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SLS AMG Roadster review

  • Drop-top SLS supercar driven
  • Price 176,895
  • On sale now; first deliveries in November
Words ByWill Nightingale

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What is it? It's the new drop-top version of Merc's stunning supercar. Available to order now, the SLS AMG Roadster is Mercedes' answer to the Audi R8 Spyder and Aston Martin DB9 Volante.

What's it like to drive? Chopping off a car's roof often ruins the way it drives, but the good news is this isn't the case with the SLS. It was designed be both a coupe and a soft-top from the very beginning, so although some structural reinforcements were needed to make up for the missing roof, they weren't major and added just 40kg to the car's overall weight.

As a result the Roadster is just as blisteringly fast as the SLS coupe, hitting 62mph in 3.8 seconds and going on to a limited top speed of 197mph.

Remarkably, the Roadster is as impressive to drive as the coupe in other respects, too. It's just as astonishingly agile for something weighing the best part of 1.7 tonnes, and the immense amount of cornering grip combined with super-strong brakes give you the confidence to really attack bends.

True, the SLS isn't a featherweight precision supercar like some similarly priced rivals such as the Ferrari 458 but it wouldn't be embarrassed by an Audi R8 Spyder on a windy road. It's also comfortable enough to cross continents in, with a surprisingly supple ride if you switch the suspension to its softest setting.

Then there's the noise. The 563bhp 6.2-litre V8 produces one of the best soundtracks in motoring, and without a roof in the way you can hear it that much better. At low revs the SLS growls, pops and bangs, causing anyone within a hundred yards to stop and gawp. Crack open the throttle, and theres a deafening roar that just gets louder and louder as you pile on the revs.

That said, if youre on a long motorway jaunt and fancy a break from the constant bellow you simply switch to comfort mode and the exhaust quietens down. Thats one of the greatest appeals of the SLS: its fun to drive fast, but you dont have to put up with a bone-shaking ride and a deafening exhaust note on every single journey.

Whats it like inside? As head-turning as they undoubtedly are, the gullwing doors on the SLS coupe arent all that practical. The Roadster replaces them with conventional doors, which admittedly robs the SLS of a touch of glamour.

Once youre inside, folding down the fabric hood takes just 11 seconds and can be done at speeds of up to 30mph. The roof eats up hardly any boot space the Roadster has 173 litres of luggage room, which is just three litres than the SLS coupe and almost twice as much as much as you get in an Audi R8 Spyder.

Elsewhere, the interior is pretty much the same as the coupes, which in truth means its a bit disappointing. Most surfaces are trimmed in leather, but the humdrum design isnt a patch on the cars stunning exterior. If it werent for that thunderous exhaust note, you could almost be sitting in a 70,000 SL 350. In fact, many of the switches and knobs are the very same ones used in run-of-the-mill Mercedes models, such as the C-Class.

Should I buy one? If you can afford to spend 168,395 on the SLS coupe, you can probably find the extra 8500 for this new Roadster version. So, price isnt really a factor when choosing between the two.

Both versions are monumentally quick and capable, especially given how well they can play the comfortable cruiser when youd rather just sit back and take it easy. Wed go for the Roadster, though. Yes, you lose the gullwing doors, but the soft-top is just as good to drive as the coupe and removes the physical barrier between you and one of the finest exhaust notes of any car on sale today.

However, the Audi R8 V10 Spyder should also be on your shortlist, and looks a positive bargain next to the Merc at 117,710. If you want a drop-top supercar that puts driving pleasure about all else, youd be wise to wait for the Ferrari 458 Spider, which will go on sale next year and be priced at around 190,000.

Rivals
Aston Martin DB9 Volante
Audi R8 V10 Spyder

What Car? says...

Will.Nightingale@whatcar.com