When the new SLS AMG coupe arrived on the market a few years ago, it practically became an instant classic. Its shape, inspired by the legendary 300SL Gullwing, immediately put this luxury coupe in a class all by itself. However, this newcomer was more than just style: it was a true performance car equipped with a light and ultra-rigid platform. Add to that near-perfect weight distribution and a fabulous 6.2-litre V8 engine and you get an exceptional car.
Although capable of impressing even the most jaded of drivers on a road circuit, this elegant German is easy to drive in traffic and offers, at legal speeds, excellent fuel consumption (13.2 L/100 km). And despite guaranteed exclusivity, its price of around $200,000 is a veritable bargain considering the car that is being offered.
Successful cars are always followed by spin-offs, and in this case, there’s a roadster whose goal is to meet the demands of those who want to drive an SLS and still feel the wind in their hair.
The stylists assigned to developing this car probably hesitated between a retractable soft-top and a hard-top, like the current SL. The choice should have been a relatively easy one, since the retractable hard-top would have made the SLS too similar to the SL. What’s more, as this car features a shape related to the legendary 300 SL, once again, they had to respect tradition and use a soft- top. For the Canadian market, the canvas top is offered in three colours: the factory standard version has a black top, while beige and red are offered on option.
Transforming a coupe into a cabriolet is always a tricky proposition. Case in point? The Porsche 911, which, at least in aesthetic terms, didn’t exactly take well to the removal of its top. Strangely, in the case of the SLS, this didn’t have any negative consequences. On the contrary, the tail end – the most widely criticized feature of the coupe – seems more elegant in this configuration. As for the top itself, it can be put up or down in 11 seconds up to a maximum speed of 50 km/hr. Furthermore, it folds into a Z shape so it barely reduces the 173-litre (three less than the coupe) trunk capacity at all. Also note that the soft-top can be used in high-pressure car washes and that its texture was specially designed to reduce wind noise at very high speed.
Of course, removing a hard-top has an effect on the overall rigidity of the platform. To compensate, the engineers used several reinforcements in an effort to create the same rigidity as on the fixed top version. Moreover, in terms of aerodynamics, the use of a central front deflector, others located on the front wheels and a rear spoiler that’s deployed according to speed helps not only make for excellent drag coefficient, but also creates great tail end stability at high speed. Plates have also been added under the vehicle in order to facilitate air flow. Thus, the engineers have continued the job of refining this car capable of very good performances thanks to an exceptional engine.
It would have been surprising if major changes had been made to the engine. Indeed, the SLS coupe is power by one of the best engines in automobile history, a 6.2-litre 563-hp V8 paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Note that the gearbox is located in the back in order to optimize weight distribution. A carbon fibre drive shaft spins in a rigid tube linking the front central engine to the rear gearbox, the AMG Speedshift, whose dual-clutch system makes for ultra-fast shifting. It can also be used in different modes. In normal conditions, you can choose the “C” mode, which is well adapted for city driving. Press the “Sport” button and shifting will be a little faster, while the “Sport+” option helps get the most out of the car when driving on a road circuit, even for a driver with average experience. Finally, for diehards, there’s the even faster “Manual” mode. There are paddle shifters behind the wheel. Note that the stick shift located on the console is new and similar to the controls used on airliners.
Still with mechanics, the SLS Roadster is equipped with the AMG Ride Control suspension, a first at Mercedes-Benz, which helps modify the shock settings at the touch of a button. There are three settings offered: “Comfort”, “Sport” and Sport+”. You can order ceramic brakes and a tonne of other accessories on option.
Despite additions to the platform in order to optimize rigidity, the engineers also managed to control the weight increase (the roadster is 45 kg heavier than the coupe). As for weight distribution, it’s 46% in front and 54% in the rear for the roadster. On the coupe, there’s a 47/53 distribution.
Unchanged passenger compartment
To control costs and for uniformity, the dashboard remained the same. Thus, it features the same 300 SL-inspired presentation with circular air vents. The indicators dials are a good size, separated by a digital-display information centre, and grouped together in a small module that shields them from parasitic rays and the sun. Several commands were placed on the very large console situated between the two seats. That’s where you’ll find the buttons that control the shifting modes, the start button and the button to activate the rear deflector as well as the large central button that controls most of the radio and navigation system functions. However, the air conditioning is controlled by commands located in the lower part of the dash.
