7 Sept 2012

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Mercedes SLS 63 AMG Roadster.

The Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster looks better in the flesh than it does in photographs.  Maybe it's just not a very photogenic car but as you walk round it you begin to realise that it's smaller than it looks in pictures and you start to appreciate the lines of the thing.  It has a fairly simple shape, round at the edges but with enough creases and gills to make it interesting.

I had driven the SL 63 AMG Roadster before stepping into this car but once inside the SLS was instantly struck at how different it felt.  Black and red leather combines with aluminium and steel switches, dials and vents to make the SLS feel much more of a hardcore car than the SL.  High, carbon sills and aluminium dials give away the point of this car - driving fast and hard.

The man from Mercedes said to me, as he handed over the key, "Enjoy the noise."  I did.  And so did everyone else within a mile radius.  The 6.2 litre, 571bhp V8 sounds mighty.  Even more so than the similar unit in the C63 AMG Black series.  The only comparison is with the Jaguar XKR-S.  Both V8 lumps, both sound epic.

The German unit under the bonnet announces it's presence even at tickover.  It shouts, it screams, it howls and it'll do whatever you ask of it.

You sit low - lower than in the SL.  The waistline feels high once inside.  The steering wheel, pedals, switchgear are all perfectly placed for driving.  The seats hug you tight and the alcantara and leather steering wheel feels just right.

Pull away and the engine throbs - dragging, willing you along.  The fuelling is perfect - it jumps from tickover to 7,000 revs in an instant.  the 7 speed semi-automatic gearbox is so slick you hardly notice.

As in the C63 AMG Black there are plenty of options to explore.  Press the AMG button for a sportier ride, turn off the traction control, change from automatic to manual gears - and be quick about changing up because it's easy to hit the limiter.

The handling is precise.  This car suffers slightly more than the C63 for the heavy 6.2 under the bonnet because it's lighter so the balance is slightly further forward but you hardly notice.

I drove the SLS on the same curved slip road as the SL and in both cars pushed the accelerator mid corner to try and induce understeer.  Whilst the front of the SL did push wide, very slightly, the SLS refused to do so.  The set-up and chassis of the car, as well as the various electronic gadgets, makes for handling in the same league as Porsche and Ferrari.

Straight line speed is mighty - in whatever gear.  In automatic mode the kickdown is quick and even with the hood down the car is quiet inside - save for the thunderous racket of the engine.

Mercedes engineers have managed to pull off the trick of making cars with supreme handling but also a comfortable ride.  Road imperfections are absorbed well yet when you turn into a corner the wheels grip the road with accuracy.

At £192,000 (with options) the car I drove is incredibly expensive.  Yet, if you have that kind of budget it would be £192,000 well spent.  It really is a joy to drive.  Just make sure, if you do buy one, to treat it to the odd track day or blast down the Autobahn every now and again.