Merc's go-faster SLS

- Is this a facelift for the gull-wing Merc?

No it isn't, it is merely an updated SLS AMG with beefed-up performance. Unlike in mainstream cars, it is essential for makers to maintain model zest in the supercar business.

The original SLS was launched in coupe form _ featuring the legendary gull-wing doors in 2010 _ followed a year later by the rag-top Roadster (naturally with conventionally hinged doors).

For 2012, Mercedes has introduced the GT version of the SLS in both hard- and soft-roof forms boasting slightly more performance.

- And not at the expense of fuel consumption, right?

Yes, because that is what usually happens when product-planners outline their strategy for a particular model's lifecycle _ they have to make the SLS more attractive than ever.

The GT runs the same 6.3-litre non-turbo V8 but gets a tweaked ECU to bump up power from 571hp to 591. Torque remains the same at 650Nm.

The 20hp enhancement has lopped off a 10th of a second in the 0-100kph time, now at 3.7sec for both SLSs. Average economy stays at 7.6kpl.

- I like the interior colour

Ah, you must be adoring the meticulous red stitching around the cabin for the new leather upholstery (an option, though) and carbon-fibre panels that have also been applied on the exterior side-view mirrors and engine cover.

Other cosmetic appointments include darker head and tail lamp casings and red-coloured brake calipers catching on carbon-fibre ceramic discs.

Mercedes has also enhanced driving characteristics for a sportier feel. The GT's seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (known as AMG Speedshift DCT) has a quicker and more direct action in manual mode.

The active suspension has also been remapped for a firmer setting in sport mode which Mercedes says provides better body control over high-speed undulations.

- And how much does the GT cost?

Due to the iconic doors, the Thai Mercedes office is most likely to continue the SLS tradition in GT form without the Roadster version.

It will retail at around 27-28 million baht (please include those stylish seats) in Thailand after taxes are properly calculated. That's slightly higher than the regular SLS, costing 24.999 million.

- Whoa! I'm going for the R8 instead

True, the R8 (as well as in GT form) is priced below 20 million baht as it isn't really conceived to be a rival to the front-engine SLS.

However, we share your sentiments because the R8 is such an easy mid-engine supercar to drive on a daily basis.

The R8 GT's on-paper numbers also reveal the 5.2-litre V10 produces a lesser 560hp and 540Nm but does 0-100kph in a quicker 3.6sec (3.7 for SLS GT) and achieves the same 320kph limited top speed. Okay, economy isn't likely to bother you. But just to let you know _ the R8's 7.2kpl rating is inferior to the SLS's 7.6kpl.

Another caveat for the R8: it still gets an outmoded automated manual gearbox.

But here's a refreshing rumour. We hear that Audi is planning to employ a mild facelift for the R8 later this year which will also, once and for all, include a S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox.

And while we're on the topic of transmissions, there's chatter that Porsche will finally ditch the six-speed manual in the new 991-based GT3 and replace it with a seven-speed PDK twin-clutcher.

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