The seats feature both comfort and thigh support, but they’re also designed to offer excellent lateral support for sport driving. The roadster’s seats are noteworthy because of the presence of the Air Scarf system that project warm air at the occupants’ shoulder and neck height when the temperature is cool. Thus, driving with the top down doesn’t have to be just a summer activity anymore: fall and spring are now convertible seasons, too!
While there are a few storage spaces, there aren’t any cupholders. Furthermore, the door sills are very high and you have to lift your foot to be able to get out of the vehicle. As with the coupe, it’s easier to get in than get out.
Discover AMG Performance Media
This motorsport-inspired system is being introduced to the world on this model. It provides telemetric data and high-speed mobile Internet access. Here are some examples of the information it provides:
- Displays engine power, torque and gas pedal position in real time; real-time individual tire pressure display
- Displays real-time 0-100 km/hr (or quarter mile)
- Displays longitudinal and lateral acceleration, breaking power and real-time gas pedal position with memory function included
- Records individual lap times on a closed track and time by sector with memory function included
Digital simulation tools help ensure exceptional readability. But that’s not all! AMG Performance Media also includes high-speed mobile Internet access: the driver and passenger can surf the web when the car is stopped, download and install applications and send and receive e-mails. This one-of-a-kind system offers functions similar to a PC, a portable computer or a Smartphone. AMG Performance Media, which uses the Android operating system, will at some point be installed on other AMG vehicles. Unfortunately, it seems that this very interesting technology will not be available in Canada.
The SLS is an elegant, technically refined car featuring powerful performances and impressive handling. However, on the narrow streets of Cap d’Ail on the French Riviera where this car was presented, we found it rather large and that it had to be driven carefully so as not to rub the rims on the sidewalks of Monao’s busy and narrow streets. Several of the journalists present returned to the starting point with scraped rims.
But once the nightmare of traffic in the streets of Monaco, Menton, Cap Ferrat and Cap d’Ail was over, this car’s performance and engine output won us over. Its extraordinary sound is music to the ears of fans of great mechanics. This roadster is far from small, but it took on turn after turn with ease, which also gave us the opportunity to test out the amazing precision of the well assisted power steering. However, its brakes are sensitive and it’s hard to adjust the pressure on the pedal. I was able to drive a version with ceramic brakes and another with regular brakes. While the ceramic brakes had more finesse, power won’t be an issue with either type of brakes.
Thanks to a very efficient suspension, optimal weight distribution and P265/35ZR20 tires in front and P295/30ZR20 tires in back, it corners like it’s on rails. You just turn the wheel and the car takes care of the rest. Despite the fact that it’s slightly heavier than the coupe, the roadster’s fuel consumption remains identical (13.2 L/100 km) and it goes from 0-100 km/hr in 3.8 seconds. Although you can’t legally verify this on our roads, AMG’s announcing a maximum speed of 317 km/hr!
This newcomer should be on the Canadian market by December. For those wealthy enough to be able to afford it, the problem won’t be having the necessary funds to buy this exceptional car, but having to choose between the coupe and the roadster. What a great problem to have!
|Test model||2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG|
|Trim level||6.3 AMG Roadster|
|Price range||$198,000 - $210,000|
|Price as tested||$210,000|
|Warranty (basic)||4 years / 80,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||4 years / 80,000 km|
|Options||Ceramic brakes, Bang & Olufsen system, Carbon option|
|Competitive models||Aston Martin DB9, Audi R8, BMW Série 6, Ferrari California, Lamborghini Gallardo, Lexus LFA, Maserati Gran Turismo, Nissan GT-R|
|Fuel consumption||Excellent pour un moteur d'une telle puissance|
|Value for price||Une légende que l'on peut se procurer|
|Styling||Une ablation du toit réussie|
|Comfort||Sièges très confortables, bonne insonorisation|
|Performance||Si ce n'est pas assez, entrez dans l'aviation !|
|Overall||Un excellente excuse pour acheter un billet de loterie|