First Drive: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster
We sent Teamspeed's Dan Trent to drive the new SLS but we decided we like these pics from the shoot better! By Dan Trent - Teamspeed Contributing Editor What is it?
An SLS gullwing clipped of its doors but open to the air Why should I care?
You can hear the engine even better than before How fast and how much?
6,208cc V8, 563hp@6,800rpm, 197mph (limited), MSRP <$200,000 (TBC)
Soft-top derivatives of favourite coupes rarely survive the transition without some sort of compromise. Open-air fun typically comes at the expense of extra weight, more body flex and, more often than not, a whole lot less trunk space.
AMG says it doesn't have to be so. And barely a week after it emerged from under the dry ice at the Frankfurt Motor Show Teamspeed is in Monaco to put the theory to the test.
Under the skin the SLS Roadster is mechanically pretty much identical to its gullwinged brother. No bad thing there. So it gets the identical 6,208cc dry-sumped V8, built under AMG's one man, one engine ethos. And it drives through the same transaxle mounted seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox - sourced from Getrag and the mechanically as per the one used by Ferrari in the California and 458.
Performance is the same too, with 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed limited, for some reason, to 197mph. And here lies the first clue that 'compromise' wasn't in the AMG team's briefing notes when it chopped the roof off the SLS.
In fact it came about the other way round, the SLS's aluminum spaceframed body in white designed from the start to work as a roadster and gaining a roof and gullwing doors to create the SLS coupe. The SLS Roadster does get additional strengthening, including thicker sills and additional bracing around the dashboard. There's also a new rear crossmember incorporating the fixed roll hoops and, neatly, the 250-watt subwoofer. Incredibly the body weighs just 4.4lb more than the coupe's, the SLS Roadster's 3,660lb overall curb weight 165lb less than a Ferrari California and 330lb less than an Aston Martin DBS Volante. And for those thinking "yeah, it's just a flash SL" it's a whole 683lb trimmer than an SL63 AMG.
This obviously does wonders for the power to weight but with that magnificent 6.2 AMG V8 the SLS never had an issue there either. 563hp means it has a 110hp advantage over the California and 53hp over the Aston. So it's fast. And sounds it too.
A mere 11 seconds after flipping the switch - which you can do at speeds of up to 30mph - you can hear it in all its gurgling, crackling glory too. Sure, the Roadster doesn't quite have the coupe's eye-candy qualities. But it more than makes up for it with the sheer excitement of being able to hear that V8 at work in the open air.
A key new feature introduced for both SLS variants but debuted on the Roadster is Ride Control three-way adjustable damping. This is in part due to customer demand and also to broaden the Roadster's range of ability, the Comfort setting there for wafting about while Sport more or less equates to the standard fixed-rate dampers. Sport Plus gives even more poise but, unusually for such systems, is acceptable on the street as well as the racetrack.
Driving the SLS that stiffness and lack of weight are very much apparent, as is the power. Mainly the power. In many ways the SLS is a good old-fashioned and somewhat over-engined muscle car, albeit with all the sophistication you'd expect of its European breeding. Happy to burble around on a light throttle response to a little more weight on the right foot is never anything but explosive. And with the roof down they might just hear you whooping over that V8.
The stiff body gives an excellent platform for the suspension to work from and the SLS simply devours bumps, cambers and turns with utter poise and conviction. For a big car it turns on a dime too, the steering faster and more responsive than any SL, AMG or not, and beautifully weighted with it. The centered weight distribution means it feels unexpectedly agile too and, should you wish and with the three-way ESP in its mid-setting, there's easily exploitable oversteer there on demand. This is a car that wants you to look good and will do anything in its power to achieve that aim, the insulated roof and typical Mercedes refinement also there for the long cruise back home.
And if there's room in your life for a super hot two-seat roadster there are few boxes the SLS doesn't tick. For some the gullwing will always have that little extra something. But with so few compromises for losing the roof it's a tough call as to which makes the more compelling case. Darn it, we'll take one of each.
Ok, ok, ok....Let's be fair to our contributing editor Dan and post a few pics of him flogging around in this awesome matte white SLS!