Mercedes’ successor to the SLS supercar is shaping up, and it will be a smaller, more agile coupe targeting the Porsche 911. That means a smaller V6 engine (as well as an SLS-style V8) and a lower, £70,000 starting price. The car is due on sale in 2015. Codenamed C190, the most likely name is SLC at the request of sales and marketing, though the engineers favour a revival of the SLR badge last seen on the Mercedes-McLaren.
The SLC will use an updated version of the SLS’s aluminium spaceframe architecture. But how will Mercedes reduce the cost of SLS components to hit the SLC’s starting price? Sources say the SLS architecture is highly flexible and can be easily modified for length, width, height, bodystyle and wheelbase, within the cost targets. And there’ll be plenty of pricier V8 models to help recoup costs too.
The SLC will shed the eye-catching gullwing doors in favour of conventional side-hinged panels. This move is said to take out weight and enhance body stiffness. While the SLS was from the outset planned with two bodystyles in mind, the SLC will at least initially only be built as fixed-head coupé.
The proportions of the new model are determined by the carryover front-mid-engine layout. The big oval grille which dominates the upright front bears a certain resemblance to the W196 monoposto, the curved shoulders and the relatively narrow greenhouse were obviously influenced by the original 300SL, the sloping rear end is vaguely reminscent of the pagoda-roof SL. Typical SL touches are the diamond-shaped air vents in the front wings.
The engine line-up
Insiders are predicting two V8 models. The £80k version will be powered by a new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 rated at 485bhp and 500lb ft. While the 1550kg SLC would be some 155kg heavier than a 911 Carrera S, it packs an extra 85bhp, in a bid to match its Porsche rival against the stopwatch.
Those who miss the awesome grunt of the 563bhp SLS may want to spend an £35K on the SLC S. The ‘S’ effectively stands for what is today known as performance pack. The deal includes bucket seats, carbon-ceramic brakes and a go-faster kit as well as a notably more potent V8. Featuring a much larger intake plenum, hotter camshafts and a free-flow exhaust with four end pipes, the SLC S musters 585bhp and 553lb ft. Its natural enemy is the 911 Turbo S. Both SLC variants are fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, a shorter final drive ratio and a limited-slip differential.
Other proposed variants include a brawny GT derivative and an even lower-fat Black Series flagship which may warrant its own race series, 911 Supercup-style.
The breakthrough news is an entry-level V6 model, which will arrive a little later in 2016. Priced at around £70,000 and aimed straight at the 350bhp Carrera, the Merc’s 3.0-litre powerplant is good for 333bhp. While the transaxle layout prevents AMG from developing a 4WD option, the weight distribution could be better balanced than the rear-engined 911’s.
Will there be other bodystyles?
Although officials claim that the R190 roadster is a myth, we would not forever rule out a second bodystyle – be it that closely related roadster, a ballsy spyder inspired by the 300SLR or even a 2+2-seater shooting brake. Mercedes even filed a patent application for a special four-door gullwing body concept based on SLS/SLC underpinnings, but so far the only approved model is the coupé.