Discontinued several years ago, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive as it is known by its full name is a rare sight on the roads considering fewer than 100 cars were ever made. That makes it as exclusive as another electric supercar no longer available, the more recent Audi R8 E-Tron of which also less than 100 units were built at about $1.1 million a pop. When the Mercedes' zero-emissions SLS was up for grabs in Germany, it retailed for the equivalent of $544,000.
So, why has it been spotted testing at the Nürburgring? One possible explanation is that we're actually looking at an early test mule of a fully electric supercar that will become a part of the "EQ" sub-brand. The company's R&D boss, Ola Källenius, has already announced performance hybrids and EVs will eventually join the lineup, adding the SLS AMG Electric Drive served as a "know-how builder for AMG to get our heads around electrification."
His sentiments were echoed by AMG boss Tobias Moers in a recent interview during which he basically said the future is electric and neither Mercedes nor AMG can do anything to change it: "I don't know when [EVs will arrive] down the road. But we are not changing the future. It is going to happen."
If our assumption is correct and this is indeed a work-in-progress EV, don't expect to see it in the near future. The fact that it's using the body of another car is a clear sign the model in question is very early in the testing phase, so it will not be ready for production for at least 2-3 years.
Meanwhile, Mercedes-AMG has already launched a performance-oriented hybrid in the form of the F1-engined, 1,000-horsepower Project One. In addition, the production-intent four-door GT concept had a biturbo 4.0-liter V8 engine teamed up with a rear-mounted electric motor for a combined output of 805 horsepower.
Getting back to the car at hand, another piece of the puzzle is represented by the plethora of cameras and sensors all over the body painted in the striking "electricbeam" matte neon yellow. Mercedes might have been testing autonomous driving technologies, which when you think about it is a bit ironic considering we are dealing with a bona fide sports car.