Mercedes-Benz has kicked off a high-stakes bid for electric performance car supremacy with the unveiling of the production version of the SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive at the Paris auto show.
Priced at the equivalent of $540,000 in Germany, including a 19 percent sales tax, it is Mercedes-Benz's most expensive road car to date.
Described as the world's most powerful series production electric car, the SLS Electric Drive shares its exterior styling, including signature gullwing doors, with the gasoline-engined SLS AMG introduced in 2009.
Apart from some small changes to the styling of the grille insert, the biggest clue to the car's electric driveline is the absence of exhaust pipes.
The SLS Electric Drive uses a high-tech driveline consisting of four synchronous electric motors -- one at each corner -- providing it with permanent four-wheel drive.
The electric motors, each weighing 99 pounds, deliver a total of 740 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. That's 177 hp and 259 lb-ft more than the 6.2-liter V8 in the standard SLS AMG.
For comparison, the electric-powered Audi R8 e-tron, which is expected to cost about half the price of the new Mercedes-Benz when it goes on sale in early 2013, packs a claimed 376 hp and 604 lb-ft.
The electric SLS AMG is equipped with two separate gearboxes that provide direct drive to each axle, along with a new AMG Torque Dynamics system that provides selective drive to individual wheels depending on prevailing traction in three different modes -- Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. Mercedes says the car will reach 62 mph from standstill in 3.9 seconds and is electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph.
By comparison, the standard SLS AMG reaches 62 mph in 3.8 seconds and has a top speed of 197 mph.
The driver can call up what Mercedes-Benz describes as a typical AMG sound tailored for each driving situation with the press of a so-called "power" button. The synthetic sound is played through 11 speakers located around the cabin.
Energy for the electric motors is provided by a 60kWh lithium-ion battery pack developed in cooperation between Mercedes-Benz's AMG performance car division and its British-based High Performance Engines offshoot. The British unit developed the 2.4-liter V-8 Formula One engine and KERS (kinetic-energy-recovery system) unit used by the Mercedes-Benz, McLaren and Force India teams.