2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- One Reason AMG Cars Are Special
- Yours for One Hour
- Interior Tour VIDEO
- No Incognito
- 15k Milestone
- Low Rear Visibility
- Drop the Top in Ten Seconds
- Small Trunk
- Best V8 In The World
- Seat Could Be Better
- Operating Temperature
- Valet Darling
- Go Fast Tire Pressure
- 15,000 Miles
- Battery Trouble
- Buy a Battery Tender
- Winter Top-Down Driving
- Fuel Economy Update for January
- Seat Adjustment for Short People
- Bang & Olufsen Illuminated Tweeters
- Track Test
- Too Small Cupholder
- Winter Tires
- 2012 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Roadster vs 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT
- Carbon Brakes Feel Just Fine
- Exhaust Note
- Winter Tires Have Arrived
- Trunk Escape Button
- Entry and Egress
- Snow Tires Mounted
- To Mount Rushmore and Back
- Showing Seat Wear
- Stuck Center Bin
- What is This?
- What is This, Part 2?
- Rear Wing Mechanicals
- Fuel Economy Update for February
- Brake Feel Second Opinion
- Caged Animal
- 20,000 Miles
- No More Snow Tires
- 20,000-Mile Service Estimate
- 20,000-Mile Service
- Birthday Benzes
- Audio Review
- Seat Comfort Over 3,000 Miles
- Rock Eats Windshield
- Top Down in Montana
- Road Trip Fuel Mileage
- Snow Donuts Video
- Roadsters Rock When You're Five
- Windshield Repair
- Center Console Lid Jams Again
- Big Trunk
- Reverse Lock-Out Warning
- Quickest Grocery Getter Around
- Convertible Top Failure
- Fuel Economy Update for March
- The Best Time To Drive
- Broken Convertible Top
- Finer Interior Details
- Top Repair Drop Off
- Top Repair Pick Up
- Rear-View Camera On the Floor
- But, Officer
- The Roadster Is the Better Car
- Drive It Like a Saint
- Another Positive Service Experience
- Leather versus MBTex
- I'd Choose the Gullwing...Or a Bentley
- Cargo Limits
- Good Parking Sensors
- The Only Time Top Down Is a Bad Idea
- MPG Update for April
- Tatooine Road Trip
- Carbon Fiber Trim
- Turning Radius
- Inconvenient Seat Bolster Controls
- Rich Guys Like It
- Let the Sun Shine In
- Playing Music Through the Aux Jack
- We Found Some Really Expensive Gasoline
- Convertible Top Failure (Redux)
- Running up the Coast Highway in the SLS
- Shut Up, Kurt
- Styling Critique
- Keeps You Likable
- Tire Wear
- Fuel Economy Update for May
- Dead Again
- San Francisco and Back in 32 Hours
- V8 Alarm Clock
- Hooray Mercedes Cruise Control
- Keyless Go Is Missing Something
- The Keys Need More Buttons
- Fuel Economy Update for June
- It's Practical
- Dash Misalignment
- Final Top Repair
- Life-Saving Brakes
- 20 Days at the Dealer
- Loose iPod Jack
- Wheel Finish Issues
- With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
- Sunday Car Show
- Great Customer Service
- Fuel Economy Update for July
- Supercar Lumbar
- Longer, Lower, Wider
- Impromptu Photo
- Supercar Monday
- Bright Lights
- U.S. Blackout for Electric Drive
- Loose Driver Seat
- To Monterey
- Fuel Economy Update for August
- Supercar Sunday
- 30,000 Miles
- The Perils of Hand-Washing an SLS
When it rains, it pours.
Earlier this week we introduced what we thought was a pretty snazzy new long-term car. A $109,000, 350-horsepower Porsche 911 Cabriolet, a car widely considered one of the finest on the planet.
And now this.
This is a very red 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, and it's the newest member of our long-term test fleet. It's ours for six months and, hopefully, 20,000 miles.
What We Got
The SLS Roadster is one of the most livable supercars around. Instead of some super-exotic powertrain, it's got the kind of V8 that Mercedes has been weaponizing for years. Many of its interior bits are shared across the Mercedes family and are thus logical, functional and easy to use. It even ditches the theatrical gullwing doors of the SLS AMG Coupe.
Our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster features a naturally aspirated, dry-sump 6.2-liter V8 engine sitting right behind the front axle line. This motor, hand built in Affalterbach by the crack team at AMG, kicks out a screaming 563 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and twists out 479 pound-feet of the good stuff at 4,750 rpm. Power goes straight to the 295/30R20 rear tires via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and an AMG limited-slip differential.
Its interior is highlighted by a COMAND head unit with navigation, Sirius Satellite Radio, dual-zone climate control, Parktronic parking sensors, keyless entry and start, eight airbags, AMG-tuned stability control, blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera. Roadster models of the SLS are also fitted with Mercedes' unique AirScarf as standard. This feature employs a small vent near the top of each seat to blow warm air over the neck and shoulders of the occupants and is also optional on the rest of Mercedes' convertible models.
With a starting price of $196,100, the SLS AMG Roadster isn't even close to the most expensive car Mercedes sells in the U.S. (that honor goes to the CL65 AMG at $213,200 followed by the S65 AMG, which starts at $212,000). And forget about it as the most expensive car Mercedes sells worldwide. That would be the otherworldly G65 AMG. And none of those have half this car's street cred.
This car was provided by Mercedes-Benz and it arrived wearing plenty of options and 14,386 miles already on the clock. First up is its most noticeable option, the $2,300 AMG Le Mans Red paint. It's handsome and surprisingly subtle for such a bold car.
Further spending included $12,500 for the AMG carbon-ceramic brakes; $5,400 for a carbon-fiber engine compartment cover; the carbon-fiber interior trim costs $4,500; AMG Performance Media is $2,500; 10-spoke, 19/20-inch AMG wheels ring up another $3,400; the 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo — necessary to overpower the sound of the wind and the V8 — is a staggering $6,400. Gas-guzzler tax and destination add another $1,875.
Total damage: $242,675.
Why We Got It
We have a long history of testing exotics for extended periods of time. The idea is to prove whether they are real cars or just fragile toys. Previously, Audi loaned us a 2008 R8 for nine months and Dodge sent us 600 hp worth of 2009 Dodge Viper for 6 months. We put 22,000 miles on the R8 in nine months and managed a solid 14,000 in the Viper. When we bought a 2009 Nissan GT-R, we kept it for 15 months and managed 31,067 miles. In other words, we've done this before and we like to drive supercars very, very far in very little time. This time will be no different.
For 2013, the hot-rod SLS AMG GT is replacing the SLS AMG in the U.S. market. That car gets 20 more hp (583), a reworked transmission and a revised suspension. It also gets a moderate price hike. But 99.999999 percent of the car is unchanged, which makes our 2012 Roadster still worth evaluating.
Time can be a cruel mistress, with an uncanny ability to reveal truths veiled in temporary wonderment. In six months, will our lust for this two-seater have grown to love, or a strong desire to set it ablaze?
Follow along on our adventure as we try to put as many miles as possible on our new long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.
Current Odometer: 14,790
Best Fuel Economy: 17.1
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.5
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 15.2
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
This is the mark of a true AMG model. It's the engine plaque that is "signed" by the man responsible for building it. Since every AMG engine is hand built by one person, it's a legitimate register of who secured every nut and bolt on the engine.
I can say without hesitation that Philipp did a fine job with this one. As others before have said, this is truly one of the best engines available today. The way it sounds, the way it delivers power, the way it looks. It has it all.
The 6.2-liter V8 in our SLS may have been eclipsed in terms of horsepower by various engines since its introduction, but few have its personality. It makes driving this roadster a one-of-a-kind experience. Thanks Philipp.
So there you are watching The Tudors reruns on your couch when the doorbell to your house rings. You open the front door and realize it's your uncle Joe. You haven't seen him for 10 years. Last you heard he was working in "waste management."
