This Misunderstood Mercedes Technology Was Actually Brilliant

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG made a smashing debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show as the first vehicle developed entirely by the German automaker's AMG tuning division. The 1993 Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG is the first jointly-developed car by the two firms after signing a cooperation contract in 1990. Still, the SLS AMG is the first vehicle — a supercar, no less — to be designed and built in-house by AMG, proving to the world that AMG has gone a long way from a humble two-person operation in the outskirts of Großaspach during the 1960s (per Mercedes-AMG).

According to Mercedes-Market, AMG wanted a supercar from the beginning and something that would share the limelight with the almighty Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911, and Audi R8. The engineers wanted an engine in the front, a long hood, and a two-seat cockpit positioned slightly forward of the rear axle, with almost zero overhangs in the back. The AMG team looked to the iconic Dodge Viper in developing the SLS AMG, and it only took 37 months for the sketches to morph into the finished product.

As expected from Mercedes-Benz, the SLS AMG had its fair share of tech features deemed impressive in 2010. AMG's first masterpiece highlights a lightweight aluminum spaceframe cradling a Mercedes M159 front-mid mounted 6.3-liter V8 engine that pumps out 563 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. The SLS AMG Final Edition unveiled in 2015 had a 20 horsepower increase for 583 stampeding German horses (per Motor Trend).

Mercedes SLS AMG: Technological Showcase

Despite not having a standard manual transmission (the SLS AMG has a slick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox), the SLS AMG is blindingly quick off the line. The SLS AMG Coupe Black Series has an updated 631-horsepower V8 to push it from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a 196 mph top speed. Meanwhile, a standard SLS AMG Coupe could trash the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds at 125 mph, mind-bending numbers for a time that doesn't seem too long ago.

Other noteworthy tech features of the SLS AMG are satellite radio, a Mercedes-Benz COMAND interface (prefacing the modern MBUX AI-powered infotainment system), memory front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, advanced navigation, and a six-speaker audio system. Moreover, the folks at Mercedes and AMG gave the SLS a unique and quirky piece of tech that has something to do with the car's legendary gullwing doors.

You're probably aware that the SLS AMG's gullwing doors pay homage to the incredible Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster, the fastest production car in the 1950s and 1960s. Born out of necessity rather than a fashion statement, the gullwing doors and track-winning performance of the 300SL have made it the ultimate dream vintage car, a noteworthy addition to any auto collection. But in the Mercedes SLS AMG, the gullwing doors hide a unique safety feature that has something to do with "controlled detonation."

Exploding Gullwing Door Bolts

According to Road & Track, the brainiacs at Mercedes-Benz and AMG devised a pyrotechnic initiator on each hinge on the upper part of the doors. In short, small bombs are on the door hinges of a Mercedes SLS AMG — but allow us to explain: If the vehicle is upside down after an accident, those top-hinged gullwing doors could prove to be a death trap. But the Mercedes SLS AMG's exploding door bolts will fire small charges if the system detects the vehicle is motionless and upside down for about 10 to 15 seconds. The controlled explosion releases the doors from the hinges so the occupants can push or kick away the doors and escape to safety.

The entire process is not as morbid or shocking when experienced in real time. The video above depicts how the system works, and the "explosions" are merely snapping sounds than an ear-shredding bang. But still, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is the only production car to get this feature, and that makes it truly unique in the supercar world.

An engineering marvel

Almost 14 years after the car first came out, the SLS AMG is still impressive and widely renowned as one of the best cars to ever roll out of Affalterbach. Its monstrous 6.2-liter V8 was certainly a large part of the AMG's success, but it was also the tuning house's commitment to putting out the best vehicle it could possibly make, both in the performance and design departments. The AMG could have been a boring car, but instead, it was a rolling gull-winged callback to perhaps the most iconic Mercedes after World War II. 

The "exploding" bolts were just the icing on the cake for the SLS AMG. Inside and out, it was designed with care and attention and that extended to safety. Hopefully, the driver wouldn't roll a nearly quarter-million dollar car when they're taking it out for a drive. But the engineers had the forethought and technical prowess to allow the best of both worlds: eye-catching gull-wing doors and the peace of mind that the SLS wouldn't become a very expensive coffin.