Mercedes-Benz SLS 2014 Review
It’s the fastest and most powerful Mercedes road car ever sold in Australia and, at $640,000, one of the most expensive.
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The devil is, as always, in the detail. By parts seen and those microscopic, the Porsche 911 for 2013 is an assembly of parts known and components new.
The engine's still at the back - though it has moved slightly towards the front to fractionally reduce rear-weight bias. The shape's the same and few will pick this as a 2012 - coded 991 - over its predecessor. Underneath, however, there's lots of tricky bits. But despite its 1964 origins, it's still a stunning car with the ability not only to go fast, but to turn heads, make women consider marriage and men become your best friend.
Yes, it's really expensive. The Porsche Carrera 2 (rear-wheel drive) S (3.8-litre) costs $262,600 as a seven-speed manual. The seven-speed dual-clutch auto option adds a steep $5950. You may want a sunroof ($3890) and heated seats ($1050) and you'll need park sensors ($890). It comes with 20-inch wheels but the Sport Design wheels - to match your steering wheel - will add $890.
Ceramic brakes are an extra $19,690 and the Sports Chrono pack - with launch control and centre-dash stopwatch - is $4790 and, to hear that exhaust music, you may need the sports exhaust (with a switch on the dash) for $5890. Want all that? $305,640 please and now add a lot extra to get it on the road.
Parked in the pits at the Wanneroo raceway, it is all 911. In fact, like any 911. That same sad droop of its tail, the signature fenders that sit proud of the bonnet in a tilt of the hat to Ferdinand's first, the teardrop side glass and ancestral overhangs. But it's longer. You notice it in the wheelbase. Where other 911s look short in the leg, like a child who has outgrown his first trousers, this one is stretched.
Inside, the knees-up pose needed to swing folded legs past the imposing door post to a deep footwell beyond, is fractionally more generous and more forgiving to women. But it's still not a car commendable for entry and egress. The rear seats are best left folded to lie flat to create a storage areas.
The dash has overtones of the Carrera GT and the Panamera with the same rise in the centre console that pushes the gearshifter - in this case the lever for the dual-clutch auto - higher and closer to the steering wheel and with it, the driver's left hand. The switchgear continues to follow Porsche's random placement philosophy and there's virtually no provision for personal items, like the mobile phone, unless the small console or tiny glovebox is considered acceptable.
Vision to the front is barely acceptable, to the side it's fair but the tail is invisible. The front and rear park sensors would help, but they're an option - in a $260,000-plus car? - for an extra $890.
Honing the engine and transmission and adding stop-start are responsible for a 14 per cent reduction in fuel use - now averaging 9.5 litres/100km - but more importantly, a breathless transition from rest to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds. There's 294kW at a heady 7400rpm - just 400rpm shy of the red line - and the 440Nm of torque peaking at 5600rpm.
The Carrera S with PDK has a pair of rocker switches on the steering wheel to manually change gears. It's a lot clumsier than the simpler, industry-standard paddles with a right-side lever for up, a left lever for downshifting. Luckily, Porsche's "proper'' paddles are a cost-free option but only with the Sport Design steering wheel. Electric-assist steering is new, designed to reduce fuel use and rid the need to have hydraulic hoses fed from the engine pump (at the back) to the steering box at the front.
No crash-test rating for this car - indeed, few top-end, low-volume cars are test crashed by independent laboratories - but there's six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, huge four-wheel disc brakes, bi-xenon lights, heated mirrors, rear window wiper but no spare wheel.
It will start with almost the same note as in the past. A stumble at the turn of the key and then a blat followed by a slightly uncomfortable gargle of metal rolling and sliding on metal. Porsche's dual-clutch PDK transmission hides seven cogs and the ability to slip up and down the ratios in less time it takes to blink, so the go-factor is enhanced while the lack of any pause between the gears avoids fuel wastage.
The relatively small-bore engine and the lack of a turbocharger give a false indication of the explosive power of this engine. But maximum power at 7400rpm show that it's a screamer. On a deserted Wanneroo Raceway, it only takes a stab at the accelerator at 4000rpm to instantly awaken an angry and noisy reaction to cold high-octane petrol meeting white-hot metal. Jab the gearshift forward for the upchange and there's that push on the chest and barely any restraint to the anger.
It handles better than before but we're coming off a high base here. Porsche's adaptive dampers and torque vectoring are now standard after being an option previously. Significantly, fears that the electric-assist steering - a first for the rear-engined car - would kill one of the very factors that makes the 911 so sweet to drive, are extinguished within a lap of the Wanneroo circuit.
The steering wheel still relays a sense that your fingers are feeling the coarseness of the bitumen, feeling the camber and touching the ro ad's imperfections. Those who say the electric assist is not as good as the old hydraulic must have a better finger than me.
The 911 will tick and crackle while cooling down but for me, it's not a car you can switch off without leaving flushed, charged with adrenaline and itching for another ride. It's more than a car.
|Carrera||3.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$101,200 – 116,270||2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera Pricing and Specs|
|Carrera 4||3.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$107,800 – 123,970||2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera 4 Pricing and Specs|
|Carrera 4 S||3.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$123,970 – 142,450||2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera 4 S Pricing and Specs|
|Carrera S||3.8L, PULP, 7 SP MAN||$107,030 – 122,980||2013 Porsche 911 2013 Carrera S Pricing and Specs|