Before we first tried the Mercedes SLS, we wondered how Mercedes could get away with using the same engine in its new supercar as it does in the C63 at a third of the cost. Because, in essence, both use the same 6208cc V8. However, the first time we found a straight long enough to let the SLS give everything it’s got in third gear, any such cynical thoughts were dispelled in an instant.
In liberating an extra 112bhp from the V8, Mercedes has uncorked a monster of an engine. Add to that the fact that the SLS is 110kg lighter than the C63 and you get an impression of just how much quicker the SLS is. A 0-60mph time of 3.9sec in the coupé tells only half the story, because this reveals as much about the difficulty of launching a front-engined, rear-drive car as it does about its ultimate performance.
The more telling achievement is the coupé's 0-100mph time of 8.0sec (the Roadster takes fractionally longer), which is quicker than the SL65 Black Series. No question the SLS has genuine supercar pace. Yet it is also very easy to drive. The gearbox – the same Getrag unit as that used in the Ferrari California – has four modes, and its most relaxed setting (Controlled Efficiency, as Mercedes calls it) shuffles its seven ratios to keep the revs low and the power manageable. Nestling between the dials is a line of change-up lights. That’s useful, although it’s rather hard to miss when the engine is approaching its 7500rpm limit, such is the volume of the V8 - especially when you're in the Roadster with the roof down.
It’s a mixed report for braking performance. On the road, the standard iron brakes performed impeccably, with good pedal response and strong stopping power. At the track, though, they started to wilt after just three laps. Carbon-ceramic discs are optional and worth considering for regular track use, but with the trade-off of worse pedal modulation at slow speeds.