restrictions are pretty lenient. The basic rules of engagement are as follows: Go out, have fun, but please don’t crash our $100,000 + cars. Sounds easy enough right? Now just to give you some quick background on where we were. Bear Mountain, NY is located about 60 miles north of New York City and is made up of some of the best driving roads in the northeast. Tight and twisty decreasing radius turns litter the mountain as do wonderful sweepers and long straights. In all honesty they should just call it Bear Mountain Raceway, because in reality that’s really what it is.
After mingling around the lot for a little while I began to compile a mental checklist of the cars I wanted to drive. The 2011 Ford Mustang GT was definitely up there as was the Mazda Speed 3, Nissan 370z and Hyundai Genesis 2.0T. Numero uno on the list however was the new and simply stunning Mercedes Benz SLS AMG. Back in January I saw this car at the Washington D.C. International Auto Show and fell in love with it. The SLS is one of those rare cars that I could put in my living room and simply stare at it as a piece of art. Its lines are new and crisp while at the same time paying homage to one of the most iconic cars of all time, the 1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gull Wing. The fact that it has 571 HP doesn’t hurt either.
While at the show I bumped into my buddy Roger Garbow of Full Throttle Marketing. We talked about the cars and what we wanted to drive, then both agreed that the SLS must be first so we walked over to the Mercedes representative, got the keys and jumped in. Actually jumped in may not be the right expression, you see with the 2010 Mercedes Benz SLS you don’t jump into it as much as you put it on like a fine suit. Upon doing so however I came in contact with a problem as it appeared my suit had shrunk. At 6’4″ tall I was simply to big for the SLS, but in the interest of journalism I made the sacrifice and wedged my big 6’4″ fame into the cockpit.
This was a rare opportunity so I packed myself in the car, hit the starter button and was greeted by one of the sweetest exhaust notes ever. The first thing you notice about the SLS is how long its hood really is. As this is a GT car this is obviously not an issue as God knows they had to fit that massive 571 HP V8 in there somehow. Once underway you realize that the SLS is indeed two cars in one. First and foremost the SLS is a full blown GT car that is capable of racking up thousands of miles on the open road. Secondly, and this is big for Mercedes Benz, the SLS is a true sports car. The suspension is firm, the handling is simply sublime and once dialed-in as a driver, you’ll find yourself pushing this thing to see where it’s limits are. The problem is the car just takes everything you can throw at it and begs to be driven harder and faster.
As mentioned the 6.3-liter V8 pumps out 571 HP, but in all honesty it doesn’t feel like that much. For instance, if I had just gotten into this car and hit the gas, my ass dyno would have estimated about 425 HP. The speedometer however tells a completely different story. 60 mph comes up in just over 3 seconds and 100 mph is just a few ticks after that. Ladies and gentlemen, this car is deceptively fast and will get you thrown in jail almost immediately if you’re not careful. Hell, I’m surprised I’m not in there right now.
This car will be a reflection of all those who own it. It’s not ostentatious in anyway even though its price is $200,000, nor is it gawdy or in your face. This car is elegant, it’s smart and like its predecessor from 55 years ago, it has a presence that draws people to it. What Mercedes Benz did with this car is recapture their history, they brought forward 100 years of automotive expertise into an automobile that evokes passion from the heart and soul. The SLS accomplishes what every high end automobile strives to do. It makes you want to take the long way home every time you get into it.