But here he is. He's wearing a white suit and a couple days' worth of stubble. Behind him is a red 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG convertible. He dangles out the SLS key to you. "It's yours for one hour. Always told my mom I'd do something for you. Then I've got to split. Going to Mexico." He steps into your house, grabs a beer from your fridge, then starts talking in Spanish in his cell phone. You're still a bit stunned. Then he looks back at you and says, "Well? Time's wasting."
And with that, the SLS is yours. This is what you'd do. (Hey, it could happen, right?)
You approach the SLS. In person, it seems bigger than it does in the photos. You press the button on the solidly built key fob to unlock the doors. The driver seat is pretty low and far in, so you have to hover your butt over the seat, unceremoniously plop down, and then kick your legs up and over the sill. The door is hard to close fully, and you have to give it a firmer tug than you'd expect.
After getting situated, you grip the steering wheel. It feels proper and sport-oriented in your hands thanks to the indents for your thumbs at 9 and 3 and the metal shift paddles right behind them. Nearly everything is covered in leather, carbon fiber, faux suede or metallic accents.
Looking out through the windshield, the SLS's hood seems impossibly long. And down on the console to your right is the engine start button. It's glowing an angry red, like the color they might have at NORAD for the button that reads "Launch Nukes Now!"
You press the button and the big V8 fires up immediately. It's the soundtrack of NASCAR at Daytona, but imported from Stuttgart.
The shifter for the transmission only has three modes, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. You pull back on it for Drive, and then...nothing. The SLS doesn't really move forward much. You have to give a bit of gas, and then it goes. Still, it's not the most comforting thought knowing that you're driving a car that's worth more than your house.
You get out from your neighborhood and onto city streets. Now that you've had a few minutes with the car, you think that this really isn't too bad. The transmission shifts smoothly, and the ride quality, while pretty stiff, isn't beating you up. Heck, you read that Edmunds drove an SLS from California to South Dakota and back, right? It's a Mercedes Miata...just with 563 horsepower.
At a stop light, you figure that now is as good of a time as any to put the top down. You press down on the lever located on the center console. The windows go down, motors whir, and in about 10 seconds you're exposed to the elements. Yep, this is pretty cool.
Then a blue 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish pulls up next to you. An extremely attractive blonde is driving it, like Charlize Theron from The Italian Job. (For the purposes of this story, we're assuming that you're a heterosexual male, but obviously you can adjust all parties involved here for your own tastes. You're welcome.) She looks over at you, raises an eyebrow, and says, "Nice SLS." Before you can mumble a reply, she gives a slight smile as the light turns green and she takes off, V12 wailing.
You're still dumbstruck. The guy in the Prius behind you beeps his horn for you to go. Well, now seems good a time as any, so you nail the SLS's throttle. Blam! The Merc rockets ahead, quicker than you thought possible. Scenery warps, and your speed is way past legal. The Vanquish is way too far ahead, so you back off. Still, you can't help but grin. This car is cool.
Then your cell phone rings. It's your friend. "Hey. What are you doing?" he asks. Ten minutes later, you pick him up at his house.
"Yeah, this car works for you," he says, hopping in. "Your hair looks better windblown, and your posture's better, probably because you feel like you need to impress everybody. And I guess you look richer. But man, what's with your grubby Batman T-shirt and shorts? There should be a minimum fashion standard to drive this car."
You drive around some more, taking the SLS out on the highway. Not long after, though, you realize your hour is about up. It seems only fitting that you go out the way an American should: Carl's Jr. drive-thru!
Finally you get back to your house. You open the door. Your uncle is there waiting as you hand him the key. "What'd you think?" he asks. "Pretty sweet," you say. "But where did you get..." Before you can finish, you hear a bathroom door open in your house, clicking heels then the Vanquish woman comes around the corner. "Hello again," she says, as she wraps her arm around your uncle.
You really have no idea what's going on, but your uncle says, "Well, got to go. Hope you enjoyed the SLS. But we left you something in your garage, though. Hopefully the Feds don't find out about it."
Now, for your next hour drive...
Here is a video tour of the Mercedes SLS AMG convertible interior. I also started it for you so you can hear the engine vroom to life.
A bunch of college kids standing on the sidewalk holler and hoot as we swoop by them. The patrol officer at the wheel of a Los Angeles PD black-and-white nearly snaps his neck with a double take. When we're stopped at a light, the driver of a nice Audi A6 rolls down his window and says, "I just have to ask. What does something like that cost?" The answer, more than $240,000, prompts a low, appreciative whistle. "No wonder I like it so much," he says.
If you don't want to be noticed, don't go out in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG convertible. Particularly not one in Le Mans Red, on a nice day along Pacific Coast Highway, with the top down. People stare. Ferraris want to race. Birds line up in formation behind you. OK, maybe that didn't actually happen, but it certainly feels like it could have. The chassis might be aluminum, but trust me, this car is magnetic.
My new all-time favorite long-termer has already hit its first milestone! Alright, fine, I know that when it was delivered to us, it already had 14,000 miles on the ticker. I'm assuming this is going to be a very popular car among the staff, so I'm pretty confident we can hit the 34,000-mile mark in six months. Heck, as much as I love this car, I'd volunteer to put all of those miles on it myself!
First off, I love our new SLS Roadster. Love, love, love it. I'll get into why in another post, but before I do, something I don't like: the lack of rear visibility. When you're driving a bonkers car like the SLS, you really want to know if a car behind you has a red and blue light bar on the roof.
With the top up, you can barely tell if it's a car or SUV behind you. Dropping the top doesn't help matters much. But I still consider this a small price to pay for an otherwise extraordinary car.
While my esteemed colleagues were living it up in idyllic Detroit, the cars available to me back at Edmunds HQ were decidedly inspiring. For two days each, I snagged an Aston Martin Vanquish and our long-term SLS Roadster (I prefer the SLS, by the way).
Even though the weather in L.A. was unusually cold, I dropped the Benz' top at every chance. And it drops/deploys quickly. Ten seconds is all it takes to start enjoying the raspy exhaust note and the wind in your hair. And it only takes a lift or push on the silver lever shown above.
I don't know what the quickest convertible top is, but it wouldn't surprise me if the SLS is it.
That's an iPhone in the cargo area of our 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.
There is no better normally aspirated V8 in production today than the 6.2-liter M159 V8 in our long-term 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. Forget the LS7. Never mind the Coyote. Disregard the BMW S65. Even if they could match the sheer might of this engine — which they don't — none of them come even close to the depleted-uranium-warhead-in-an-alcantara-gauntlet-ness of the M159. It is in a class of one.
What's remarkable is that this is AMG's first-ever production engine family. It started as the M156 for duty in dang near everything with an AMG badge on it, and then received a few enhancements and a bigger number (M159) when plopped into the SLS. Okay, AMG knows their way around an engine, but their earlier work was essentially hot-rodding. It's not quite the same as designing from scratch.
In any case, the M159 makes piloting the SLS a freakin' blast and, frankly, has much to do with making the car special to drive. There's so much torque on tap, and the soundtrack is just intoxicating. I've said it before, I'll say it again: With this engine, the Germans have out-America'd America.
At first I thought the driver seat in our long-term 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster was pretty decent. It has good adjustable side bolstering, heat, nice leather. After a half hour, I needed out.
It's the lower back support. Rather, the lack of lower back support. The problem seems to be related to the inflatable lumbar. Not only is the lumbar balloon in the middle of your back when inflated (the sitting-in-a-pregnant-lady's-lap sensation) when it needs to be much lower, it provides no discernible support when deflated, instead turning into flaccid mush.
When the seats in a sub-$25,000 car are better than those in a car nearly ten times the price, somebody's done something wrong.
This is neat. The instrument cluster in our long-term 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster has a readout that displays gearbox, engine oil and coolant temperatures. That's nothing unusual, but this is: when any one of those temperatures is below normal operating conditions, the digits flash. Independently. It's a simple way to remind you that, hey, dummy, it's still too soon to start beating on the car.
