Dueling Supercars: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and McLaren MP4-12C Revealed Nearly Simultaneously
By Chris Haak
For the past several years, performance car specialist McLaren has been building the SLR McLaren for Mercedes-Benz. Now that SLR production has ended, both companies have split off into their own directions for their next supercar projects, with the new Mercedes-Benz model being developed in-house by its AMG performance arm and the McLaren model being developed as McLaren’s first independent roadgoing car project since its F1 of several years ago.
Mercedes-Benz and McLaren could probably not have built more extremely different vehicles if they had purposely tried to (and it’s possible they did – who knows?) Mercedes’ SLS AMG is clearly the spiritual successor to the original Mercedes-Benz SL300 of the mid-1950s. The shape is clearly a tribute to the original “Gullwing” Mercedes – with the shape of its grille, the air extractors aft of the front wheel openings, and of course the use of gullwing doors as the original had. Still, the car – in the photos leaked online yesterday – seems to lack much of the grace and elegance of the 300SL “Gullwing’s” shape. The upright front end, in particular, looks a bit out of place relative to the rest of the car.
The SLS features a variant of AMG’s ubiquitous 6.2 liter (badged as a 6.3 liter, of course) V8, making a strong 563 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, driven through a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. According to the company, the 3,500-pound SLS should jump to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds and top out at 197 miles per hour. Supposedly, the SLS AMG will be priced with an MSRP of €177,310 ($258,300 USD) in its homeland in Germany.
Daimler’s former supercar building partner, McLaren, took less of a sledgehammer approach to performance and design with its awkwardly-named MP4-12C, and more of a smaller, lighter, and more precise one instead. The MP4-12C is built on a one-piece carbon-fiber chassis tub that weighs just 176 pounds. The car is motivated by a 600-horsepower, 3.8 liter V8 that also produces 433 lb-ft of torque. While McLaren’s extensive press release didn’t list the car’s curb weight, it’s probably extremely light. Throwing a number at the dart board, I’d guess that somewhere in the 2,500-pound neighborhood is likely. The company mentions not only the car’s “extraordinary power-to-weight ratio” but also delivers the highest CO2 to horsepower ratio of any car on the market, including diesels and hybrids.
From a styling standpoint, the MP4-12C (I really hate typing that) appears to break little new ground. The design is clean and clearly shaped by time spent in a wind tunnel, but dispenses with the outrageous style of both the SLS AMG and other similarly-priced competitors such as the Lamborghini Gallardo and new Ferrari 458 Italia. The rear-swept headlamps are somewhat reminiscent of the Gallardo, but the car’s air intakes at the front and sides of the car are more prominently-featured than in any car that I can recall since the 1984 Ferrari Testarossa’s. The MP4-12C is expected to be priced around £160,000 ($265,000 USD) in its homeland in the UK.
Both cars are sure to draw a crowd no matter where they appear. I still remember always choosing the McLaren F1 when playing racing video games years ago because it was just the fastest, easiest car to drive in the game. I think I’d still make that same choice; for my quarter million dollars, I’d still go with the McLaren.
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