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STYLING | 9 out of 10
isn't purely a retro pastiche
Road & Track
rear end 'inspired by the Buick Reatta and the Acura CL coupe'
is supposed to remind you of jets and fighter pilots
has a bit of bullet-nose T-Bird and lots of Silver Arrow in its profile
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is the kind of car that concours will covet in 50 or maybe 15 years. Given our choice, the Roadster's the effortlessly elegant one, while the showy gullwing doesn't quite cut as keen a profile when the doors are closed.
Both models of the SLS AMG fuse heritage cues to the Viper-esque proportions. The car's dominated by a wide grille grafted on an impossibly long front end, with just a slip of a tail wearing some anonymous-looking lamps. When it's a gullwing, there's no other car on earth that can match the visual drama of the SLS AMG--it just stops traffic dead, and recalls the iconography of the old 300SL Benz vividly. Close the doors and the gullwing SLS remains a handsome car from some angles, but the roof draws your eyes away from the muscle-car nose and the brilliant detailing on the front fenders--it's almost as distracting as the gullwings themselves, just not in the good way. Chalk it up to thick, safety-minded pillars and thin detailing on the rear fenders.
Snip the roof off, and the SLS AMG Roadster is...stunning. With lots of Silver Arrow in its profile, and a dab or two of bullet-nose T-Bird, the SLS Roadster doesn't let your attention drift up to the roofline. It welds it to those stretched-out front fenders, avoiding the box-cutter headlamps entirely. Especially from the side, the Roadster has the timeless proportions you want in a $200,000 convertible, even before the usual appliques and fender vents and other bling are factored in. Even those blase taillamps fare a little better, echoed by the resculpted rear fenders.
It's more predictable inside the SLS AMG, though no less opulent. Mercedes spent more time here than on the cobbled-together dash in the old SLR and it shows: the leather faintly glows with chrome and aluminum details, like the eye-catching console lid and the tweeter pedestals on the optional sound system. The climate and radio controls are exactly like those in the C-Class, but they're upgraded with metallic trim. There are more bits and pieces lifted from the Mercedes stock bin, but they're used in appropriate ways.
Gullwinged Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGs have an awkward angle or two as they reach for the sky; the new Roadster soars higher with its effortlessly elegant profile.