Quick Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Convertible Roadster

By Joel Arellano | May 03, 2012
I have to admit I approached this assignment with some trepidation. Automotive.com's a consumer-oriented car site, and the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster—an exotic, two-seater soft-top convertible sports car with a price tag that's higher than the average price of a new house—in my mind had as much in common with our normal stable of family sedans and crossovers as a golf club had a place among a rack of baseball bats. Yeah, you swung both to hit a ball, but that's where the similarities ended. My editor and news director Keith Buglewicz reminded me, though, that the SLS AMG convertible is a viable weekend and even daily driver to a certain segment of the population. In the same way, for example, that a Mazda MX-5 roadster would be a perfectly normal purchase for the enthusiast on a budget, the quarter-million dollar Mercedes-Benz SLS roadster I drove is perfectly normal for someone who literally has more money than they know what to do with. It's still a car, a mode of transport, a box with four wheels and an engine to move them, and for those who buy these things, the six-figure price tag is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether it delivers on the promise of being an eye-catching exotic convertible promised by that price. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster is the convertible version of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe, the latter paying homage to the classic Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing which includes, you guessed it, hinged-at-the-roof gullwing doors. It's the first vehicle exclusively built by the high-performance AMG division of Mercedes-Benz, and one that our sister publication Motor Trend has had a little bit of wheeltime with.
We drove our trio of SLS AMG roadsters through the streets of Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and finally the crowded 101 freeway. My face froze into a permanent smile as the SLS AMG convertible bolted forward at the slightest touch of the throttle, the 6.3-liter V-8's omnipresent rumble singing to the car enthusiast in my blood. Mercedes-Benz said its customers preferred the larger engine than the 5.5 liter V-8 found throughout most of the brand's vehicles for the sound alone. I could see why. Long and low to the ground, I found the 2012 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG planted firmly to the road, making it easy to weave between cars and corner at high speeds. Only early in the drive did I rattle the convertible when I "kicked the tail" when making a sharp turn while accelerating. Otherwise, I found the 2012 SLS AMG roadster responsive to my steering inputs. The blind spot assist system in the Mercedes SLS AMG's rearview mirrors—useful for those top-up days—was almost annoyingly sensitive. Note that I drove the Mercedes SLS AMG convertible this entire time in Comfort mode, as the Beverly Hills cruiser set is most likely to do. Erick Ayapana of Motor Trend says there's a marked difference between Comfort and Sports mode in the coupe, and the convertible offers up the same adjustable suspension. Mercedes-Benz public relations specialist Nicole Weiss said AMG not only takes pride in its SLS AMG convertible as a sports car but as a "grand tourer," or road cruiser, as well. I quickly noticed the dual role just in the designo-leather covered seats, which were firm but comfortable, with high side bolsters to keep driver and passengers firmly in the two-seater. It was a cool morning as we tested our convertibles, and the warm air blowing from the standard "Airscarf" feature felt luxurious against my neck. You didn't think we put the top up while driving, did you? The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster's interior is simply equipped, with two shallow cupholders, lockable glove box, and narrow side pockets. Driver-focused, the infotainment controls for the radio, climate control, and most-used controls like the soft-top roof to be easily visible and use. The roadster's trunk space is equivalent to the coupe model thanks to the collapsible soft-top having its own compartment. My Mercedes SLS AMG convertible was equipped with a C-Class-worth of options ($44,000 to be precise). This included the more durable ceramic brakes ($12,500), Bang & Olufsen premium sound system ($6,400), carbon fiber engine covers and interior trim ($5,400), and even a totally worth it $2,300 AMG Le Mans Red paint job. I used the standard GPS system to guide me back to the meeting site where I found, after putting up the soft top, a quiet ride. Even the engine rumble faded in the background when lightly pressing the throttle. The SLS AMG convertible felt very sluggish moving in stop and go traffic but the stiff suspension absorbent enough that I wasn't aching after the drive. So is the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG convertible worth the six-figure price tag? It's almost a philosophical question, but for us—and for the megabucks buyers of vehicles like this—the answer is an unequivocal yes.