In the photo above, neither the engine oil temp nor the gearbox temp is up to operating temperature (I caught them mid-flash). This was the result after a gentle three-mile drive (starting stone cold) at city speeds (lots of stop and go) on a dry day in the mid/high 70 degrees F.
I know what you're going to ask. At what temperatures did they stop flashing / reach normal operating temperature? For engine oil it was 175 degrees F. Gearbox was 140 degrees F.
You'd figure that the valet guys at a schmancy Beverly Hills hotel like the Peninsula would have seen their share of expensive cars. But last night when I drove up in our red 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, their eyes were as wide as saucers.
I still wasn't sure I was in the possession of something special til my passenger pointed out to me as we were walking away from the car that two of the valet guys were going around it with flashlights, apparently checking for preexisting dings and dents. I've never seen that before! "I wonder if they do that to all the expensive cars," my friend asked. "I'm sure they do that to every car here," I replied. But sure enough, the Fiat 500 and Prius that pulled in after us didn't get any such treatment.
Later when I returned to retrieve the car, I noticed that they took their time bringing it up. A customer who turned in her ticket behind me got her car before I did. "That's it, they pulled a Ferris Bueller," I joked with my friend. Eventually I could hear the rumble of the Benz's engine coming up the ramp. Pfew. When I finally slid in behind its wheel, the valet on my side gushed, "You have a beautiful car," while the one on the passenger side said, "It's a beautiful machine." And then he added ominously, "Be careful."
As we drove off, I looked back at them in the rearview mirror. Yup, they were still looking at it. It's always cool to find out what can affect even the most jaded.
Last week we explored the myriad tire pressure settings of our 2013 Porsche 911 Cabriolet.
Curious as to whether or not our high-powered Mercedes had a similar tire-pressure issue, I dove into the owner's manual to find out.
The answer? Yes. And no.
As per the door jamb sticker, the recommended tire pressures on our Continental ContiProContacts (Front: 265/35ZR19 Rear: 295/30ZR20) is 31/35. There's no ancillary sticker, only a small, blacked-out alert that says "See owner's manual for additional information."
The owner's manual doesn't say much, but it does point out that the recommended tire pressure is only good for speeds of up to 155 mph and that if you plan to go faster, check the tire pressures as posted on a sticker on the inside of the fuel door.
Once inside the fuel door (metal, sweet) you'll see a new sticker that indicates the normal tire pressure (which we're currently running) as well as the tire pressure to sustain speeds of over 155 mph. This pressure is 35/42. Similar to our Porsche's high-speed default setting. (The sticker also indicates that when warm, the tires will be up to 4 psi over the stated amount and that on winter tires you should run 35/42 psi.)
So, like the Porsche, we've got two separate tire pressures for different driving modes. The difference is that Porsche defaults to the big numbers while Mercedes realizes this driving style is a rarity and defaults to comfort.
Sorry for missing the ball on this one, I try to nail our milestone shots at the exact moment. This one, however, snuck up on me.
Partially because driving our 2012 SLS AMG Roadster is addictive and the wind and noise make everything else irrelevant. But really, I simply wasn't expecting to hit 15,000 miles so soon.
I blame the fact that the car showed up with 14,025 on the clock.
This morning I came down to my garage to move the Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster out of my tandem parking space to let my wife out. The SLS started up with its normal uproarious vigor, as if engaged by the hammer of Thor himself. Seriously, it's glorious.
Anyway, I pulled forward to let my wife out, turned on the map light for some reason, and backed the SLS into its spot again. Approximately one hour later I returned to the garage to go for my first real drive in what could easily become my favorite long-term car ever.
Ruh-roh. The keyless entry isn't working. Try again, again, again. Nothing. OK, pull out the little key within the fob, unlock the door and get in. Everything seems to be normal as all the usual displays are on. I have completely forgotten about the map light. Push the starter button, nothing. Ruh-roh again. I reach back and plug the key fob into its home in the little bin behind the center console. There is what I can only describe as an electrical pop, followed by everything other than the engine coming on in the car. COMAND, HVAC system, everything is running as normal, which makes me doubt the obvious prognosis of dead battery.
What in the world is going on?
I try again and again, with no luck. On one occasion I get a warning that says "Reversing Not Poss. Service Required" and on another something regarding the SRS airbag system, neither of which would show up again on subsequent attempts. After shutting down the car from accessory mode, the keyless entry began working again. I get out and get in, figuring maybe a reboot will help as it has with other cars in the past. Nope, engine still not starting, but everything else is. I still haven't remembered the map light, and it's bright enough in my garage that it's not obvious.
I call Fleet Master Mike Schmidt and describe what's going on. He, like I, suspect the battery from the get go, but is equally perplexed by so many vehicle functions being online and the fact the car started with no problems only an hour earlier. He suggests I go back down to the garage and try rolling down the windows. If they are slow, then it is in fact likely a battery regardless of what may be going on. I do so and sure enough, the windows are slow and COMAND is no longer coming on. The battery has been draining further. At this point I remember the map light, smack myself in the forehead and turn it off.
With no cables and no other car for help, we decide to call Roadside Assistance. The helpful gentleman from Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills came promptly. However, his first attempt at boosting the car with his jump starter failed. "Not enough power," he said. Fine, we'll use the ML350 Bluetec he brought. No dice there either, which means I couldn't have done it myself even if I wanted to. According to his battery meter, our 12V battery had a 10V charge, which is apparently not enough to fire up the SLS's massive V8. So the battery wasn't close to being dead, it just wasn't up to the task. Roadside Assistance gentleman thought it was surprising the car had such a small battery.
Not to worry, as the Roadside Assistance gentleman got out a brand new battery and installed it right then and there at no charge. I should point out that I was doing all of this as Joe Blow Consumer and not as a representative of Edmunds.com. Sure enough, the SLS was finally able to resummon Thor and the V8 fired to life.
I take away from this incident a couple of things. First, it takes a boat load of electricity to fire to life that engine when you consider its remaining charge and that virtually everything else in the car was working just fine. Second, unlike most of our long-term cars, the SLS Roadster came to us after about 14,000 miles in the hands of other journalists and likely celebrities and other samplers of the Benz press fleet not exactly known for taking care of other people's cars. The battery was probably on its last legs and an hour with a map light on knocked the wind out of it.
I'm just happy it happened in my garage on a day I was working from home. I also wish I remember why I turned on the damn map light in the first place.
I realize that the people looking for buying and ownership advice regarding this Mercedes SLS Roadster are few and far between. However, if you should be a potential owner of this brilliant car, may I humbly suggest buying a battery tender for it.
First, the SLS is unlikely to be your daily driver, meaning that it's likely to have long stretches sitting around gathering dust in your garage. Given yesterday's adventure with the drained battery, it's likely that such use will result in your battery being incapable of firing up that giant V8. Really, it's a scenario that seems likely for many such super cars. It's the reason Aston Martins come with a battery disconnect switch in the trunk, er, boot.
So there, some helpful consumer advice. Buy a battery tender.
L.A. has been suffering a cold spell lately. I think the rest of the country calls it winter. So even though it was 50 degrees and sunny, I just had to put the top of our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster down. It was Friday and I felt like driving the long way in to work. No freeway. This uber-luxurious car inspires that sort of crazy behavior. The concerns of tangling up my long hair or it being too cold were quickly silenced during the drive.
Even going 50 mph my hair didn't fly everywhere thanks to the effective windblocker, which also served to contain the warmth emanating from the headrest's heater vent. Man, I love AirScarf! Pair that up with the seat heater and I'm in heaven. The adjustable vents accommodate any height. If this were my car, I'd drive with the top down every sunny-day chance I got, winter or no.
This was our first full month in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. We are getting more comfortable with it, but to be honest, you never get really comfortable driving a nearly $250,000 car.
That's the tradeoff that comes with a car that is otherwise the highlight of most people's day. Whether it's people seeing it drive by on the street, or passengers who bug us for a ride, the SLS is everything a supercar is supposed to be.
