190mph special - Mercedes SLS v Aston Martin Vantage v Porsche 911 v Lamborghini Gallardo

This is the ultimate supercar test - we're pitting the Mercedes SLS AMG, Aston Martin Vantage V12, Porsche 911 Turbo and Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera head-to-head. Steve Sutcliffe reports.

The Mercedes SLS is the new car on the block - albeit one wrapped in retro clothing. But don't let that fool you. Virtually the entire car is made from aluminium, including its spaceframe chassis, yet the overall rigidity of the structure remains high.

See exclusive pictures from the ultimate supercar test

In the nose sits a normally aspirated 6208cc V8 that develops 563bhp at 6800rpm and 479lb ft at 4750rpm. Power reaches the road via an ultra-sophisticated dual-clutch semi-automatic gearbox with seven forward ratios, a rear-mounted transaxle for better weight distribution, and numerous gearshift modes to choose from.

The suspension is similarly bespoke, featuring a classic layout of double wishbones with coil springs at both ends, while the brakes of the test car were optional carbon ceramic discs.

Alternatively, you can watch the Merc SLS versus rivals video here

The base price for the SLS is £157,500, which already puts it above the 911 Turbo (£106,387), Vantage V12 (£135,000). Tick a few boxes, though, and it won't take long to hit the £187,000 of our test car - more than the limited edition Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera here.

Gawp appeal

There's an intriguing mix of modern and traditional in the Merc's styling. The overall effect is extremely dramatic. Wherever we went with these cars, it was the SLS that was gawped at most - quite amazing, given the lime green Lambo.

Swing the driver's door up, climb in, and the SLS's driving position is faultless and the basic architecture of the cabin excellent. But there is a whiff of anti-climax about it - for a £157,500 it is a touch ordinary. It feels like any other Merc.

It's the Aston that shows the way here. Despite being a bit of a joke ergonomically, the Aston feels hugely more special inside somehow, more of an event to relish.

Down to business

See exclusive pictures from the ultimate supercar test

The SLS is instantly impressive in the way it reacts not merely to the throttle but also via its super-responsive steering and suspension.

The car's sheer alertness on the move comes as a surprise to begin with. The SLS is one outrageously quick and surprisingly raw-feeling sports car. In some ways it feels like the world's most sorted TVR.

Only once you have grabbed the SLS by the scruff and muscled it down the road does it become clear how fluid, and how cohesive, this car's dynamic repertoire actually is.

And rest...

A chance to stop and chat reveals some uncertainty about the SLS. Colleagues who have driven it suggest it's "too stiff, too nervy and not smooth enough to drive on give-and-take roads". So will the people at whom the SLS is aimed at understand the car?

Will they understand that it can make the Aston Martin Vantage V12 seem peculiarly baggy to drive by comparison; keep up with a well driven 911 Turbo across a deserted moorland road and keep a car as crazed as a Lamborghini Superleggera firmly in check.

I'm not convinced that the will, in which case the SLS's dynamic outlook might come as an unwanted surprise. Anyone wishing to cruise the boulevards in their SLS is going to be slightly disappointed.

In terms of basic capability, this is a car that's more of a rival to the Ferrari 599 GTB than we'd imagined, in light of which £157,500 no longer seems terribly outrageous.

But there is a caveat. Although the SLS is massively faster and, visually at least, makes more of an impression than we were expecting, it's still a curiously cold car emotionally. Neither the Gallardo nor the V12 Vantage is as flawless as the Mercedes, but you warm to them in a way that simply never happens with the SLS.

The conclusion

See exclusive pictures from the ultimate supercar test

For some, the Porsche's searing pace and real-world values will be enough to seal the deal. Personally I'd go for the Aston, happy in the knowledge that it is fast enough to compete while delivering almost as much dynamic edge as the SLS and 911 with three times as much style/character/sense of occasion.

And the Lambo? It's a car for proper lunatics and special occasions only. And sometimes it would be the only one of the four you'd genuinely crave to drive. For the other 350 or so days of the year, the V12 Vantage would be just about perfect.

Read the full supercar head-to-head test in this week's Autocar, on sale now.

See all the latest Mercedes SLS reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Aston Martin Vantage reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Porsche 911 reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Lamborghini Gallardo reviews, news and video

Join the debate

Comments
72

18 June 2010

beyond parody, even for Autocar, but...

this is a real beaut:

[quote Autocar]

But there is a caveat. Although the SLS is massively faster and, visually at least, makes more of an impression than we were expecting, it's still a curiously cold car emotionally. Neither the Gallardo nor the V12 Vantage is as flawless as the Mercedes, but you warm to them in a way that simply never happens with the SLS.[/quote]

- ah, that old intangibility, beyond physical assessment stuff, that comes as birthright with every car conjured into being in the magical sceptred isle (disclaimer: except the make-it-go bit which comes on a crate out of an industrial eyesore adjacent to the Rhine).

[quote Autocar]Personally I'd go for the Aston, happy in the knowledge that it is fast enough to compete while delivering almost as much dynamic edge as the SLS and 911 with three times as much style/character/sense of occasion.[/quote]

ah, but suddenly the intangibility melts away and the merlin wheelman of Autocar Towers is able to effortlessly quantify the tangibility of the mighty, ethereal Aston: 'dynamic edge'(SI unit unknown) = 'almost as much' as SLS/911. 'style/character/sense of occasion' = 3 times Teutonic Tosspots. Breathtaking. Almost kind of funny. Almost.

18 June 2010

Does anyone have an idea why nickscheele keeps reading and posting here? Is he on a mission?

