Roadster matches up to exotic rivals

SLS AMG Roadster (R 197) 2011
SLS AMG Roadster (R 197) 2011
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SUPERCAR heritage doesn’t just belong in Italy. Mercedes-Benz has plenty of it too, something the German brand hopes that buyers will be reminded of whenever they see its SLS AMG supercar.

The most exclusive version of this model is the open-topped Roadster. Can one of the fastest and most desirable designs the German maker has ever unleashed upon us match up to exotic rivals?

This SLS Roadster is actually 40kgs heavier than the fixed-top version, but potential owners shouldn’t worry; just think of it as another crate of Dom Perignon stuffed into the tiny trunk out back. The extra bulk certainly doesn’t affect the performance.

Select either ‘Sport +’ or ‘Manual’ mode on the AMG Drive unit that’s accessible via this little rotary dial by the auto gearstick and it’ll help the big, bullet-proof 571bhp 6.2-litre V8 up-front storm to 62mph from rest in just 3.8s, a solid rush of power that’ll keep coming until a line of software stops the fun at 197mph. All part of an old-school approach to the supercar segment.

No fancy turbos, four-wheel drive or adaptive suspension. Just rear wheel drive, ordinary steel coil suspension and lots - and lots - of power. The result is an experience to remember.

Of course, in driving such a car, you don’t always want an experience to remember. After all, a supercar is often at its worst when you’re merely collecting your dry cleaning. And here?

Well, it’s true that an SLS is built for brutal acceleration, sideways tyre squealing and midnight three-figure runs on autobahns. But it’s also been created to flatter you when you’re just parading along, so civilised in normal use it’s easy to forget how comically over-endowed it is in the acceleration department.

The ride’s excellent, there’s a silky-smooth twin-clutch gearbox, it’s got sensible ground clearance for speed humps and you can see out of the thing. So much so that sometimes, it lulls you into a sense of mundanity: you’re back in the ordinary world.

But then the road opens up, you plant the throttle pedal, the engine roars and you suddenly find yourself having to think and act really quickly.

And as your heart begins to pump, you start to realise that perhaps this car might be a bit better at the whole going fast business than you are. Still, practice makes perfect.

Convertible cars the world over have a drawback: they’re very rarely a dynamic match for their fixed-top coupe counterparts. This one’s different because it was designed as an open-top from the outset.

An exclusive money-no-object German supercar was once a thing of the Fifties. Hollywood film stars drove them back then, but in the modern era, you’d have something low-slung and Italian. Or would you? The SLS has changed things in this sector. It’s dynamic, it’s desirable and, best of all, it’s different.

Which is what really matters in this segment. In many ways, a Mclaren MP4-12C is merely a copy of a Ferrari 458 Italia. Were you to be fabulously wealthy, you’d need only to choose one or the other.

But an SLS AMG, particularly in Roadster form, is a car many would want to own whatever else already lay in residence in their air conditioned timber-framed garage.

Best of all perhaps, ordinary people love it. In an age when pin-up performance cars often excite more jealousy than passion amongst passers-by, this one just makes them smile. Y

ou get the thumbs-up as you power on and when you arrive and park up, kids want to take pictures. The world seems a better place. This, you see, is something very special. A supercar with soul.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster

PRICE: £176,925

INSURANCE GROUP: 50

CO2 EMISSIONS: 308g/km

PERFORMANCE: 0-62 3.8s / top speed 197mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 21.4mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Electronic stability control, ABS with brake assist, twin front, side and knee airbags, pyrotechnic rollover protection

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height mm 4638/1939/1900 [est]