Used 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG® Coupe
Pros & Cons
- Supercar performance
- sharp handling
- outstanding brakes
- everyday functionality
- exotic door design
- seductive exhaust note.
- Transmission response is a little slow for an exotic
- short on passenger legroom
- coupe's gullwing doors are tough to close.
Edmunds' Expert Review
With head-turning style and breathtaking performance, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is an exotic supercar that's comfortable and practical enough for everyday use.
Exotic supercars are demanding. Most require higher levels of attention while driving and compromises in regard to comfort and practicality. But such is not the case with the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, a relative newcomer that delivers stunning performance without the typical supercar drawbacks.
The SLS is a unique sports car designed and built by AMG, the high-performance division of Mercedes-Benz. Inspired by the classic Mercedes 300SL (known as the "Gullwing") of the 1950s, the SLS shares the iconic SL's proportions with its long hood and short rear deck, as well as the SL's unique upward-opening doors. The SLS is meant to be Mercedes-Benz's ultimate automobile, but it's also meant to be more affordable and practical to drive than the norm.
Behind the SLS's classic-style grille is an exotic all-aluminum chassis and a potent, hand-built 6.2-liter V8. This engine is an upgraded version (it even has a racing-style dry-sump oil system) of the engine in other AMG Benz models and it cranks out 563 horsepower here. A seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transaxle (a first for a Mercedes-Benz) sends the power to the rear wheels. At about 3,600 pounds, the SLS isn't a lightweight, but it's still got the goods to compete against the world's best sports cars.
Adding to the appeal of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is this year's new soft-top roadster body variant. Naturally, the signature gullwing doors had to be discarded in favor of conventionally hinged openings, but the car's overarching spirit was left blissfully intact. It's also worth noting that the convertible top deploys/stows in a very quick 11 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph.
With a price tag of under $200,000, the SLS represents a relative bargain among supercars. Among these, the hot-blooded 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Gallardo still embody Italy's passion for motoring. Elsewhere from Europe, there's the 2012 Audi R8 and 2012 McLaren MP4-12C. As there's no loser in this bunch, choosing one will come down to personal preference.
2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG models
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is offered in both coupe (Gullwing) and roadster body styles. Standard features include 19-inch front/20-inch rear alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry, power-folding mirrors, a blind-spot monitoring system, auto-dimming mirrors, rear park assist, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, a microfiber suede headliner, power/heated seats with memory functions, dual-zone automatic climate control, the COMAND interface, a navigation system and a six-speaker sound system with a CD changer, satellite radio and iPod integration. The SLS AMG roadster features a three-layer power-folding soft top, a removable wind deflector and Mercedes' AirScarf passenger-warming feature.
SLS AMG options include different wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, adaptive suspension dampers, even more performance-oriented suspension tuning, special exterior and interior trim, AMG Performance Media (onboard telemetry that measures performance data and lap times), an 11-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system and a steering wheel wrapped in leather and faux suede.
Performance & mpg
Powering every 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is a hand-built 6.2-liter V8 that produces 563 hp and 479 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox is the only transmission available, and it features aluminum shift paddles on the steering wheel and a choice of several modes that range from efficiency to high performance.
As expected, performance is thrilling; in Edmunds testing, the SLS leapt to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. EPA fuel mileage estimates stand at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, side airbags, side curtain airbags (coupe only), knee airbags, blind-spot monitoring and Mercedes-Benz's "mbrace" emergency telematics system. As expected, the SLS's brakes are very powerful and the tires deliver very good grip, bringing the car to a stop in just 98 feet from 60 mph. Such braking performance is truly impressive, given that only a few cars can come to a halt from 60 mph in less than 100 feet.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG has the balance of a sports car, thanks to a weight distribution of 47 percent front/53 percent rear. It steers quickly into a corner like a sports car, yet has the straight-line stability of a GT car. Odds are you'll run out of talent a lot quicker than the SLS will, though some drivers might find the stability control a bit too intrusive in its default mode.