That, of course, includes its mileage figures, which are predictably poor. This is a big car, but it's not that big. We've had Suburbans that turned in better than 13.4 miles per gallon. It's still early, though, so as the miles pile up the SLS may bump its overall average up considerably. Not that it matters.
Worst Fill MPG: 11.2
Best Fill MPG: 17.5
Average Lifetime MPG: 13.4
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): 16
Best Range: 314.4 miles
Current Odometer: 16,010 miles
I'm 5'6" and I'm just barely tall enough to drive our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. Its power seat adjustment only allows me to slide it forward to the point where I have to stretch a bit to push the brake pedal down all the way. Fortunately, I can adjust the lumbar to push me forward just a bit, too, and then it's fine.
But, it makes me wonder how rich people shorter than 5'4" deal with the SLS's limited seat adjustment.
Our long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is an expensive car. At least you have something to show for it.
Behold LED-illuminated tweeters. I kid you not.
They're part of the optional $6,400 Bang & Olufsen sound system. Illuminated speakers are a thing that B&O do on their home audio, so why not here, too? It's actually not visually obtrusive at all. But it is silly.
So I'm into juice bars. Not very surprising for an Angeleno, I know, but seems like it can be a problem when driving our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. Simply for the fact that a medium size juice doesn't fit all that well in the car's cupholder thanks to that protruding piece of center console in front of the cupholder. When I wedge the cup into the holder, that piece pushes the lid off.
When that happened to me and it was a full cup of coconut milk, mango, almond butter and banana, visions of spilled smoothie all over that expensive interior popped up in my head. This is why we can't have nice things! And when you're driving you can't very well take your eyes off the road to try and refasten it. So to prevent any spillage I held onto the cup until I reached a stoplight. Pfew. Anyway, at first I thought that a small cupholder was weird for such an expensive car but then realized that if you have this car then you really shouldn't be doing anything other than driving it.
I'm aching to road trip this car. And I will. But driving it around the warmth of the southwest just doesn't feel adventurous enough. I'm aching to take this drop-top supercar out of its element. Out of its natural environment. Out of sunny southern California.
Our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster needs some snow.
The plan is to drive north. Very north. South Dakota north. Mount Rushmore north. In February.
But the SLS's ultra-sticky Continental summer tires will need to be replaced if we're going to make it there and back alive. So I ordered some winter tires for the Benz from www.tirerack.com.
A quick search and a few clicks and we ordered a set of Pirelli's Winter Sottozero Serie II in the SLS's stock size: 265/35ZR19 front and 295/30ZR20 rear. We'll get them mounted a few days before we hit the road and we promise to keep you posted along the way.
A few weeks ago, we track tested our 563-Horsepower 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster and, surprise, it was fast.
But we knew that. And we also knew that when we picked it up, our 2012 MB SLS AMG Roadster was already outdated.
Just two years after its introduction, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was replaced by the SLS AMG GT. Firmer suspension, faster shifts, more power and a $10,000 price premium highlight this new SLS AMG GT Roadster, but is it any better? We took the 583 horsepower to the track to find out.
Carbon ceramic brake rotors might seem like a great idea on an ultra-high performance car like the SLS. They look cool, resist fade and are lighter than cast iron rotors.
Problem is, they often feel terrible on the street. Can't blame them, really, as they're really designed for high speed driving, not going to the grocery store.
The rotors on our SLS don't suffer from any such problems. Brake feel at slow speeds is suitably precise whether it's first thing in the morning or the end of a long drive. It doesn't take any extra effort to bring the car to a smooth stop and they don't feel the least bit grabby.
And of course, should you need serious stopping power, they haul the nearly 3,600 pound roadster down like it weighs half as much. It's a nice feeling when you have 563 horsepower on tap.
A good exhaust note thrills me. Prior to the SLS showing up, the Boss 302 Mustang (red key, of course) and my sportbike (Yamaha R1 with carbon fiber Yoshimura pipes, arrgh, argh, argh) were my favorites.
But this Benz engine and exhaust is something else. It's so good, I created a new word for it: Sexhaust. I should probably trademark "sexhausted" too. Feel free to use it in a sentence today. Click on through to hear for yourself. The recording doesn't do justice to the note in real life, but hey, you still get the growl, rumble and crackles. Sexhaust.
Our winter tires have arrived and our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is one step closer to Mount Rushmore.
Yes, Mount Rushmore. Yes, the one in South Dakota. Don't ask me why.
Obviously the SLS's ultra-sticky Continental summer tires aren't meant for such northern conditions and would need to be replaced with winter tires if we had any chance of survival. So I ordered some from www.tirerack.com, a set of Pirelli's Winter Sottozero Serie II in the SLS's stock size: 265/35ZR19 front and 295/30ZR20 rear.
The plan is to get them mounted on the Mercedes over the next few days and hit the road north next Wednesday. Stay tuned.
Most cars, regardless of how expensive or exclusive, use some sort of glow-in-the-dark flimsy plastic handle for the internal trunk release. Not our long-term SLS AMG. Nope. It's got some fancy green button that pulses on and off.
Overkill? Of course it is! Only the smallest of humans could fit in that trunk. Cool? Yeah, I think it's still pretty cool that they engineered something fancier than the usual pull tab.
I'm pretty much average when it comes to build in terms of height and weight (5'10" and around 165 lbs.). Despite this, I have a tough time getting in and out of our long-term SLS AMG Roadster.
With the seat adjusted to my liking, those aggressive side bolsters narrow the clearance between the steering wheel and the seat. Invariably, I always bump into either the wheel or seat, and the high sills further complicate things. That said, it's still easier to get in and out than a Lotus Elise or Evora, but that's a decided low bar.
It's not just me either.
While out on the town with my girlfriend, she said that even without a steering wheel in front of her, entry and egress is no picnic. This is especially true if you're wearing heels and a dress. Since I don't wear heels or dresses (well, anymore), I'll let her explain.
"There is not an easy way to get in and out of this car, gracefully. I believe that I have narrowed the problem down to the height of the sill being even with the seat. The main problem is that the seat cushion bolsters are higher than the sill and the bucket of the seat (to keep one's butt in the seat during performance driving, I am told).
It is easier to exit the car if there is a curb to exit onto.
When climbing into the car, wearing heels, it is important to remember to lift your feet very high, think knees to forehead, in order to give the heels' clearance over the sill as not to scratch it. 4-inch heels are most certainly a no-no.
Best advice? Wear flats and pants. There is nothing easy to climbing in or out of this car."
Given this complaint, neither of us considers this a deal breaker, because the car is so freaking awesome. Seriously, the SLS AMG is bonkers.
We reported the arrival of Pirelli winter tires for our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS. Before Scott's road trip could begin, the tires had to be installed. So we went up the road to our local tire shop to do so.
We spent $130 to mount and balance the tires and it took about 45 minutes. It was quick and painless. I'm not so sure we can say the same about a drive to South Dakota on them. But you'll find out about that soon enough.
I've decided to drive our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster from our Santa Monica, California office to Mount Rushmore in southwest South Dakota. And back of course.
I've been telling people I'm not sure why, but that's a lie. The truth is I just want to drive this 563-hp $243,000 convertible to the last place anyone would expect to see it. I think it's going to be fun.
Obviously, the SLS's ultra-sticky Continental summer tires aren't meant for such northern conditions so we replaced them with a set of Pirelli's Winter Sottozero Serie II in the SLS's stock size (265/35ZR19 front and 295/30ZR20 rear), which we got from www.tirerack.com,
We hit the road this morning and figure it'll take us five or six days to complete the trip depending on weather, route and road conditions. Follow along on Twitter at @RealScottOldham, and tune in here next week for the full report.
Wish us luck. And if you see us out in the wild, please say hello.
In my last SLS AMG post, I noted how it's not terribly easy to squeeze between the steering wheel and the aggressive seat bolsters. The photo above is proof. With only about 16,000 miles on the clock, that bolster is taking a beating.
