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A couple of years ago Mercedes-Benz made the bold promise to launch an electric version of its SLS AMG gullwing supercar on the market by the end of 2013. Since then we’ve seen several concept versions of the car, which was labeled the SLS AMG E-Cell, though now we’re getting our first look at the production version, which is called the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive and has made its world debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show.
That name may certainly be a mouthful, but the part that you should concern yourself with is the car’s output, which comes in at a staggering 740 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of torque. Not only does this make the SLS AMG Electric Drive the most powerful electric car currently on the market, but the fastest too.
According to Mercedes-Benz, the SLS AMG Electric Drive will sprint from 0-60 mph in less than 3.9 seconds and easily reach its electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. The fastest gas-powered SLS AMG, the 583-horsepower SLS AMG GT, needs only 3.6 seconds to reach 60 mph, though it isn’t hindered by a heavy battery pack.
The battery back in the SLS AMG Electric Drive weighs just over 1,200 pounds, and is rated at 60 kWh. It has a range of about 150 miles with mixed driving. Charge time takes more than 20 hours using an ordinary household outlet, though Mercedes-Benz plans to offer a quick-charge option.
But it’s not just about brute power with this car. Like the original concept versions, the production SLS AMG Electric Drive packs four motors, one mounted to each wheel via an axially-arranged transmission design. By controlling the torque of each of these motors through a new AMG Torque Dynamics system, the vehicle promises to handle much better than its gasoline counterparts.
The technology behind the AMG Torque Dynamics system was developed together with engineers from the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team, who were able to contribute their extensive know-how with KERS hybrid concepts. Note, Ferrari’s replacement for the Enzo supercar is expected to feature its own setup relying on this principle.
To counteract the heavy batteries is a full carbon fiber monocoque, another feature that should help the SLS AMG Electric Drive stand out from the regular model. Though costly, adopting carbon fiber for the car’s central structure helps engineers achieve the high standards of performance implied by the AMG badge. Benefits include a weight saving of around 30 percent over standard aluminum, but high strength too.
But the changes don’t end there. Racing-style pushrod shocks replace the vertically-arranged system in the regular SLS AMG, as the electric drive system--and the now driven front wheels--required a different axle setup. The brakes are carbon ceramic units.
Inside, the cabin layout remains much the same as the gas-powered versions. One new element is the controller for the AMG Torque Dynamics feature, which offers the choice of Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes for the ride and handling.
On the outside, there are a few subtle details that allow us to tell the gas and electric versions apart. Most obviously, the SLS AMG Electric Drive is devoid of any exhaust tips and features a new “Electric Drive” badge on both its front fenders. The bumpers are also slightly different to the gas versions, particularly the rear one, while the grille and front intakes are painted to match the body color.
So far the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive has only been announced for the European market, where it will go on sale next year priced from 416,500 euros (approximately $536,000). There’s no word yet if a U.S. launch is planned, though we’ll keep you updated if the situation changes.