Although the suspension is on the firm side, it's still compliant enough to take the edge off of broken pavement. Thankfully, ground clearance isn't the issue it is in most low-slung exotics, allowing the SLS to enter driveways or parking structures without the requisite gritted teeth and occasional scraping noises.
The potent V8 gives the SLS a proper exotic car soundtrack with its powerful and entertaining staccato beat. The versatile seven-speed transmission offers a relaxed demeanor in its "Controlled Efficiency" setting or can provide on-point response when Sport Plus mode is selected. Still, its shift response isn't as lightning-quick as similar transmissions from Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche.
The SLS coupe's gullwing-style doors swing upward, revealing a larger, less obstructed opening than is typical of cars with conventional doors. This advantage is offset somewhat by the wide sill that must be navigated before you can lower yourself into the cockpit, and the fact that there's a long reach up to close the door. The SLS Roadster features conventionally hinged doors.
The interior features finely stitched leather not only on the seats but also on the dash, console and doors. If you're familiar with other Mercedes products, you'll recognize a fair amount of the SLS's switchgear, but the brushed metal air vents and the optional carbon-fiber accents provide a sporty touch, while the overall fit and finish is to the highest standards.
Driver space is excellent for this class of car, with a good driving position even for tall drivers. However, the front passenger will likely find legroom a bit cramped. The Coupe's official trunk capacity is just 6.2 cubic feet (6.1 cubes for the Roadster), but it's still enough to stow a set of golf clubs or a couple's weekend luggage.
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Features & Specs
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It's doubtful that Tobias Moers, the chief engineer at Mercedes Benz's AMG performance division, has ever watched an American sprint car race. He's probably never even heard of the World of Outlaws series either, let alone listened to one of the winged racers sliding around a dirt track with its 900-horsepower Chevy small-block screaming at wide-open throttle.
Mr. Moers knows exactly what it's like, though, and there's no doubt he likes the sound. It's obvious when you drive the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. That's because Mr. Moers personally signs off on the final exhaust tuning of every AMG vehicle, and although the new SLS is a nearly $200,000 luxury car, it also rumbles, spits and crackles like a tube-framed dirt tracker when you drive it just right.
It's his finest work to date. The rest of the car isn't bad either.
Clipping the Wings
Removing the gullwing doors from what is often referred to as "the gullwing Mercedes" is tricky. Retaining the car's distinctive styling was one obvious problem along with the usual structural issues that come with removing a car's roof.
With that in mind, Mercedes engineered the SLS from the start as both a coupe and a convertible. This meant fewer changes and less weight gain when the roof came off and the reinforcements were added. Upgrades include extra support struts for the dashboard, thicker-walled side sills and an additional strut that sits below the soft top and above the fuel tank to help reinforce the rear axle. Together with the various roof mechanisms, the SLS roadster weighs 3,660 pounds, or 88 pounds more than the coupe.
Also worthy of note is an additional brace made from carbon fiber mounted behind the seats. It supports the rollover protection system and it's the first all carbon-fiber part on a regular production Mercedes-Benz passenger car. Ola Kallenius, the CEO of AMG, told us that it's a hint of what's to come, as the all-new SL roadster that debuts next year will have its entire interior shell made of the lightweight material.
Better-Looking Than the Coupe?
As far as the styling goes, it was a smooth transition. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS is one of the few convertibles that looks good with the roof up. And when it's down, there are plenty who would argue it's even better-looking than the coupe.
There's also the fact that the roadster's more conventional front-hinged doors make it a much more usable car. It's not quite a valet star like the coupe, but you also won't look like a klutz getting in and out of it.
The top moves quickly, too, taking just 11 seconds to open or close. It works on the move as well, so you can decide to put it up or down at speeds up to 31 mph. There's almost no intrusion into the trunk either, so even with the top down the cargo room in the trunk is nearly identical to the coupe at 6.1 cubic feet versus 6.2.