In my previous personal car, a Lotus Elise, the main contact points like the bolsters were covered in a rubberized Kevlar-like material. I feel like the SLS might be a candidate for this treatment. Maybe a racy Alcantara, perhaps? In any case, I think by the time we turn it in, this bolster may end up looking like our 1985 Porsche 911's.
That center armrest pictured above slides back to reveal some cupholders. Well, at least it's supposed to.
I was nearing the Edmunds HQ on my drive into the office and I went to fetch my parking card and sunglasses case from the bin. But that sliding armrest was having none of it. I pressed the button on the side to release the catch, but the darned thing wouldn't slide. Not even a little bit.
I tried pushing both buttons at the same time (on the driver and passenger side). Nothing.
Perhaps my glasses case or parking card is holding it up, much like any number of spoons and ladles in my kitchen tool drawer at home? I floored the gas pedal then slammed on the brakes in an effort to jog something loose. Nope. Lateral Gs? Nothing.
At that point I channeled my inner caveman and pressed the button with one hand and gave it a light punch. Nada. Then I gave it a good slug and, voila! That bin popped right open.
My case and cards were nowhere near the lid, so they weren't the problem. I slid it shut then tried to open it again and it did so with no resistance. Weird. So there, I ummmmmm...fixed it?
Can you identify this part of our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster? Is it worn, fragile, or ready to shatter?
Click through to see if it's ready to "brake."
The first photo shows what the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster's exotic, $12,500 carbon-ceramic brake rotors look like up close.
Yes, that's what they're supposed to look like and no, they aren't about to crumble to pieces. The bronze-painted calipers are included. Ed Hellwig says they feel just fine, but having just tested a nearly identical car, but with the standard cast-iron rotors, I'm going on record to say that our long-term SLS's brakes are a bit touchier. What we call brake "jump-in" is a bit steeper on our car.
I popped the trunk on our long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster and found this little spring-loaded cap. Do you know what it is? After flipping the cover open, I thought it might be some sort of data-transmission port, but I was wrong. Click through to find out.
That second photo doesn't help much, does it? I'll save you from having to do an internet search for MagCode. It's a, you guessed it, German company that sells, among other things, "100% short-circuit-proof two-pole MagCode Systems for the transmission of currents in the area of 12 - 230V." The cool part is that within the power port and the power cord end, magnets rotate freely and align when the power cord is introduced to the port.
Neat-O. The problem is that I can't find any automotive (or otherwise) accessory or appliance sold here in the U.S. of A. that has the right kind of power cord attached to it. Huh.
Disappointment isn't a word I'd use when describing our long-term SLS AMG. At least not in an overall sense. But that rear wing leaves just the slightest to be desired.
I know, it's part of the car that is rarely, if ever seen by the owner/driver, but the mechanism that deploys the rear wing simply doesn't have the right look. Those thin metal arms, exposed bolts and stamped steel seem a little cheap to me.
I was expecting skeletonized and machined aluminum or titanium. Maybe some kind of exposed anodized actuator that looks like The Terminator's arm or something. You know, like what the Bugatti Veyron has. At the very least, I probably would have covered up these mechanicals with some sort of shroud.
I'm nit-picking. I'm well aware of this, but I can't keep gushing over this car forever, can I? Oh wait, yes, yes I can.
During February, we finally put some real road under the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster's tires, 3,760 miles worth. Most of that came from EIC Oldham's snowy rip to South Dakota (roughly 3,200 miles), and in the past four weeks, the big Benz averaged 16.2 mpg, up almost 3 mpg from its January average. No doubt, a steady diet of Great Plains highways helped nudge that number upwards.
With its mix of road trip and local domestic duties, the SLS returned both its best and worst fills this month, as well as its best range. The roadster's on-board fuel economy meter also proved remarkably accurate. Four times, it was either dead-on or within a few tenths of our calculations.
Worst Fill MPG: 7.7
Best Fill MPG: 20.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 15.2
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): 14/20/16
Best Range: 378.6 miles
Current Odometer: 19,800
Ed might not have a problem with the brake pedal action in our long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, but I do.
They're not very linear at light pedal pressure. There's a little idle stroke in the pedal travel and then boom, too much braking power. I find myself paying an inordinate amount of attention trying to modulate them smoothly in 'round-town driving. Otherwise, I brake like I just got my license last week. All jumpy-like.
Can't say for certain whether this is a characteristic of all SLS brakes or just the carbon-ceramic ones.
Went to take our long-term 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster to the office the other day, and...surprise! Can't leave my driveway, thanks to the apparently brain-dead owner of this red Mazda 2.
After a few hours (long story), I heard the sound of sweet vindication: the Mazda's front tires moaning in protest as the car was moved prior to being towed to its new, temporary and expensive home at the impound yard.
Here's the visual result of said dragging.
This just goes to show that not everyone's eye is caught by a quarter-million-dollar scarlet drop top.
Our long-term SLS turned over 20,000 this past weekend, just after coming down the hill of Newport Coast Drive, past Vanessa Bryant's $3 million near-divorce concession prize estate, onto Pacific Coast Highway north of Laguna Beach just in front of The Beachcomber's Shake Shack.
But of course even though there are 20,000 miles on the odometer, we're only responsible for about 4,000 of those. We've driven it around town and worked it out at the track where it posted a 0-60 in 4 seconds and a quarter-mile in 11.7 sec. Editor Oldham took it on an epic Viking run to Mount Rushmore. It just went in for a service. Watch for an update on THAT invoice. Only wish we could keep it around for another 20,000.
We put the snow tires to good use, but now it's time to restore our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS to summer driving conditions. A quick visit to our local tire shop did the job. It took 30-45 minutes to swap the tires, load the winter rubber into our long-term CX-5 and pay the $130 bill.
So, is anybody out there shopping some partially used winter tires for an SLS? We might know somebody with a stack of four in his closet.
We dropped our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS off at W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz. On the agenda was satisfying its 20,000-mile request for routine service. At 20k the SLS requires an extensive list of maintenance items, known here as "Service B."
Required Service (per the manual):
- Engine - oil and filter change
- Check catch, safety catch and hinges on engine hood for proper operation
- Check condition of poly-V-belt
- Clean visible area of water deflector
- Reset maintenance service indicator in instrument cluster
- Replace brake fluid
- Replace combination filter
- Check thickness of brake pads, front and rear
- Correct tire inflation pressure
- Check underbody protection. In the event of damage, refinish underbody protection with separate work order.
- Leakage - Major Components: Check for unsafe marks, line routing, damaged components. In the event of leakage, determine cause and perform repair with separate work order
- Visually inspect condition of front ball joints, rubber boots
- Visually inspect condition of rear axle ball joints, rubber boots
- Visually inspect condition of steering mechanical components, rubber boots
- Check coolant level
- Check brake fluid level
- Check power steering fluid level
- Check windshield washer fluid level
- Check parking brake (function test only)
Recommended Service (per the manual):
- Replace wiper blades
- Check horn, high beam flasher, hazard warning lamps, turn signals
- Check warning indicator lamps, illumination and interior/exterior lighting
- Check trunk lighting
- Check and correct headlamp setting
- Check battery condition (starter battery) using Midtronics EXP 717 tester
- Check seatbelts and buckles for signs of external damage and proper function
- Check windshield washer and headlamp cleaning system
- Clean and lubricate soft top seals
- Check bodywork for paint damage
- Tire rotation (where applicable)
- Inspect tires for damage, measure tread depth
- Check TIREFIT sealant for expiration date
- Activate tire pressure monitoring system
- Visually check brake system components, lines, hoses, calipers
- Check thickness of brake pads and disks, front and rear wheels removed
- Check chassis and load-bearing body components for damage and corrosion
"Are you ready to sign your life away?" That's what our advisor asked me before passing the $800 estimate across the table. I initialed the page with the understanding that he'd call me before anything major was performed so I could okay the cost. Our first SLS service experience was under way.
