Driven: Mercedes- Benz SLS AMG Roadster
Bye-bye gullwing doors, hello more of that AMG V8 noise
Launching the SLS Roadster in these surroundings has the potential to backfire on Mercedes a bit. After all, it's easy to assume this drop-top SLS is more about the pose.
There's a certain amount of previous too. When the 300SL Roadster launched in 1957 it boasted comparable performance to the 300SL Gullwing but was unashamedly more Riviera-friendly. This was still a 300SL, just a tad more accessible and a little less scary thanks to revised rear suspension. It also out-sold the Gullwing by a considerable margin, saying much about the real tastes of the super rich who bought it.
new optional Ride Control dampers now offering SLS customers an extra button to twiddle and three options of ride quality. Coupe buyers will be able to choose this as an option now too.
For a 200mph car (actually limited to 197mph but who's counting...) that'll nail 0-125mph in 11.3 seconds the SLS Roadster is as reassuringly easy to drive around town as any SL, size notwithstanding.
Proportions that would have even Peter Perfect blushing in the Turbo Terrific take a little getting used to but other than that it's simple matter of basking in the Cote d'Azur sunshine and soaking up the murmurs of approval from the supercar savvy locals. Six months down the line they won't bat an eyelid but, right now, this is the freshest bit of exotica on the block and the SLS is enjoying its moment in the sun. And bagging a few sales into the bargain.
the pint-sized G40 to make sure there was space for a set of sticks.
With this fresh in our minds and the trip computer still showing a depressing average speed of 36km/h nearly two hours into our test drive, it's fair to say opinions towards Monaco and its supercar culture are not especially charitable. Gearbox and suspension selectors have remained untroubled and, as it stands, comfort mode reveals the SLS to be, well, just that.
The engine dominates the SLS, the ability to enjoy it al fresco just 11 seconds after pressing the appropriate button all the more exciting. For all the tech there's a pleasing old-school vibe too, the SLS offering up a hint of back to basics TVR Griffith fun, remixed for the modern age and with a Merc star on the front.
Traditionally of course the soft-top version of a favourite sports car tends to be something of a flaccid compromise. But, curse their German logic, AMG realised there was going to be a roadster version of the SLS from the start and actually engineered the body in white as an open-top car. Easier from there to add a roof and chop a bit of weight out than decapitate it and then add a ton of ironwork to make up for the loss of structural integrity.
Straight-lining across the cambers of a snaking stretch of mountain road would, were there any, show up any inherent flex in the body but there's absolutely none. And what of the inevitable extra weight? A mere 40kg, the SLS 150kg lighter and a whole lot stiffer than its most obvious rival, the Aston Martin DBS Volante.
Any thoughts that the SLS Roadster is simply an AMG SL with ideas above its station disappear at the first hairpin bend too.
An SL63 is carrying another 310kg of flab for a start and no regular Merc, AMG'd or not, has ever had such an alert feel at the wheel. The SLR McLaren went the other way with an alarmingly twitchy front end but the SLS, with or without roof, pairs superb natural balance with a fast, well-weighted rack that - motoring hack cliché alert - really does contribute to making the SLS feel smaller than it is.
And those golf clubs? They'll fit. But going by the amount of heat soak from the exhausts into the boot our millionaire friend would probably open it to find a puddle of very expensive molten metal where his set of clubs had been. Who says the Germans don't have a sense of humour.
But if I had the money I'd still be torn between this and a F458....
But practical? Cost-effective?
911 turbo surely for cost-effective?
911 with 2+2 for practical? Although no room in the boot for golf clubs.
Personally I don't want practical or cost-effective in any car I own but each to their own!
Compared, for instance, to the new Noble this must surely be bargain of the week. Anyway, each to our own.
Even then the SLS version has considerably different tuning as it's version puts out 563bhp in comparison with the C63's 451bhp.
And about the practicality thing... yes the 911 Turbo has 4 seats if you spec it correctly, but they are only useful if you have dwarfs you need to regularly transport. Or children I suppose. An SLS will have a vastly more useful boot, especially in Coupé guise. The only way I see the 911 being greatly more practical is in the snow, if we keep getting such terrible winters. I wouldn't fancy taking my brand new SLS down the B roads used to get to my village if they were coated in snow and ice!
But it is very expensive and there are lots of other very desirable cars that would fight for my attention.
One thing that does strike me is how big it is. When I see pictures of the car by itself it doesn't look so bad but when you see someone in the driving seat they look somehow too small (almost like they have been shrunk - or Richard Hammond is always driving). Odd.