2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive
The most powerful AMG also is the quietest.
The skunkworks team in Affalterbach knows how to make AMG-branded Benzes the most-intimidating-sounding cars on the planet—in particular, the sounds of its 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 and naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 are exalted hymns in the church of car enthusiasm. (Listen to us run nine AMGs through a tunnel in Detroit.) But with the introduction of the 2014 SLS AMG Electric Drive, Mercedes-Benz AMG has introduced its first truly stealth supercar. (We have to ask: Hasn’t parent company Daimler learned its lesson with the Electric Drive moniker? We digress.)
Not only is the electric supercar AMG’s quietest model by a long way, but it’s also the brand’s most powerful. Electrification provides the SLS with 740 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, with all the twist available from a standstill. The electricity is generated by four contact permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors that spin to 13,000 rpm and through a so-called axially arranged transmission. In comparison, the new-for-2013 petroleum-powered SLS AMG GT churns out 583 hp and 489 lb-ft. Benz claims the electrified SLS will hit 62 mph in 3.9 seconds before topping out at an electronically limited 155.
Power is routed through what Mercedes is calling AMG Torque Dynamics; this provides the car with selective all-wheel drive and allows each wheel to be independently powered or braked to assist in handling maneuvers. The system can be switched among comfort, sport, and sport plus modes. The motors aren’t located in the hubs, saving unsprung weight, but each corner does feature carbon-ceramic brake discs measuring 15.8 inches in front and 14.2 inches in the rear. Power is stored in a liquid-cooled 60-kWh, 1208-pound lithium-ion battery pack developed by Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains of Brixworth in the U.K.—these are the people responsible for Mercedes’ kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) in Formula 1. The battery pack consists of 12 modules, each made up of 72 lithium-ion cells—that’s 864 cells in total, if you’re keeping score at home—that, like all hybrids, receive a charge under deceleration. When static, the SLS Electric Drive can be charged in three hours via an optional 22-kW quick-charge station; plugging it straight into an unmodified wall outlet, a full charge takes 20 hours. Once the electric SLS is full of juice, Mercedes claims a maximum range of 155 miles, although honking on the thing no doubt rapidly decreases that number.
The electric SLS AMG features a carbon-fiber monocoque, which is bonded to an aluminum space frame and houses the car’s battery. An independent multilink suspension with horizontally mounted pushrod shocks is employed at the front; the conventional car’s vertically arranged struts were tossed to make way for the additional drive shafts.Although the Electric Drive SLS will be the stealthiest AMG ever built, it won’t quite be silent. The car’s engineers developed various sounds to accommodate the electric supercar. A startup noise accompanies the push of the power button, a “dynamic” sound is audible under hard acceleration, and a subdued tone plays while cruising. The sounds and the cancellation of unwanted background noises are provided by the car’s 11-speaker audio system.
For a supercar that’s seemingly from another planet once you pop the hood, the SLS Electric Drive largely looks the same as any internal-combustion-powered SLS. The grille gets “bionic honeycomb-shaped” openings, and it and the adjacent air intakes receive body-matching paint. Paint aside, these openings are functional, feeding air to various cooling bits. Exterior colors are limited to the chromatic blue you see in the photos, an exclusive matte neon yellow called electricbeam, and four others. A new gauge cluster features in the electric SLS, and it replaces a tachometer with a display providing information on power requirements, regeneration status, transmission modes, and battery charge.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Electric Drive starts at €416,500 in Germany (that’s roughly $435,000 when you subtract VAT, although the price isn’t likely to directly translate). Deliveries are expected to begin before the end of the year. At more than double the price and far less than half the sound of its gas-fired sibling, we know which SLS we’d choose to own. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to take the other one for a very quick, nearly silent spin.