We picked up our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS from its 20,000-mile service appointment at W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz this morning. In all honesty, we half-expected the SLS to promote us to some sort of priority status. It didn't. Our overall experience was quite normal, including some hits and some misses.
First off, let's cover the hits. I doubt that our advisor, Stan, could have been a nicer guy. He was extremely polite and up-front with explanations for all of the service performed. And if you recall, that was a long list. Even though they were clearly outlined as required during this maintenance interval, Stan called for our blessing prior to starting work on some of the higher-ticket items. We appreciated this extra consideration.
Second, it felt nice to come in below the knee-buckling $800 estimate. It wasn't much cheaper, but the $660 we paid was somehow an easier pill to swallow. The invoice broke down into three major categories: Brake fluid exchange ($190); Combination air filter ($100); and, the oil change ($350). Ten quarts of synthetic alone was nearly $100.
As for the misses, there were two. One pertained to the delivery itself, which we omitted from the last update. We arrived early for our appointment and Stan was at lunch. No big deal there, except nobody seemed to know how to handle us. Porter after porter looked us in the eye and then walked on. Other advisors came out to help new customers in the service drive and didn't give us a second look. Finally, after a solid 10 minutes of looking lost, an advisor asked if we'd been helped. He apologized profusely for the wait, processed our car in about 2 minutes and sent us on our way.
The second miss? No car wash. There's a chance I'd have let this slide if "complimentary courtesy wash" wasn't listed on the invoice. I asked the porter about the grime on our car and his response was something to the effect of, "Nobody told me it needed a wash." To his credit, he offered to wash it if I had another 10 minutes to spare. I said, "No, thanks."
On the whole, I'd have to say that the brief interaction with our advisor was the highlight of this visit. The porter staff didn't seem to be quite on its game, at least when we were there. So would I recommend this dealer? Yes, with footnotes. Ask for Stan. And don't be afraid to ask for help. It may not come to you.
Total Cost: $668.29
Total Days Out of Service: 1
Somehow the universe aligned. Several editors had gone to Geneva for the auto show and the SLS AMG sat lonely on the list, calling to me (not entirely true: I had to arm-wrestle Mike Schmidt for it, a formidable opponent). Good timing too, as the next day was my father's birthday and I'd planned to meet the old man for lunch. I didn't expect to meet him in a $243,000 roadster, but fortune smiled.
Dad considers himself a bit of a Benz man these days, smitten as he is with his six-year-old SLK 280. I haven't had the heart to tell him that most auto-snobs snicker at the little convertible as an executive secretary's special. But I doubt he'd care. Dad used to wear white bucks to high school and sometimes a bowtie to his plain-clothes assignments for the police department. He's not a man easily swayed by the whimsies of the cool kids. The SLK is also something of a salve, a car to soothe the memory of a 911 SC sold in a moment of haste when he was a much younger man.
To fully exploit the theme, we decided to hit up the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine after lunch.
The Classic Center sits among a cluster of automotive dealerships just off the freeway. You have to keep an eye out for it. The two-story, glass-fronted building wraps around a corner lot, with only a small three-pointed star above the entrance and a simple sign along the top of the building in classic Mercedes typeface. Driving by, there's nothing to tell you that it houses some of the finest Benz classics outside of the mothership center in Fellbach, Germany.
And it's not just a whisper-and-hush museum. The western regional staff of Mercedes USA corporate works on the second floor, while around half of the ground floor space is given over to a full restoration facility: body shop, paint booth, the works. On our visit, we saw a half-dozen 300SLs in various states of rehabilitation. Owners bring in their old Benzes for professional love, and sometimes the Classic Center will buy, restore and sell them on the floor. A pristine '55 Gullwing runs just $1.4 million. The more practical buyer can drive off in a meticulous 1995 E320 wagon for $30,000.
The SLS drew some attention from the office folks, not an easy crew to impress. The SLS's manufacturer plates and our general wonderment on entering gave us away as pretenders and not Orange County land barons looking to expand our garage. No one tried to sell us an SL.
Dad loved the SLS and kept urging me to "roll on the throttle again." We drove it back home through nearby Trabuco Canyon where the exhaust note lingered among the rock walls and canopy of oaks. We never once listened to the radio on the road, only briefly in the driveway to sample a $6,000 Bang & Olufsen sound system. The old man's only complaints were our optional carbon-fiber interior trim ("save it for the body; aluminum or wood inside, please") and the lumbar/bolster adjustment cluster perched under his left knee.
The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center is open Monday through Friday, and Saturday by appointment (i.e. you plan to buy something really expensive or can sneak in with a group after the Cars & Coffee car show). Well worth the visit for any carhead, definitely anyone into Benzes.
Most of the time I drive our long-term SLS roadster with the top down and stereo off. Really, the best music from this beast comes from under the hood and out the tailpipes. Every now and then, though, I do listen to the $6,400 Bang and Olufsen audio system.
For that price, I expect the audio to sound like the London Philharmonic is somehow assembled inside the cabin. It doesn't. But that's not the fault of the system. No, it's more of the amount of noise (as glorious as it is) coming from the engine and exhaust, and maybe the lack of sound insulation you'd get with a coupe.
Don't get me wrong, the audio sounds amazing, but I simply don't see the point of spending that kind of money when you can't fully appreciate it. Sure, you might argue that if you've got the quarter-million to drop on a car, another six-grand won't hurt, but most rich guys I know are careful with how they spend their fortune.
If you're parked with the engine off and the top up, the 11 speakers deliver amazing sound. The quality is crystal clear throughout the range and there's plenty of powerful bass to get your gut thumping. Despite the tight confines, the staging manages to feel as if the sound is emanating just a few inches in front of your face. I'm sure the dash-mounted tweeters help with that, but I also think if they dropped into the dash like our Audi A8 did, it'd be a nice touch.
As for the control aspect, well, I'm still not a huge fan of Mercedes' COMAND interface. It gets more intuitive with time, but I still think Audi's MMI and, to a lesser degree, BMW's iDrive interfaces suit my tastes better. But just like the competitors, the COMAND screen is tack-sharp and responds immediately to inputs. It's also seemingly free of bugs (random stoppages, mismatched song information, etc.).
So, all things considered, the Bang and Olufsen system sounds amazing, but that quality is simply wasted in a car like this. You really need a large sedan with a crypt-quiet cabin to fully appreciate its nuances, unless you just leave it parked. And that'd be criminal in my book.
A few weeks ago my good friend John Pearley Huffman and I drove our long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster from our Santa Monica, California office to South Dakota and back. And I'm very happy to report that our buttocks lived to tell the tale.
The seats in the SLS are nothing short of remarkable. Very comfortable. Very supportive. The supercar would manage nearly 400 miles per tank of fuel and we never had to stop early because of back or butt pain.
On the fourth day of the trip we decided to push. We logged 985 miles and still arrived in Las Vegas feeling human. Impressive considering the SLS isn't exactly the roomiest car out there. Great seats.
My buddy and road trip sidekick John Pearley Huffman blames me, but it was really his fault that the large rock destroyed the windshield of our long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. Sure, I was driving. Somewhere in Utah I think. And yes it was I that chose to follow that large gravel truck a little too closely. But it was John that was sitting in the passenger seat playing solitaire on his phone.
As I said, it was clearly his fault. At least the large divot is right in the driver's line of site.
Oh, and according to our local Mercedes dealer a new windshield costs about $3,500 plus $400 for installation. I said we'll think about it.
We awoke the morning of day 3 to a blue sky, a warm sun and a thermometer reading 25 degrees Fahrenheit. We were in Rapid City, South Dakota, just a Black Hill or two from Mount Rushmore, and we were feeling brave. The top of our long-term Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster went down.
And it stayed down for nearly 400 miles as we blazed a trail from Rapid City to Billings, Montana. When we arrived at Billings and unloaded into the busiest Olive Garden on the face of the earth, we weren't frozen, we were sunburnt.
Impossible? I would have thought so too. But with the side windows up and the wind blocker in place and the heater cranking and the seat heaters on and the Mercedes Airscarf System huffing and puffing on the back of our necks we were downright toasty.
