Mercedes ready to expand SLS range

* Convertible and hardcore versions likely * Gullwing coupe comes to UK in August * 2010 allocation already sold out...

Mercedes ready to expand SLS range

Mercedes is ready to offer convertible and hardcore versions of its new SLS supercar so that it can compete with Ferrari and Porsche on every level.

'They [the other versions] are not yet approved, but we are ready with them. The chassis of the SLS is so good that it makes all these things easily possible,' said Volker Mornhinweg, the chairman of AMG, Mercedes' high-performance division, who designed and engineered the car.

The SLS is being pitched against the Ferrari 458 Italia and Porsche 911 Turbo. Ferrari and Porsche are renowned for exploiting every possible market opportunity, and Mercedes is preparing to respond by approving convertible and super-fast Black versions of the SLS.

The SLS is a front-engined two-seater that harks back to the 300SL of the 1950s. It even has similar gullwing doors.

Its front-mounted 6.2-litre V8 engine delivers 563bhp and 480lb ft of torque, but it is mounted well back in the chassis and the gearbox is behind the passenger cell to give a rear-biased weight distribution for better handling.

Summer debut for 'standard' SLS
The SLS comes to the UK in August and is expected to cost around 150,000, depending on what happens to exchange rates. If you are thinking splashing out on one next summer forget it. The 2010 allocation of 150 cars are all spoken for.

'We are still taking orders, but it is for our 2011 allocation,' says Wilfried Steffen, the head of Mercedes in the UK. 'How many will we get in a full year? That depends on the popularity of the car, but I would estimate around 200.'

At the Frankfurt motor show in September, Mercedes announced that in 2012 there will be an electric version of the SLS featuring one motor for each wheel and a separate transmission for each axle.

It will have slightly less power than the V8 model 525bhp but vastly more torque at 650lb ft.