Though its sheetmetal harkens back to the iconic 300SL convertible of the 1950s, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Roadster is a thoroughly modern gentleman's supercar that combines aluminum-intensive construction with a coddling interior and a superb V8. It's also the first vehicle to be designed from the ground up by Mercedes' AMG performance division.
Mercedes has revised the SLS AMG for the latest model year, ratcheting up the power of its 6.2-liter V8 ever so slightly, firming up the suspension and also adding new wheels. Previously known as the SLS AMG Roadster, the supercar is now called the SLS AMG GT Roadster.
Bold, retro-flavored and impossible to ignore, the SLS AMG GT Roadster isn't the car for shy and retiring types. Though it borrows numerous elements from the classic 300SL, the supercar avoids being a slavish imitation by virtue of its uniquely extravagant proportions - including one of the longest hoods of the modern automotive era.
Nestled in the drop-top's engine bay is a 6.2-liter V8 that's incredibly responsive in addition to being one of the more operatic motors currently in production. Under full throttle, it sounds a throaty, big-boar roar; deceleration is accompanied by a glorious, burbling soundtrack of pops and crackles.
For the new model year, Mercedes has tweaked the engine for an additional 20 horsepower, bringing the total up to 583 horsepower at 6800 rpm. Torque remains at 479 lb-ft at 4750 rpm. All of that power is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle with several different modes that allow the driver to choose between smooth, languid shifts or blindingly-quick ratio changes. A manual mode and metal paddle shifters are also included, and the gearbox performs rev-matched downshifts that prevent uncouth driveline behavior.
When given the cane, the roadster can sprint from zero-to-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 197 mph. In mellower driving situations , the EPA says that it is capable of returning 13 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.
Standard stopping equipment includes vented and grooved disc brakes with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers. Available as an option are enormous carbon ceramic brakes with rotors that measure 15.8 inches up front and 14.2 inches at the rear.
Aside from steel A-pillars and a carbon-fiber driveshaft, the SLS AMG GT Roadster is constructed entirely from aluminum in the interest of weight savings. Even so, it checks in at a not-quite-svelte 3800-pounds, although that's not excessive when the coupe's combination of performance and luxury is taken into consideration.
Inside, the SLS AMG GT Roadster is no minimalistic track-day special, boasting supple leather, aluminum trim and an elegant, aviation-themed dashboard with a full complement of HVAC, entertainment and navigation systems. A three-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel finished in perforated nappa leather and four turbine-inspired air vents lend the cabin a bit of unique flair.
The roadster's power-operated softop can be raised or lowered in just 11 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph. A standard "Airscarf" system incorporates neck-level heaters that blow warm air from the driver- and passenger-seat restraints, effectively extending the car's top-down season into the chillier months.
An available GT package gives the interior a sinister stygian look, adding black leather and alcantara upholstery, piano black trim, red seatbelts, red contrast stitching and a red neutral mark on the steering wheel.
The standard sound system is a six-speaker, 100-watt AM/FM/CD/DVD setup, but audiophiles will want to opt for the available 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen upgrade unit with 11 speakers - including 250-watt subwoofers on the parcel shelves and two illuminated 50-watt tweeters on the dash. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, as is an iPod/MP3 interface.
With six cubic feet of trunk space, the SLS AMG GT Roadster has enough room for a weekend getaway's worth of luggage. Thanks to its AMG Ride Control sports suspension, it can also provide a relatively cushy highway ride.
The Ride Control system includes electronically controlled adaptive dampers and three settings - "Comfort," "Sport" and "Sport Plus" - that can transform the suspension to suit long-distance cruising or hot laps on the racetrack.
The SLS AMG GT Roadster comes standard with dual front, side, knee and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Those in the enviable position of possibly adding an SLS AMG GT Roadster to their fleet should also consider the Aston Martin DB9 Volante, the Ferrari California and the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible.