New Opportunities

2 12 2011

When I first heard that AMG had the thumbs up to design a whole car I was ecstatic. I was even crazier about the whole idea when I found out that it would be a successor (in spirit anyway) to the legendary 300 SL Gullwing, so my anticipation levels were pretty high…but I wasn’t worried at all, I knew AMG could pull off a great car. They had this for sure! Well they didn’t. Not completely anyway.

2010 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG

Let’s get one thing straight right away, I absolutely love AMG’s work, always have, probably always will and I think the SLS is an incredible machine. Totally get why heavy weights like Clarkson love it (as he states again and again in the 2010 “Italian Job” DVD)…however, there’s something that gets me every time and that I can’t just disregard for the sake of technical brilliance. To everyone who thinks this is an astonishingly beautiful car, I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m gonna rain on your parade a bit. Simply put, I just very honestly and wholeheartedly dislike the SLS in terms of design. It utterly bugs me to no end how it could be a simply drop dead gorgeous piece of design and just…isn’t. There was the time to do it, certainly the money, the resources, the know how…why isn’t this thing beautiful???

When I look at the SLS from front to back I always get the exact same thought, and it goes something like this: “Oh wow, great looking machine! Nice front grill, cool headlights, a long hood full of dramatic, aggressive straight lines, interesting retro Gullwing doors…and the rear…oh, look at that…the designer lost the will to live!”. I honestly think that it was either that or suddenly, the designer thought to himself “well, I’m kind of hungry, I guess I can do the rear of the car after lunch” and then he got fired at the cafeteria for taking too many cookies for desert.

Curiously, Adam Ferrara had kind of the same ideas as he so (I’ll go with) eloquently expressed on episode four of the first season of Tope Gear US, but I swear I didn’t rip him off on this. You see, the issue whit the SLS is that it’s just not pretty, and with the kind of DNA it has backing it up, with the company it comes from, it should be pretty! No,  it should be more that that actually, it should be perfection! It feels like 2 completely different designs, straight lines at the front and curvy lines at the rear, that’s just not possible to pull off successfully.

300 SL Gullwing project 2010

And here’s what makes me even more annoyed with this whole thing: back in 2007, the Auto Motor und Sport Magazine went public with a few designs for the project that eventually became the SLS and just look at it, isn’t that one of the most interesting  things you’ve ever seen? Sure, maybe you’ll spot a bit of 911 clandestine inspiration around if you squint, but other than that it really feels like it could have been refined and reborn like a worthy successor to the 54’ Gullwing. But unfortunately I have to let that concept go and accept what exists, and that’s actually the whole reason for this article.

Next year Mercedes will launch the convertible version of the SLS. Now, I can count by the fingers of one hand (and still have plenty of fingers left) the cars that look better in their convertible version than they do as a coupe (cars that were born as convertibles are off this assessment, obviously), but in this case, although not being completely successful because the basis for it is wrong to begin with, it’s definitely a major improvement! The 2012 SLS Roadster looks much more balanced without the roof, certainly more fluid. It finally feels as a whole and not two different cars’ halves glued together. And this ladies and gentlemen is not an opinion based on looking at pictures; I’ve had the joy of checking out one of these in person.

At first I had no idea what an SLS Roadster was doing here and on Ford factory grounds of all places, there “she” was indeed. Later on I found out it was a photo shooting for Top Gear Magazine.

2012 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Roadster

This is one of the few beauties of an aspect that’s not always great about the automotive world. Usually you have the car, and then the maker comes out with a convertible version, then a sporty track day kind of thing and the design keeps changing, sometimes for the worst, other times for the better…my point is, there’s always a new opportunity to make something greater, even if the basis isn’t that good. Of course this also works the other way around and beautiful designs are butchered, but for today, I’ll end on a positive note. So here it is, for your consideration, the SLS Roadster (and a link to a great gallery if you feel the same way I do).

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Image Credit: benzinsider

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