18 June 2010

The slowest and dynamically less capable car wins here. This is a parody of a comparison I am afraid! I just wonder if 458 Italia was participating in the test would Mr Sheele dare to reach conclusion? I mean of course everyone is entitled to an opininon but its one thing to claim that Jags and fords win any comparison and quite another to say that the Vantage is a clear winner against 911 turbo, SLS, and the Supeleggera. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that it may have evolved the last 10 years but the Aston V12 engine is still 2 ford V6's!

18 June 2010

Shock horror, Aston Martin wins. But then. "Despite being a bit of a joke ergonomically, the Aston feels hugely more special inside somehow, more of an event to relish". Yes, they are overpriced, yes they are built to a standard that would shame a Dacia, yes they are off the pace, but somehow in a way that can't be expressed or measured, they are the best. As is the Ford Focus, Fiesta, etc.

Autocar. Yes its reviews are rubbish and biased but somehow in some unmeasurable way its....pants?

18 June 2010

Be careful peeps if Sutty doesn't like your negativity it will frustrate him, forcing him to resurect the "Dafta's" to quiet you down.

Me I've gotten to the point where I don't even care which "wins" the test but rather I just read to see if the reviewer says anything about how the car drives in more than a sentence. j

18 June 2010

it would be useful to carry a dictionary in the glovebox. 'machinations'?

18 June 2010

Children, children please !! The fact of the matter is that a comparison of cars like these is always going to be subjective. It is naive to suggest that figures alone are going to be enough to rank these cars like some Top Trumps game. To form an honest opinion these cars really need to be experienced first hand. The exception to the rule, of course, is looks and I can't honestly see why the SLS gathered the most attention. In my opinion it's dull inside and out.

18 June 2010

[quote nicksheele]

beyond parody, even for Autocar, but...

this is a real beaut:

[quote Autocar]

But there is a caveat. Although the SLS is massively faster and, visually at least, makes more of an impression than we were expecting, it's still a curiously cold car emotionally. Neither the Gallardo nor the V12 Vantage is as flawless as the Mercedes, but you warm to them in a way that simply never happens with the SLS.[/quote]

- ah, that old intangibility, beyond physical assessment stuff, that comes as birthright with every car conjured into being in the magical sceptred isle (disclaimer: except the make-it-go bit which comes on a crate out of an industrial eyesore adjacent to the Rhine).

[quote Autocar]Personally I'd go for the Aston, happy in the knowledge that it is fast enough to compete while delivering almost as much dynamic edge as the SLS and 911 with three times as much style/character/sense of occasion.[/quote]

ah, but suddenly the intangibility melts away and the merlin wheelman of Autocar Towers is able to effortlessly quantify the tangibility of the mighty, ethereal Aston: 'dynamic edge'(SI unit unknown) = 'almost as much' as SLS/911. 'style/character/sense of occasion' = 3 times Teutonic Tosspots. Breathtaking. Almost kind of funny. Almost.

[/quote]

The fact is, with a car of this type, a purely self-indulgent purchase, you want that character, that soul, that sense of enjoyment and occasion. Steve makes it plain he respects the SLS enormously for its engineering capability, but happens to prefer the Aston in spite of a few of its failings. You're trying to apply head-purchase critical techniques (such as you would use for an everyday repmobile) to a class of car where you purchase with your heart. Trying to say this is restricted purely to British machinery is nonsense - the Italians are good at this, too (though I REALLY don't like the F458 - I'd far prefer something with the looks, and relative simplicity, of the F355). Heck, even the Aussies are good at it - and the Americans have produced some lovely, very characterful cars, interspersed with the most Godawful torrents of beige.

Steve didn't try to suggest that the Aston is 100% British - everyone knows the majority shareholder is a Kuwaiti investments firm, the engine comes from Köln (the old Ford Germany plant IIRC), the gearbox comes from ZF in Friedrichshafen, the satnav comes from Volvo in Göteborg, etc, etc. He just loved it for what it is - a lovely car - in spite of its flaws.

18 June 2010

Actually it shouldn't be subjective. I don't know what industry you work in but I bet you have to provide genuine measures you can evidence. My point is that Autocar takes subjectivity and bias to ridiculous lengths, They produce SMART statistics but then pronounce in favour of the their favourites based on "providing an unmatched sense of occassion" cancelling out every fact they have gleaned. Autocar rather than bring back the DAFTA's get some new journalists to regain credibility.

18 June 2010

[quote PHILBY]

The slowest and dynamically less capable car wins here. This is a parody of a comparison I am afraid! I just wonder if 458 Italia was participating in the test would Mr Sheele dare to reach conclusion? I mean of course everyone is entitled to an opininon but its one thing to claim that Jags and fords win any comparison and quite another to say that the Vantage is a clear winner against 911 turbo, SLS, and the Supeleggera. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that it may have evolved the last 10 years but the Aston V12 engine is still 2 ford V6's!

[/quote]

Like I said, heart not head. Of course, if the F458 was here, it would win the dynamic bit easily - but I think it would still lose out to the Aston on pure soul. Also, the Aston V12 engine may share its basic architecture with the Ford V6, but that's where the similarity ends. The cylinder heads are completely different. The crankshaft, con-rods, pistons, etc, are different. The inlet and exhaust manifolds are completely different. Sure, it's not the most sophisticated engine in the universe, but it's very, very far from being a bad one.

P. S. The plural of something (in this case, V6) never has an apostrophe before the S on the end. Sorry for sounding pedantic, but it's one of my pet hates.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run