From Cruiser to Crushingly Fast
So there's not much of an advantage to putting the top up and plenty of reasons to keep it down. Listening to the 6.2-liter V8 mounted up front is reason enough to keep it down all the time. The hand-built engine is unchanged from the version found in the coupe, so it's still a naturally aspirated, dry-sump setup that delivers 563 hp and 479 pound-feet of torque.
Driven lightly, the big V8 keeps its capability under wraps. You don't hear much more than a low drone at cruising speeds, and most bystanders won't notice enough to even turn their heads. "It has to be comfortable even after driving for several hours," Moers told us.
Getting a little more out of it requires nothing more than dipping into the throttle enough to get the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to kick down a gear or two. When it does, the car immediately tenses up, wiggles its nose a bit and leaps forward with an angry wallop of V8 thunder that has to be felt to be believed. You don't expect it from such a car that's so refined otherwise, and that's what makes it great.
The numbers back up the seat-of-the-pants feel, too. Mercedes claims a 0-62-mph time of just 3.8 seconds, so it's not just a bunch of noise from a raspy exhaust. If you care, the top speed is still 197 mph.
Not Quite a Sports Car
All the chassis reinforcements work well, too, as the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster is plenty stiff when you toss it around. Well, make that steer it around, as the SLS is really too big to fling about like a true sports car. At 76.3 inches wide and 182.6 inches long, narrow roads feel even tighter than usual. The steering is also on the light side, so it doesn't encourage you to test its limits the way a stiffer, more direct setup might.
A new AMG Ride Control feature offers three levels of suspension damping to go along with the three-mode stability control system. It's a typical system in that you don't feel a huge difference during normal street driving or even moderately quick canyon roads. With its all-aluminum double-wishbone suspension and standard 19-inch wheels and tires in the front and 20s in the back, the SLS is already well endowed before you start playing with the shock valving.
It's a similar story with the brakes. There's an optional carbon-ceramic setup available, but when the standard units are already massively capable it seems like overkill. There are six-piston fixed calipers in front and four-piston fixed calipers in back, so you get a firm pedal and plenty of power with the standard steel setup.
Speaking of Overkill
There's another new feature being introduced on the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster called AMG Performance Media. Press the "AMG" button and the dashboard display lights up with all sorts of vehicle information. There's a torque meter, a lateral-g meter, individual tire pressures and even a 0-60 timer. It's all a bit over the top for a car that's so unlikely to ever see a racetrack, but that rarely deters the AMG guys. They like to think of their customers as serious drivers first, so it's not surprising to see this level of data access.
Thankfully, the rest of the interior retains all the richness of the coupe. The seats are fantastic if you're on the thin side, a bit less so if you're any wider. Legroom is also at a premium if you're much over 6 feet tall. At least putting the top down makes the cockpit feel bigger, even if it's still a tight squeeze for two.
The AMG Issue
Like so many AMG cars before it, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is an odd mix of luxury and raw performance. In this instance the performance is even more shocking given its convertible configuration and the kinds of buyers it's likely to attract. As much as AMG would like to think of its buyers as serious enthusiasts, it's silly to believe that most SLS roadsters won't be purchased as driveway jewelry.
Can't really blame those with the means for doing it either. It's plenty comfortable, easy to get in and out of and makes the iconic Mercedes SL look plain in comparison.
After driving it, though, we think it's better suited to a true enthusiast who knows that there's more to the SLS than those gullwing doors; someone who might stiffen up those dampers every now and again and turn off the stability control when no one is around. It would be a shame for Mr. Moers' handiwork to go to waste, and unless you drive the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster like a racecar, you're missing out on half the fun.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Used 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG® Coupe Overview
The Used 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG® Coupe is offered in the following styles: 2dr Coupe (6.2L 8cyl 7AM).
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.