Motoring | Test Drives

De-winged 571bhp SLS AMG Roadster in the UAE

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG has it all; amazing looks, plenty of grunt and of course, gorgeous gullwing doors. But the Roadster has ditched them for the sake of a removable top. Good move? Imran Malik finds out. Images: Stefan Lindeque

  • By Imran Malik, wheels magazine
  • Published: 16:59 February 21, 2013
  • Wheels

  • Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • “The 6.2-litre V8 explodes into life; and since Stuttgart has done away with the roof, your ears (and eyes) will be forever grateful.”
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It was a great move. The car you see on these pages is so good, it poses a rather big problem not only to rivals such as the California, Gran Cabrio Sport, MP4-12C Spider and the like, but the national curriculum, too. Why? Well, bury the throttle of the SLS AMG Roadster and the rumble that emanates from the exhaust tips is so fierce that schools the world over will be scurrying around to re-write the big bang theory. It sounds as if the world has just detonated. The 6.2-litre V8 explodes into life; and since Stuttgart has done away with the roof, your ears (and eyes) will be forever grateful.

With the fabric top stowed (in a remarkable 11 seconds and at speeds of upto 50kph), you now get to truly appreciate just how awesome this thing sounds; it resonates like the beginning of time. The AMG-tuned motor is absolutely devastating when screaming at 6,800rpm.

Of course, it’s not all about aural pleasure, not by a long shot ­­— the performance generated by the engine makes sure of that.

Even though it’s put on a fair bit of weight compared to the hard-top version and now tips the scales at 1,735kg (that’s 40kg more than the SLS Coupé) due to the stiffer body and roof mechanism, the Roadster can still fly even with its wings clipped. It is quick enough to make you giddy, but you’ll be feeling weak at the knees way before you push the Start button, select Drive on the natty E-Select lever and floor it to reach 0-100kph in 3.8 seconds. Why? Just stand next to this achingly stunning car.

There just isn’t anything like it; nothing comes close to matching its sultry looks and raucous sound. This car stirs the emotions like no other. The Coupé
has had us drooling for some time now, but, make no bones about it, the Roadster is going to smash you for six.

The best thing about this new model is that it remains faithful to the Coupé, minus the doors. That means the long, muscular bonnet, large wheels and short, curvy rear end are all intact.

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The aluminium spaceframe remains largely untouched, although the side sills are now so big they make getting in and out of the cabin — swathed in perfectly stitched leather — a little tricky. The supporting struts at the windscreen have been beefed up to compensate for the lack of a roof too.

Take the top down and the SLS transforms into a lower, wider and much more aggressive-looking car — it’s totally captivating. And because you can’t help but stare in utter disbelief at the elegant yet muscular body, you begin to notice curves and character lines that you might not have seen before.

There isn’t anything as glamorous as this on the roads right now — the SLS AMG Roadster demands attention no matter where you take it. But with a 571bhp monster located in the engine bay producing a whopping 650Nm of torque and a top speed of 317kph, there won’t be much time for a second glance
as you rocket past.

You’ll also question whether it really weighs 40kg more, because you can’t feel the extra fat from the way it moves. What you feel is love from the way the hand-built V8 growls, the way it obliterates corners at ridiculous speeds and, yup, the way it looks. It’s an intoxicating blend to say the least.

AMG was determined to make sure the driving dynamics of the Roadster were similar to those of the Coupé, but whenever you chop the top off a car, you run the risk of it becoming a bit sloppy and wobbly. In the case of the Roadster, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

At least to me it feels as rigid, sharp and nailed on as the Coupé.

Tick the AMG Ride Control sports suspension and you’ll know what I mean; while those AMG high-performance compound brakes boast immense stopping power and the steering is as slick it comes, offering plenty of feedback.

There are four modes to select from on the paddle-shift dual-clutch transmission — C for Controlled Efficiency, S for Sport, S+ for Sport plus and M for Manual — but even in the softest setting it feels hard and has more than enough get up and go.

Twiddle the AMG drive unit to S+ and this Roadster behaves more like a dragster. Hammer the throttle and it takes off with such force you’ll wonder if it is actually road legal. And you’d be forgiven for thinking the RS mode stands for Really Scary. It might as well, but in fact Race Start is launch control, and it just makes your silly grin even sillier.

Gear changes are amazingly quick (the Speedshift DCT boasts 100-millisecond shifts) and keeping up with it is almost impossible. But the seven-LED upshift indicator in the gauge cluster is on hand to let you know what’s going on.

Other goodies include a neck-warming Airscarf system built into the seat backs so you can enjoy a hot/cold treatment with the top down and high-speed mobile internet access if you opt for the AMG Performance Media package. This allows you to send and receive emails, download apps and other geeky things.

Trust me, you won’t bother with any of that when you awake that naturally aspirated and very angry V8. No, anything but the steering, throttle and brakes are
a distraction in this.

Verdict

I’m totally sold on this car and feel that it is even better than the Coupé. No gullwings? No problem. The facts are simple; this is still as quick, albeit heavier and even better looking than the hard-top. It’s so good that I’d happily go back to school to learn all about the big bang theory. That’s AMG’s version
of events...

Specs & ratings
  • Model SLS AMG Roadster
  • Engine 6.2-litre V8
  • Transmission Seven-speed auto, RWD
  • Max power 571bhp @ 6,800rpm
  • Max torque 650Nm @ 4,750rpm
  • Top speed 317kph
  • 0-100kph 3.8sec
  • Price Dh892,500 (as tested)
  • Plus Stunning looks, superb performance, exhaust note
  • Minus Pricey optional extras

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