Car companies love whipping out superlatives. Mercedes-Benz just dangled a big one at the Paris Auto Show with the SLS AMG electric: 740hp and 738lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says it’s the world’s most powerful series production car.
Another claim to fame is the “my car costs more than your house” price tag: $540,000 equivalent in Germany; the most expensive Mercedes-Benz road car to date.
The vast majority of us who will never be able to afford the electric SLS should still find plenty of reason to be intrigued by how the car manages to keep up with and outperform its V8-powered brother. This is automotive history in the making, people.
Get ready - we’re about to geek-out with technical details.
The SLS Electric Drive packs a total of four synchronous electric motors. Each is set at a corner of the car to drive a wheel, contributing to a permanent four-wheel drive system. The electric quartet combines to produce 177hp more and 259lb-ft more than the 6.2-liter V8 gasaholic engine in the SLS AMG.
In electric SLS land each motor draws from a 60kWh lithium-ion battery back. Power is charged back to the batteries during braking through a KERS (kinetic-energy-recovery system) and by energy produced during in-gear coasting.
Power is put to the ground through two separate gearboxes that work with a new AMG Torque Dynamics system that divvies out power between the wheels in search of maximum traction.
Mercedes says the SLS electric will sprint to 62mph in 3.9 seconds and is electronically limited to a top speed of 155mph. Compare those numbers to the V8 SLS:
62mph in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 197mph.
Be impressed yet skeptical, keeping in mind electric horsepower ratings are only neat in relation to how fast the car sucks down battery juice, not to mention how long it takes to recharge.
The SLS electric has a range of 155 miles. A full charge on standard 230-volt European power takes 20 hours. Using an optional wall box producing a 22kW quick charge the time drops to three hours.
I sense someone typing: “That's great, it still costs half a million dollars”. And yes, for now it's no secret the SLS electric caters to the Richie Rich’s of the world who will pay obscene amounts of money for a thrill behind the wheel, but it’s also solid evidence electric cars are entering the mainstream marketplace at nearly every level but entry level, primarily from the top down.
The fact that Mercedes is producing a half-million dollar electric car sends a clear message their company believes electric cars are going to play a major role in the future of automobiles, and that they are committed to pushing the technology forward.
Still, even among the wealthiest 1% market segment people still have many of the same reservations that face every day people who might eventually consider buying a Nissan Leaf or Ford Focus electric.
In the caviar and golden toilet crowd it seems Mercedes is particularly concerned with easing the culture shock the SLS could potentially inflict by not having the visceral delights the V8-powered variant provides.
To help ease the transition to battery-powered performance insanity Mercedes outfitted the SLS electric with a “power” button that plays the sound of a typical AMG V8 through 11 speakers around the cabin. The roar of the make-believe engine syncs with the amount of throttle being used.
That’s a dumb gimmick and one that's more noteworthy than the price tag of the car itself.
Still, it's exciting stuff to see a half-million dollar electric car being produced. People who might actually buy the SLS electric aren't pissing on the lower rungs of society, they're supporting a trickle on down effect of electric technology.
Hopefully the system works this time around. There are plenty of Average Joe driveways that are fed up with gas prices. Getting on the juice could be a source of major relief if we give it a chance to become more affordable, even if being too expensive is a necessity for now.