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Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster 2012 review: road test

EXPERT RATING
8
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You can now put a price on beauty and it is $487,500 for the soft-top Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.  And this vehicle is no botox and silicon-enhanced average Joe or Jane but a genuine jaw-dropping supercar that looks and sounds better than the Gullwing Coupe that preceded it.

Value

The price is stratospheric by mortal standards and pushes the AMG-developed vehicle into the arms of the moneyed elite. I want to be one of them. If my lucky numbers come up, the local Merc dealer is one of the first people I'd be calling, given there's a months-long wait between placing an order and taking delivery.

That hasn't deterred 10 customers from pre-ordering a car, including two who already own the Gullwing. Options are few but run from $29,850 for track-focused ceramic brakes, $11,025 for a carbon-fibre interior pack to $3775 for carbon fibre rear mirrors, $4950 for the adaptive suspension damping and $1950 to paint the brake callipers red.

The only thing missing is a touch screen - Mercedes has persisted with the button and dial-driven Comand interface but at this price, I'd want the touchy-feely option as well.

Technology 

AMG developed the SLS and the input of those performance purists it is reflected in every aspect of driving the car. This isn't a fettled Mercedes but a ground-up driver's machine. The heart of the beast is the 6.2-litre V8 that spins like a four-cylinder to crank out 420kW/650Nm and give the car 0-100km/h performance of 3.8 seconds. That is quicker than a Ferrari California and not far off the Porche 911 Turbo Cabriolet.

Power is sent to the rear wheels  via a seven-speed automated manual transmission mounted in the back and the car is directed into the turns by the most tactile steering wheel I've had the pleasure of laying hands on.

Styling

This car looks so good with the top down it should be sold in plain paper packaging and come with warning labels. It will stop traffic. It shares its basic structure with the Gullwing but looks even better when the three-layered red/black/beige lid is lowered - a process that takes only 11 seconds and came be accomplished at up to 50km/h.

Rear visibility is restricted with the roof down, which is why the blind-spot assist package is standard on the Roadster. And at almost 2m wide, narrow roads will make drivers nervous, especially with oncoming cars.

Safety

The SLS is five-star rated. The protection starts with a light-but strong alloy spaceframe chassis that prevents body flex and runs through to eight airbags blanketing the cosy cockpit. Software includes adaptive braking with hill-start assist and a three-stage electronic stability control program. There's also a tyre pressure monitoring system and the previously mentioned blind-spot assist so owners aren't fretting about whether a vehicle in the next lane is hidden by the roof.

Driving

The menacing bellow that reverberates off rock walls, tunnels and nearby buildings is an aural reminder why the Roadster is a better buy than the Gullwing. If I've spend half a million on a car, I want the world to know why. And the SLS delivers that with an exhaust note that ranges from latent threat at idle to a charge-the-enemy bellow as the tachometer nears 7000rpm.

The noise is accompanied by acceleration that can't legally be tapped on Australian roads - human reaction time means the speedo is on the far side of 100km/h by the time the driver eases off.  Find a series of bends and this car dances to a beat few drivers can match. The steering comes alive beneath your hands, transmitting every irregularity in the road back through the wheel to engage the driver as few cars can.

The brakes are stupendously good and the adaptive dampers will soften the hits in comfort mode or give you a direct connection to the bitumen in the sports settings. The default ESP mode allows just enough play for the rear end to twitch and remind you the right foot application is too heavy for the steering angle. At that point the chassis soaks up a lot of the lack of talent but persist and the dashboard light will start to flicker.

Verdict

Money talks and with the SLS Roadster it yells driving nirvana. There's even enough concession to practicality in the form of a 173 litre boot that will take a couple of small suitcases to make it a grand tourer for weekend jaunts. The supplied trickle-charger shows even Mercedes knows this won't be a daily driver and that's the biggest fault - cars like this were built to be driven, hard and often.

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
SLS AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO No recent listings 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS-Class 2012 SLS AMG Pricing and Specs
SLS AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO No recent listings 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS-Class 2012 SLS AMG Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
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