It's a shame if the SLS AMG Electric Drive comes off as an otherworldly bauble for the moneyed – most of whom won't appreciate it beyond the early-adopter and top-tenth-of-one-percenter status it confers – because it's almost 2.5 tons of passionately engineered electric fun and optic-smashing vinyl wraps. To overlook it is to miss out on technology that is, we hope, headed for a more prosaic AMG soon. We drove this car on the same day as the SLS AMG Black Series, and there was so much to learn and enjoy that we almost regretted having to leave it to drive the Black Series. Almost.
- It weighs 4,774 pounds, nearly 550 kilograms more than the 3,573-pound SLS AMG GT. The weight difference comes from the heft of the lithium-ion battery array, composed of 12 modules of 72 cells that weigh 1,208.1 pounds. The batteries change the weight balance of the coupe by one percent: the SLS AMG GT is balanced 54/46 front-to-rear, the Electric Drive is 53/47.
It's an energetic beast: The 400-volt, liquid-cooled, 60-kilowatt-hour battery is rated at
552740 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of immediate torque. According to Mercedes PR, that makes it "the most powerful AMG high-performance vehicle of all time." The run from stationary to 60 miles per hour takes 3.9 seconds, top speed is limited to 155 miles per hour and range is pegged at 155 miles. For comparison's sake, take the aforementioned SLS AMG GT with its 6.2-liter V8 blending up 583 hp and 479 lb-ft that gets from naught to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and will run out of acceleration at 197 mph. Also compare the Electric Drive to the philosophically similar Tesla Roadster (a two-seat electric sports car) that weighed 2,723 pounds, had a 53-kWh battery, 288 hp, 273 lb-ft of torque, a 245-mile range and performed the same sprint in the same time. But remember, we're just putting these cars on a piece of paper together to see where they fall; the SLS AMG Electric Drive has zero interest in being a Tesla or its GT kin.
- Those batteries juice four synchronous electric motors – a pair in front and another pair in back that sit astride the center line of the car, each pair flanking a single-speed, direct-drive transmission. In front, the setup necessitated a new multilink suspension with horizontal pushrod dampers replacing the aluminum double wishbones of the standard car.
- The AMG Drive Unit knob takes its usual place and is inscribed with its usual markings: C for Controlled Efficiency, S for Sport and S+ for Sport plus. They alter the linear, straight-line driving characteristics by changing the amount of power delivery: the coupe uses 60 percent of its power in Comfort, 80 percent in Sport and the whole shocking lot of it in Sport plus.
- Behind the AMG Drive Unit are the buttons for ignition and traction control. The next illuminated circle is the AMG Torque Dynamics button, which has three settings for altering the cornering dynamics. Each wheel can be driven and retarded by its dedicated motor to optimize the vehicle's cornering properties – go into a tight right-hander and the right-side wheels are slowed down to expedite the pivot. The three settings provide conspicuous differences, each step up delivering tighter cornering and wider tail-sliding latitude than the rung below. At its sportiest, the 4,774-pound coupe becomes freakishly capable through high-frequency trials like the slalom.
- Behind the Torque Dynamics button is one for AMG E-sound. Potential customers told AMG that they wanted the same kind of aural feedback in the SLS AMG Electric Drive as they get in their gas-powered rides. The result is an augmented whine that we thought not only hard to parse from the other various whines of the electric powertrain, but unnecessary and a refusal to embrace the future-fantastic nature of the car. You can listen to it in the Short Cut video below.
- The steering wheel is affixed with paddles, but they don't change the single gear. Rather, they let you choose any one of four levels of brake regeneration. When you lift off the throttle at the max setting, the car responds as if you were giving the brakes in a traditional car a not-inconsequential push.
- It's a hoot to drive, satisfying not only because of its performance, but also in how far away that performance is from convention: It feels like a high-dollar sportscar, goes like a hi-performance sportscar, corners like a much lighter hi-performance sportscar and sounds like a desktop computer. There are a jillion different ways Mercedes could have built an electric sportscar, and the SLS AMG Electric Drive represents an approach from the "fabulously berserk" end of the spectrum. Still, all of its components utilize current technology, so there's no reason they couldn't tone it down and produce an electric-drive version of the next-generation C63 AMG. Hint...
- The price in Germany will be 416,500 euros (about $544,000 US). Buyers might as well add $10,000 for the 22-kilowatt quick-charger wall box. Otherwise it takes about 20 hours on a 220-volt plug, and that's just silly.