8

The Mercedes-Benz SLS Electric Drive is the fastest electric production car in the world. As titles go, it’s an impressive one – and the numbers back it up.

The new SLS Electric Drive, now the most expensive production Mercedes-Benz, is claimed to hit 62mph in 3.9sec, just 0.3sec slower than the Mercedes-Benz SLS Black Series, before extending to a top speed limited to 155mph.

What’s really impressive is that it achieves these claims with a kerb weight of 2110kg, some 560kg more than its conventional combustion-engined gullwing sibling.

That's thanks to its high-tech 60kWh lithium ion battery pack, supplied by Mercedes-Benz’s High Performance Engine division in Brixworth, which weighs 548kg alone.

Climb aboard and, yes, it is immediately apparent the SLS Electric Drive is fast. What Mercedes-Benz’s official performance claims fail to convey, though, is the brutal nature of the acceleration, which comes courtesy of four individual synchronous electric motors, each developing 185bhp and 184lb ft of torque for a total of 740bhp and 737lb ft, to make this the most powerful Mercedes-Benz model ever.

Even after driving the rapid SLS Black Series, the effect of the Electric Drive's spontaneous, instant-on torque left me gobsmacked. Imagine, all the torque of the original Bugatti Veyron developed the very instant you brush the throttle. It is proof positive that if the world’s petrol supplies were to dry up tomorrow the performance car genre would continue to live on.

The high-tech zero local emissions drivetrain endows the SLS Electric Drive with violent shove – both from standstill and on the run. You only ever need a light nudge of the heavily sprung throttle to hit the sort of speed limits in place in the UK. Although with right-hand drive production already ruled out, it is likely to remain a very rare sight on our roads.

What’s most intriguing is the way the SLS Electric Drive doles out its drive and the effect it has on the handling. With an individual motor placed at each wheel, the first series production Mercedes-Benz electric car to be offered to private customers is permanently driven by all four wheels.

An advanced power electronics system keeps tabs on traction levels and uses a torque vectoring system on each axle to juggle it accordingly. The result is unparalleled levels of agility and, if you’re prepared, lurid oversteer.

Overall, then, the Mercedes-Benz SLS Electric Drive is an astounding achievement, and hugely quick.

But with a range limited to 155 miles in its most efficient setting, and a three-hour recharge time on a 400 volt wallbox, it’s a car to be enjoyed in short but very satisfying bursts of driving fun. Only if you can live with that should you buy this pioneering car.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Genesis G70
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Based on the Kia Stinger, Genesis' new G70 saloon shows plenty of promising signs that it could be a hit in Europe
  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Still visceral and dramatic as ever, but does the vast number of mechanical changes and tweaks help make the Lamborghini Aventador S more engaging?
  • Renault Koleos
    Car review
    22 September 2017
    Renault’s new crossover sees the Koleos name return, attached to an SUV of a quite different stripe
  • Nissan X-Trail
    First Drive
    21 September 2017
    On our first chance to get the facelifted Nissan X-Trail on UK roads, the petrol proves a viable alternative, although for outright pulling power the 2.0 dCi is the better bet
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2d 210
    First Drive
    21 September 2017
    Most powerful diesel version of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is swift and more frugal than its closest rivals, but makes less sense than the range-topping petrol version