If there is one concept that runs throughout the Mercedes SLS, it is the meeting of old and new. Obviously, the SLS’s styling has been heavily inspired by the past, and specifically the original 300SL Gullwing, but it is a shape that has been reinterpreted for the 21st century. We doubt anyone would mistake the SLS for anything but a brand-new car.
Part of its visual impact comes from the proportions, with that massive bonnet and rear-set cabin but also the SLS’s considerable width. At 1939mm, it is broader than an S-class. The door handles pop out automatically when you unlock the coupe, and retract when the car moves off. Alternatively, the auto release can be deactivated, in which case they appear only when the button to the right is pressed. The Roadster's doors are entirely conventional, in contrast.
Alloys are 19in at the front, 20in at the rear. Although there is no choice of size, three designs are available. A seven-spoke design is standard, five-spoke items are the cheaper option, a 10-spoke design the most expensive.
The SLS’s main lights use bi-xenon bulbs, but the indicators and daylight running lamps are LEDs. Rear lights also use LEDs for what Mercedes calls a “nocturnal signature”. More LEDs are used for the foglights and reversing lights, which are surprisingly small and low set.
Mercedes says the design echoes that used in Formula 1, referencing the SLS’s role as the current F1 pace car. The plastic bootlid is one of the few body panels not constructed from aluminium. To avoid any disruption to the SLS shape, it incorporates aerials for the radio, navigation and phone. The rear spoiler extends at 70mph and retracts again at 50mph. A button in the centre console allows it to be deployed at slower speeds. Together with the rear diffuser, it creates 20kg of downforce at 197mph.