And it was on this stretch, just inside Montana, under the biggest blue sky anyone has ever seen with the SLS carving its way through Old Man Winter at speeds I would never admit to, that the greatness of this machine became absurdly clear.
I turned to John and yelled over the roar of the winter tires, and the hum of the Mercedes V8, and the howling of the wind, "Man, this is one of the best cars in the world."
Without even looking up from his iPad he responded with a poetic, "Duh."
In just 51 hours and 11 minutes spread over five days, we drove our long-term 2012 Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster from Santa Monica to Mount Rushmore and back. And we averaged 18.5 mpg doing it. The EPA rates the SLS at 20 mpg on the highway.
As you can see we used the car's trip computer to do the math for us. We covered 3,197 miles and averaged 62 mph.
Not a bad pace or fuel economy considering the weather we drove through and our many stops for photography.
Yabba dabba doo and all that. But this photo, taken somewhere between Rapid City, South Dakota and Mount Rushmore, only tells half the story. You see I had just gotten the SLS stuck in that thick white stuff trying to get this photo. It was embarrassing. And it was pure luck that the muscle of a local and burly John Pearley could push the big Benz free.
It was the only time over the 3,000-mile trip that the combination of the Pirelli winter tires and the Mercedes' state-of-the-art traction control system failed us.
Still, it's only half the story. The other half, the fun half, was captured on video. Check it out on the next page.
Recently I realized that my five-year-old daughter had never experienced a convertible before. So I thought: why not start her off at the top with the long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG?
It was a perfect afternoon, sunny and 73 degrees according to the Merc's temp gauge. (Thank you, California.) I got my daughter situated in her booster seat and then asked, "So, are you ready to put the top down?" She looked at me curiously since I hadn't told her anything about the car or what a convertible was. "Here, watch," I said, using the switch for the roof. He eyes widened as the power top quickly unlatched and folded backwards. She had no idea a car's roof could do that.
We motored off, driving casually along out-of-the way streets. Based on her reactions, you'd think she was having the best time of her life. Smiling constantly, she was putting her hands out into the breeze and looking at the sky. Watching her enjoy the experience, combined with the genuinely nice day, I felt like I had entered some sort of perfect-day car commercial.
"Daddy, this is the best car ever!" she exclaimed. For that afternoon, it certainly was.
We tried using Safelite to repair a large windshield chip on our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS that occurred during its recent multi-state road trip. In the past we've used mobile glass repair companies for non-routine maintenance like this. None of them have really stuck out in our minds as remarkable. So this time we decided to try a bigger name in the industry to see if the experience was any different.
The ease of scheduling an appointment started things on the right foot. Go online, check a few boxes to describe the damage and schedule a time for repair. That was it. We could schedule a same-day appointment if we were willing to drive to their location. By chance, there was a Safelite just a couple of miles away. So we went for it.
When we pulled in the staff greeted us promptly and asked that we pull the SLS into their garage. We found everyone there to be friendly and professional. The atmosphere was very comfortable and small talk passed the time. Not quite 30 minutes after it began, the repair was completed. We signed the $110.34 bill and pointed the car towards home.
This was a good experience. We were fortunate to have a shop nearby. The next closest was farther than we cared to drive. Safelite offers a service that we'd try again. And the repair came out to our satisfaction. Next time we'll try their mobile service.
[The following is an edited rebroadcast of an instant messaging conversation between editor Brent Romans and fellow editor Mark Takahashi.]
Brent Romans: Remember how the Mercedes SLS center bin lid jammed on you last month?
Mark Takahashi: Of course. It happened to you?
BR: Yep. Although there's a funny story to it.
MT: Oh no...
BR: So last night I went to the gym in the SLS. I put my wallet, phone and house keys in the center bin and closed the sliding lid to avoid any prying eyes. I did my workout, then got back in the car. As I pulled away, I noticed that I couldn't get the lid open. I would push the release button, and the lid would slide back a little, but then get stuck. So the whole way home, I was trying to get the lid to open at every stop light. Of course, the SLS's top was down, so all the other motorists at the lights could see the dopey, sweaty SLS owner futzing around with his $240,000 sports car.
MT: This is already better than my story.
BR: Yeah, I remembered your earlier post! I finally got home. But my garage door opener was in the bin, too, so no way to get in. Thankfully, though, I have a remote access keypad for the garage door on the house, so I was able to pull into the garage. Now that I was alone, I started trying the Mark Takahashi technique.
MT: You channeled your inner caveman. Good for you.
BR: At first I was pretty gentle, but then I remembered that you had to hit it harder, so I tried that. Nothing. Tried prying up the lid. Nope. Eventually, though, I discovered by fishing my fingers around in the bin that it was indeed the "wooden spoon in the drawer" effect. My phone and wallet had jammed the lid, preventing it from sliding open. So the whole time I was pounding on the lid, I was really pounding on my iPhone.
MT: Oh no.
BR: Yeah. I felt really stupid then. Still, I couldn't get the lid unstuck. So I was trying to move the phone and wallet around with a screwdriver, then a bent metal spoon. Nothing. Oh, and the whole time I'm doing this, the garage door opener button is getting pressed inadvertently, so my garage door is going up and down. It was pretty ridiculous, thinking back to it. Eventually, I managed to pull out the garage door opener with my fingers, and that freed up enough room to adjust the phone and wallet so I could slide back the lid.
MT: What happened to your phone?
BR: It still seems to work, thankfully. Oh, and props to Mercedes for build quality. The lid still works like nothing happened.
MT: I know, right?
[Postscript: The lid is working fine now. It was totally operator error. However, I will say the design of the bin and lid, which is a lot like a kitchen drawer, makes inadvertent jambs like this quite easy, especially with smartphone-sized items. — BR]
Mercedes says its SLS AMG Roadster has 6.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which doesn't sound like a lot. But I can tell you it's enough space to hold the belongings of two idiots hell bent on living in the car for five days.
Filling the trunk in the photo is one briefcase complete with laptop, one duffle bag, one backpack, one camera bag, a monopod, two winter coats and a fleece. And with a little muscle the deck lid would close.
This warning illuminated when I tried shifting our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS into reverse. I was safely in a parking space, so I shut off the car. When I turned it back on the warning was gone and everything was working properly. This is the only time we've seen this light and it hasn't returned since.
Would the typical 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG owner use his or her SLS to go grocery shopping? I'd hope that said owner would have more suitable vehicles available in the garage for such tasks (my humble suggestion: the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6).
Still, the SLS works out all right if you press it into service for such things. I managed to fit four reusable grocery bags in the SLS's 6.1-cubic-foot trunk without issue. Just don't leave your ice cream back there very long. With the SLS's transmission (transaxle) mounted in the rear of the car, it can get pretty warm inside the trunk due to the tranny's heat.
It's happened again. I've signed up for a car in advance only find it broken and/or damaged on the day I plan to begin driving it. Hey, at least this time there are some hard parts to accompany the note.
These cables are among the small, important-looking bits that sprouted from the SLS's top when it failed yesterday. We'll be visiting the dealer next week. Meanwhile, the top can still be lowered and raised, as long as there are two patient people give it some help.
Our monster Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster added 1,062 miles to its odometer in the month of March. It drank six tankfuls of 91-octane fuel and averaged 15.7 mpg.
That kicked our lifetime fuel economy up by one tenth of a point.
Worst Fill MPG: 7.7
Best Fill MPG: 20.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 15.3
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): 14/20/16
Best Range: 378.6 miles
Current Odometer: 21,144 miles
On a recent Sunday evening, I didn't have much to do. No dishes to wash, no kids to deal with. I could have sat around, loaded up a bowl of popcorn and watched basketball. But then I realized: It's really nice outside. The sun is setting. And I have a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG in my garage.
So I quickly grabbed the key and headed out to some back roads near my house. With the cool air swirling around the open cockpit, the rumbling V8 filling my ears, the car sweeping from corner to corner, and the sunset bursting with color, it truly was the best way to experience our SLS.
