Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster review
Take the roof off the Merc SLS AMG coupé and you get the even more attention grabbing Roadster.
Jack Carfrae

Published on September 23, 2011

Mercedes' SLS AMG supercar has been around for exactly two years and it's still splendid. Now it's the turn of the new Roadster. It promises more of the same old-fashioned supercar thrills, minus a roof.

In the metal 5/5

It may lack the gull-wing doors of the coupé but the SLS Roadster has no less presence. It's big for a two-seater convertible, with a particularly long nose and wide stance. The prominent grille with its large three-pointed star leaves you in no doubt as to what it is, and the low, squat stance renders it every inch the super convertible.

You don't have to duck beneath the doors with this SLS, but you do have to slump low into the cabin. It's classy and luxurious - there's more about it than an understated Porsche interior but less theatre than a Ferrari's. Fine quality leather, proper aluminium and thick carpet abound.

Driving it 5/5

Prod the Engine Start button on the right hand side of the centre console and you're met with a tremendous bellow from the twin tailpipes. The noise the thing makes is utterly addictive - a growling crescendo under acceleration, which falls back to a cauldron-like bubble and pop on the overrun. Lovely.

The figures above illustrate its enormous pace, which is delivered in the most blunt and raw fashion. You won't find any kind of forced induction here - just a dirty great 6.2-litre V8 with 570hp and more performance than you could ever need. The seven-speed, double-clutch automatic transmission is at its best in Sport Plus mode, but there's something of a delay between shifts when you change gear using the paddles.

Everything happens at the back in the SLS. The engine is set a long way back from the front axle and the gearbox is mounted at the rear too. Get on the power and the feeling of the car transmitting its power through the back axle is more than obvious. Even the steering, which is direct enough (if not the most delicate of systems), seems to communicate its direction from the rear. You can turn the ESP off, or reduce its presence, but it's worth leaving it on the majority of the time, as there's more than enough torque to overwhelm the rear tyres.

What you get for your money 3/5

It's a supercar, so expect a supercar price tag and a 'basic' SLS AMG Roadster is in Ferrari 458 Italia and Aston Martin DBS territory. There's a lot of scope for customisation, too, including three roof colours, a new interior pack arriving next year and an AMG performance media system, which allows you to check G-forces, power usage, lap times etc. If you've got the cash and the ideas, there isn't much that Merc won't do on the personalisation front, either.

Worth Noting

AMG's engineers hinted at the possibility of a smaller, cheaper sports car in the pipeline. They weren't able to say much more than that, but suffice to say, it's likely to be aimed squarely at the 911. The electric-powered SLS AMG E-Cell is also set to go on sale in 2012, so watch out for that.


If only for the mesmerising soundtrack, you can't fail to love the Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster. It's less theatrical than a Ferrari and more easygoing than extreme Porsche 911s, but that's part of the deal. It's comfortable, rides well and is easy to live with, but the engine is sublime and it's blisteringly quick. If nothing else, it's a pleasure to drive an old school, rear-wheel drive supercar with a whacking great V8 engine in the front.


Tech Specs

Model testedMercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster
Engine6.2-litre V8
Transmissionseven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door convertible
RivalsFerrari 458 Spider, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
CO2 emissions308g/km (Band G, €2,100 per annum)
Combined consumption13.2 litres/100km (21.4mpg)
Top speed317km/h
0-100km/h3.8 seconds
Power570hp at 6,800rpm
Torque650Nm at 4,750rpm