Picture this. A crowd of automotive journalists steps outside a hotel lobby in quiet little Monterey, California—right along Cannery Row, to be exact—waiting for a shuttle bus to the nearby Laguna Seca track, to drive Mazdas. Exactly then, four Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG supercars roll slowly up to the hotel and park, in a row, in front of the automotive scribes, trailed by a big yellow Penske rental truck that might or might not have been with them.
Eyes widen, cameras are pulled out, and it’s a snapping frenzy for a couple of minutes. The men with the cars—several looking stoically German—look a little hesitant for a moment, then at ease, go grab cups of coffee. Several of us look around in disbelief, and it feels a bit like someone might be playing a gag on us. At the very least, it’s a PR stunt, right? Someone doing double-duty as a guerilla marketer for Mercedes?
If so, it worked here, just a few days after Monterey’s concours weekend. But after processing this one for nearly a day, we still wonder…WTF?
In case you haven’t kept up with the news on this near-exotic that will arrive sometime next spring, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is a gullwing sports car that’s effectively a slightly more attainable ($300,000 is our best guess) replacement for the Mercedes-Benz SLR. Power is provided by a 565-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 and seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. With a lightweight aluminum body, that should bring a 0-60 time of well under four seconds and a top speed of close to 200 mph.
So the cars are under cover—sort of—but not camo. Car-cover-like material rests on the roof, with zippers along the edge of the gullwing doors. We actually saw someone carefully extricate themselves from the arrangement and hope it’s better in the production car.
Details like trim, bezels, and vents are mostly hidden but everything looks in place on these cars and display-ready, as it should be. More easily seen in peeks underneath are the hood vents, along with the side vents just behind the front wheel wells; and the cover for the big Mercedes-Benz emblem at the front is even breaking loose in one of the cars. The curved windows are full of glare—perhaps intentionally—but we get enough of a good glimpse inside to see the familiar Mercedes-Benz climate controls and the exact same interior from those official pics.
The four men sip cups of coffee quickly, never giving us a great angle in the clammy morning for this mini Frankfurt preview, but not making any effort to hide further. And just as our shuttle bus pulls away they start getting into their cars.
Um, they sure aren’t sardine cans, but something smells a little fishy.