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Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing: Flyer than ever

It's not a bird, and we're pretty sure it's no plane, but we've just sat behind the wheel of the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and it's one of the flyest cars at the Frankfurt Motor Show

Rory Reid
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It's not a bird, and we're pretty sure it's no plane, but we've just sat behind the wheel of the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and there's no doubt this is one of the flyest cars at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Sorry.

The angry-yet-seductive styling of the SLS AMG harks back perfectly to the 300 SL Gullwing 'cedes of the 1950s, toeing the line between American muscle car and European thoroughbred. If it were a person, it would kick you in the face then pay for a sexy Italian nurse to tend your wounds. With her tongue.

When we first spotted it, that's almost exactly what happened. A press of its electronic key fob triggered the gullwing doors, leaving us in awe, but after a few minutes inside, we soon forgot how low-hanging they are and banged our heads getting out. Sadly, there was no tongue-happy infermiera on hand to rectify the situation -- just scores of motoring journalists laughing and pointing.

That was all the excuse we needed to sit back down and check out the SLS AMG's Bang & Olufsen audio setup -- a similar, but more advanced version of the B&O system we tested in the Aston Martin DBS. This one had fewer speakers -- 11 to the DBS' 13 -- but a new, more powerful amplifier. We'll need to spend more time in the car to properly rate it, but the mid-range and high frequency delivery impressed us hugely. Even the Black Eyed Peas sounded half-decent.

Elsewhere in the cabin, the SLS AMG benefits from a 7-inch colour display that lets you view options for the sat-nav and audio, as well as -- we're told -- watch video via your iPod courtesy of a dock.

You'd have to be pretty soulless to want to watch telly while you drive, though, because the SLS AMG is ridiculously quick. The petrol-powered version we've just ogled packs a 6.3-litre V8 chucking out 571hp and 650Nm of torque. It'll do 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds and go slightly north of 195mph flat out. Mercedes-Benz is also planning an electric-only version of the SLS AM, which puts out 392kW and a disturbingly huge 880Nm of torque. Acceleration will be similar, though top speed is likely to be reduced to maximise driving range.

The SLS AMG is set to hit the streets in 2010 for somewhere in the region of €140,000 (£125,000). All being well, we'll have the pleasure of driving one through the streets of London nearer its release date, at which point we'll bring you the definitive verdict. In the meantime, have a butchers' at our photo gallery for more pics and info.

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The doors open at about head height, which leads to much hilarity. We lost count of the number of people who banged their heads getting in and out of the SLS AMG. Losing count coincided with us banging us our heads.
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Its sleek profile harks back to the 300 SL Gullwing coupe of the 1950s.
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But this 21st century offshoot sports modern touches, such as a spoiler that rises from the bootlid to improve high-speed stability.
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Bang & Olufsen supply the audio system. This acoustic lens (or tweeter) delivers the high notes and sports automatically adjusted LED moodlighting that dims at night to improve the in-car ambience.
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Unlike the motorised lenses in the Aston Martin DBS, these puppies are static.
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The 7-inch display isn't touch-sensitive, so you'll need to become familiar with the array of buttons on the head unit below. Note the numerical keypad for dialing via the Bluetooth car kit and the twisty knob in the centre for moving through menus.
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More buttons can be found on the steering wheel. The cursor buttons on the left let you control the menu system, while those on the right let you place and terminate phone calls. If that's too complicated, you can always resort to using the voice-command feature.
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The display seems clear enough -- aside from being in German, of course.
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Bang & Olufsen supplies a menu section of its own, where you can tweak the audio balance and 'focus' the sound on different parts of the cabin.
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Close your eyes and the central speaker in the dash gives you the impression you're in a live studio session with the vocalists standing right in front of you.
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A microphone in the ceiling listens for ambient noise and adjusts the audio levels according to how quiet or noisy it is in the car -- great for drowning out nagging spouses or bored children.

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