It’s always fantastic when a car completely surprises you and contradicts almost everything you know about a manufacturer. Mercedes stigma, for better or for worse, is generally one of posh polite cars that are as comfortable as they are conservative. Reserved would be the word that comes to mind. This 2012 Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster is nothing like your grandfather’s Mercedes Benz, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The first thing you notice when starting the car is the noise. The sounds that come from this 6.2 liter V8 (though you’d think it was a 6.3 by the badges on the sides) is quite simply amazing. This is what America was made of. Big, bad V8s. Honestly this SLS talks like a proper American musclecar all the way up to its quite lofty 7200rpm redline. The feeling this motor gives the car is awesome. It has good torque down low, strong midrange, but the motor absolutely screams up top, and the dual clutch rear mounted transaxle keeps up very well. The transmission was a delight in traffic, and quite amazing in manual mode. While not quite as sure footed in some situations as the tried and true traditional Mercedes automatic transmissions, this gearbox shows its benefit with lightning fast and crisp shifting. To say I’m smitten with this drivetrain is an understatement. Good luck finding a meaner sounding and better performing power plant with razor sharp naturally aspirated response.
The suspension surprises as well. It is quite stiff, and borderline uncomfortable over expansion joints and large road cracks. That being said, it suits the car perfectly and gives feedback and confidence, as well as a great sporting demeanor to match the aggressive power train. The steering feel was good for a car with this long of a hood. It was a tad vague at times, but never had a problem being jittery or jumpy over ruts in the road, and was very calm and controllable when driven with enthusiasm. The chassis is very well sorted, and there is no noticeable cowl shake at any speed. The top goes up in around 10 seconds at a speed of up to around 30mph, which is fantastic when it gets a little damp, which it does often in South Florida.
The interior and exterior are gorgeous as you can see from the pictures. The interior space is fairly limited, and I would have preferred the coupe, though after a long day stuck in traffic and driving over 200 miles with the car, I had no aches, pains, nor physical evidence of a long drive. The only issue with the plush interior comes when you have the car in sport plus mode with the agressive throttle setting, and the car bucks a little. It causes you to buck in the seat as well, and in turn hit the gas a bit harder because of your movement. This creates a strange bucking, but isn’t entirely the fault of the car. My solution? Put the car in manual mode if driving hard, and comfort if not pushing it. Problem solved. The optional Bang and Olufsen Stereo sounds fantastic, with among the best imaging around. It should sound fantastic for over six thousand dollars (yes, you read that right).
Quite simply, this car is awesome. I miss it already. I think I’m having SLS withdrawal. The blend of a big nasty V8 with a distinctly American soundtrack, German engineering, and Mercedes luxury interior accouterment is simply fantastic and unexpected. I love this car for everything it is and forever will look at it differently. This is truly an axe murderer in an evening gown. The car looks like a fantastic and svelte poser exotic, but is a true sports car in every sense of the word. It’s definitely one of my favorite cars on the market, and that says a lot. You can keep your high revving small displacement Ferrari, just give me the keys to this muscle exotic again. Enjoy!