In-depth Reviews

Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster (2011-2014)

"With the roof folded down, the noise created by the fantastic Mercedes SLS AMG's V8 engine is one of motoring's loudest and most memorable."

Carbuyer Rating

2.3 out of 5

Pros

  • Muscular soundtrack
  • Supercar performance
  • More comfortable than hard-top version

Cons

  • Gearbox struggles with rapid downshifts
  • Lacks visual drama of gull-wing doors
  • Price

The Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster doesn't have the amazing gullwing doors of the standard coupe, but it makes up for that with a fantastic driving experience that takes owners even closer to the action. It features a neat electric folding canvas roof which really brings the sound of the 563bhp 6.3-litre V8 into the cabin. Other changes from the standard coupe are new adaptive dampers that help improve comfort. The SLS AMG Roadster adds around £8,500 to the price of the SLS coupe.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Painfully expensive to run

With such an enormously powerful engine, the SLS AMG Roadster is very expensive to run. Mercedes claims 21.4mpg, but in reality most owners will be lucky to see 15mpg on a daily basis. CO2 emissions of 308g/km will mean the highest possible road tax bill, too. But depreciation is the biggest running cost. The standard SLS AMG coupe loses around £50,000 of its value in the first year of ownership, and we don't expect the Roadster version to fare any better.

Engines, drive & performance

Softer ride improves handling

The SLS AMG Roadster is great fun to drive. Sometimes convertibles don't handle as sharply as their coupe counterparts, but the Roadster feels just as focused as the coupe. In fact, the changes made to the suspension settings and the addition of adaptive dampers mean it's even better to drive than the coupe. Body control is better and the car crashes less over bumps. With the roof down, you can hear every single note of the incredible 6.3-litre V8, too, which has a bassy rumble under hard acceleration, punctuated by pops and bangs from the exhaust when you lift off. The SLS Roadster is as fast as the McLaren MP4-12C and Ferrari 458 Spider, with a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds and a 197mph top speed, meaning full throttle has to be used very sparingly indeed.

Interior & comfort

Fantastic seats provide lots of support

The SLS AMG Roadster has luxurious and supportive leather sports seats, which have a wide range of electrical adjustment, as well as active bolsters designed to hold you firmly in position when cornering. The triple-layered roof does a great job of keeping out road and wind noise when it's raised, while a neat plastic wind deflector reduces buffeting when the roof is down. The new Adpative Damping system gives you three settings to choose from, and the softest of these offers a firm yet comfortable balance. The seven-speed automatic gearbox changes gear very smoothly indeed in fully automatic mode, but it has an annoying delay when you take charge with the steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

Practicality & boot space

The boot measures 173 litres

Replacing those gullwing doors with a set of conventional doors does mean that getting in and out of the SLS AMG Roadster is a lot easier than the coupe, as there's no need to stretch up out of your seat to pull the door shut. Once inside, all the buttons are logically laid out and labelled, and it's no harder to drive than a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. The triple-layer hood can be raised or lowered in just 11 seconds at speeds of up to 30mph, so you won't get wet if the heavens open. There's plenty of space for two tall adults in the two-seater cabin and the boot has 173 litres of space – only three litres less than the coupe's – which is enough room for a suitcase and some squashy bags.

Reliability & safety

Very high attention to detail

Build quality has always been a Mercedes strong point, and the SLS Roadster is certainly beautifully finished. Given the great attention to detail from the AMG division, we expect the Roadster to be just as reliable as its hard-top brother. What's more, there are no shortage of safety features, including lots of airbags, traction control (with two stages of intervention), ABS and a pop-up rollover bar should the unthinkable happen.

Price, value for money & options

Ferrari California is cheaper

With a price tag in excess of £175,000, the SLS AMG Roadster is very expensive indeed. It costs around £8,500 more than the coupe and is roughly £30,000 more than a Ferrari California, a folding metal roof convertible that handles better and sounds just as good. As you might expect, though, there's no shortage of equipment, with sat nav, heated seats, cruise control and parking sensors all standard. Mercedes also includes an AMG performance package, which allows owners to record lap times and acceleration statistics. There are still a number of options to choose from, including unique matt paint.

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