A rare beast in the supercar ranks: an open top that manages to better its fixed roof sibling

Our Verdict

Mercedes-AMG SLS
Is it a cut-price SLR or overpriced Merc special with fancy doors?

The Mercedes SLS fits the supercar billing, but delivers its own take on it

17 September 2011

What is it?

I know what you’re thinking. Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster: the open top version of one of the most sought-after supercars on sale in the UK right now. It’s low, sleek and sufficiently stylish to stop pedestrians in their tracks, but it can’t possibly compete with the SLS coupé with the way it drives, right?

It is a preconception that has been built around many a high-priced open-top, but in this case it doesn’t apply because while the SLS roadster lacks the aluminium roof of the SLS coupé, it doesn’t suffer for it.

What's it like?

With no exaggeration, the roadster is an even more convincing proposition to drive than the coupé. Of course, there’s masses of grip and it stops with great conviction, but where the soft-top really presses its case are in more subtle areas of its handling repertoire, many of which are improved over the fixed-roof model.

The engineering changes Mercedes has made to counter the loss of rigidity caused by the absence of a fixed roof provide the SLS roadster with an even more fluid feel to its handling than the coupé. Pushed hard, it feels better balanced and, with its overzealous traction control turned off, it is nothing short of sublime. The SLS roadster possesses better body control and greater levels of feedback than the coupé, and if there is any lack of rigidity it is never felt. Its ride characteristics are vastly improved, too. In fact, the modifications are so successful that Mercedes is planning to bring them to the coupé as a running change for the 2012 model year.

It’s not lacking in performance, either. Running the same 6.2-litre V8 as the coupé, the roadster produces 563bhp and 479lb ft of torque, and manages an official 0-62mph time of 3.8sec, while top speed is put at a bouffant-rearranging 197mph.

And without a roof to filter out its soundtrack, there are tiny nuances in the exhaust note evident on the roadster that you just don’t notice with the coupé, whether it be entertaining pops and crackles on a trailing throttle or the Nascar-grade volume on a wide open throttle.

But perhaps the roadster’s most persuasive sales attribute is its striking appearance, which is nothing sort of spectacular. The retro-inspired exterior, credited to British-born Mercedes designer Mark Featherstone, lends itself well to the open top treatment, giving the roadster a satisfyingly low-slung look that sets it apart from its fixed roof sibling.

The snug-fitting roof uses three layers of fabric and incorporates a heated glass rear window. It folds into its position within the forward section of the boot in just 11 seconds and at speeds of up to 31mph. When stowed, the upper part of the roof remains exposed, allowing the SLS roadster to retain an impressive 173 litres of luggage capacity, just three litres less than the coupé.

The doors have been altered, too. Out go the coupé’s gullwing units, replaced by more conventional front-hinged doors, which are significantly lighter and make entry a good deal easier. Other changes include new door trims, fixed rollover hoops, altered rear fenders and a new bootlid that incorporates the third brake light.

With the roof down, the roadster is impressively refined. There is some buffeting but not enough to drown out conversation, at least not until you hit three-digit speeds. Production versions will also get a plastic element that slots between the rollover hoops to further cut the flow of wind.

Should I buy one?

In short, the SLS roadster is a compelling, if pricey, proposition. And not just on the strength of its elegant good looks, but its overall driving appeal and aural attributes, too.

Mercedes-AMG SLS Roadster

Price: 176,895; Top speed: 197mph; 0-62mph: 3.8sec; Economy: 21.4mpg; CO2: 308g/km; Kerb weight 1660kg; Engine type, cc: V8, 6208cc naturally aspirated, petrol, front, longitudinal, rear-wheel drive; Power: 563bhp at 6800rpm; Torque: 479lb ft at 4750rpm; Gearbox: seven-speed double clutch transaxle

Join the debate

Comments
24

19 September 2011

Absolutely stunning car. Glad to read that it drives as well as it looks. Quite an achievement from Mercedes.

Faustcar

19 September 2011

Have to say - this has always looked better than the coupe - looked far too ungainly in its roofline whereas this just flows nicely even with its hood up.

Pretty? No. Stunningly purposeful - yes. Definitely has the makings of a great.

19 September 2011

A quality car and this time has proper doors.

19 September 2011

Slight typo chaps at the torque delivery :)

19 September 2011

Dentists,plastic Surgeons,Doctors, Lawyers and the like,all these self employed jobs in the land of the free will love it, because they can afford them, you can admire the car for what it is but it's not in my price range so it doesn't interest me,it doesn't shout performance to me it is just a cruising car that at least in some Cities in this Country folk would just spit in it as you pass,and there's the class system rearing it's ugly head again!

Peter Cavellini.

19 September 2011

A not particularly attractive car loses it's most distinctive feature, will sell but not as well as the hard top.

19 September 2011

How?

19 September 2011

Better looking than the Coupe, definitely but as a package still leaves me a little cold.

Still, I'm not in thier target demographic so that won't worry Merc too much!

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

DKW

19 September 2011

Does anyone know why manufacturers often release new open top cars at this stage of the year (September is a popular month)? It doesn't seem to make sense.

19 September 2011

What a magnificent car. Even if it lacks the USP of the coupe.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run