Our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is thrilling, exquisitely trimmed and sticks out like Clifford the Big Red Dog. No matter where you drive the SLS, it gets serious amounts of attention. But when I arrived for lunch at Neptune's Net in Malibu (famous for its seafood and its cameo in The Fast and The Furious), something embarrassing happened.
With the convertible top down on Pacific Coast Highway, the 30 miles from our office in Santa Monica to Neptune's practically melted away. The exhaust on this fire-breathing-6.3-liter-V8 monster is so brutish and evocative that I didn't even bother with the stereo. As I parked for lunch, I pulled the lever for the convertible top only to be met by a loud clicking noise.
A tiny piece of wire that folds the plastic covers for the soft top had snapped out of place and bent the bracket it was attached to. After lunch, I drove back to the office with the top up and consulted with Editor Brent Romans and Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt.
How the plastic cover should look at this point in the process (passenger side):
The driver's side at the same point in the roof-folding process:
Brent found the broken piece of wire, but we haven't figured out what caused the malfunction. For now, we're leaving the top up and scheduling a service appointment.
When you're spending almost a quarter million bucks on a car you want to appreciate its finer details. This AMG logo embossed into the leather on the car's shifter is one of those details.
Monday morning I dropped the SLS off at Simonson Mercedes-Benz near our office in Santa Monica to have its top repaired. It stopped opening and closing properly last week.
I needed to see Stan Sax who has helped us with other cars in the past. Doing so required a 25-minute wait. Sax, however, was relatively efficient and his part of the check-in process went quickly. He offered no assessment of the top but told me it would be a few days before they could get to it.
I wondered how that would sit if I were the owner of this piece of rolling gratuity.
By now we all know that a couple of little cables let go on the convertible top mechanism and we had them repaired at no cost. That was a first. It just so happened that when I went to pick it up, there was a slight problem: Dead battery, but this was not a first.
Way back here, we found out what happens when you leave the map light on. So what happened this time?
The technician who brought this big, yellow jump-starter over said somebody had left the ignition on, perhaps in the accessory position. After he cleared the codes, he told me I should drive the car for at least 15 minutes before shutting it off. Tough job, but somebody had to do it.
There aren't too many places to put a rear-view camera on the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. As such, it's placed just above the license plate, which upon my rough measurement, is about 8 mm off the tarmac. Any lower and it would be dangling off the bumper from its wire.
As a result, the image presented on screen can be deceptive and it can be hard to see exactly how close you are to that other car's bumper seemingly 5 feet up.
Now, the exact opposite placement would be the rear-view camera on the Mercedes G-Class, which if it was any higher up would be on a conning mast bolted to the roof. Whereas the SLS's camera is still fairly useful for minute parking maneuvers, the big G is hopeless. See my BMW Z3 in the picture below? Looks like the G has run over it. In reality, it was a good 3 feet away.
Regardless of its placement, though, the SLS's rear-view camera is a wonderful feature. The SLS isn't actually that difficult to park by supercar standards, but anything that helps you park it without damage is worth every penny.
No, I didn't get pulled over for going fast in our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. But I can understand why, say, sticking to the 40-mph speed limit on surface streets would be difficult for some people driving this car. Not only does its power come on smoothly but just look at that speedometer. Is it just me or does "40" look as if it's located in the usual "20" spot? Then again, 40 in this car looks and feels sooo slow.
For comparison's sake, take a look at the speedos for our long-term Subaru Impreza, Porsche 911 and Cadillac ATS.
So I go to meet a friend for lunch in downtown L.A. He only gets a glimpse of the SLS and I drive by while trying to find a parking space. When I sit down to eat he asks what kind of Mercedes I was driving as he didn't recognize the car at all.
I told him it was called the SLS, and yet it still didn't register. I've got a feeling that if I had been driving a coupe and told him it was the "gullwing" Mercedes he might have had a better idea which car I was talking about.
It reminded me that the SLS is still a bit of an outlier in the Mercedes lineup, one that doesn't register with people unless they are dedicated Mercedes fans. It's one of the reasons I prefer our roadster to the gullwing coupe. It's not only functionally easier to deal with, it flies under the radar in a way that few cars in its price range can.
Some might consider that a drawback, but I get more enjoyment out of the car itself, not the attention that it attracts. And in this area, the SLS never fails to impress. It's easily the most rigid convertible I've ever driven, and the sound of its V8 is pitch-perfect at any speed. It's like an ultra-refined Shelby Cobra with really nice seats. What more could you ask for?
Our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is a bright, red, shouty, quarter-million-dollar convertible supercar that wants me to go fast. It wants me to turn off the traction control, engage the AMG-powered hyper drive, and bury my foot in the go-pedal, lighting up the tires at every stop light.
Thankfully, the SLS scares me as much as it entertains me so I leave all the electric controls on and fight the urge to drive it like I stole it.
On a sunny Friday in Southern California, I drove the SLS to lunch with the convertible top down. In town, at city speeds, with no shelter from Johnny Pedestrian, I end up paying much more attention to the fact that it's a beacon for disgusted glares and judgmental scrutiny.
Unwanted attention comes with the territory and the fear of public distain influences my driving habits, unlike any other car in our fleet. Showing off in this car doesn't require redlining every gear. All you have to do is show up in it.
When the SLS pulled into the service drive at W.I. Simonson Mercedes in Santa Monica, they were expecting us. We went to the same advisor, Stan, who we liked our last time at Simonson. He wrote up our paperwork. During the process he was candid, "Chances are that we won't get to look at your car until Wednesday." It was Monday afternoon. He added, "I'll try to get someone on it as soon as possible. And I will call you with updates as I have them." Frankly, we were in no rush. This scenario was okay by us. But we see how other SLS owners could find this response unacceptable.
As promised, Stan called the next day. "I have a tech available to look at your car later today. I'll call tomorrow with an update." Wednesday was another phone call, "Hi Mike, we ordered the parts. They should arrive tomorrow. I hope to have them installed late tomorrow or Friday. I'll keep you updated." The Thursday phone call had bad news, "We need to order another part. But I'm still hoping to finish Friday." Late Friday our phone rang again, "Your car is ready. All work was covered under warranty."
We couldn't pick it up until after the weekend. So the poor SLS sat parked for a couple of days. No big deal there. The big deal was Stan, again. In my days I've driven through well over a thousand dealer service driveways. I cannot remember an advisor that told me he would call with an update and then called with the update before I dialed him. Even if it was bad news, I heard about it. Aside from having to wait for him when we dropped off the car, this is what every service experience should be like.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG comes standard with leather, so my point here is somewhat moot in relation to this Benz halo car. However, it does perfectly demonstrate my point. Despite our best efforts, there is seemingly no avoiding excess wear and tear of the leather on a low slung car's leather side bolsters. Yet, such wear and tear is inevitable on any car with leather seats. It'll just take longer in a car of more conventional height.
That's why I'd opt for MBTex if I were to buy a Mercedes-Benz. Yes, it's vinyl, but it'll look good as new years after leather has cracked and ripped. Plus, believe it or not, MBTex breathes better than the cow-sourced stuff. So says Mercedes' engineers, and so says myself after several hundred miles of driving GLK350s through hot, muggy western Virginia. Better still, it is extremely hard to tell the difference between MBTex and leather. We've had cars for a week before realizing it has the pleather. Mercedes even added contrasting piping to the GLK's real leather to create a clearer differentiation for 2013.
Indeed, not all vinyl upholstery is created equal. I'm not so bullish on BMW's leatherette, but VW's is rather nice. Either way, I think such materials deserve more attention and respect as car seat upholstery. I've never been someone who demands dead cow adorn my interior and it has nothing to do with any animal-friendly leanings. If something else makes as much sense as MBTex I'll get it.
Having said all that, Mercedes sadly doesn't offer MBTex in the wide variety of colors that its leather comes in thanks to the Designo catalogue. You can get Porcelain White leather, but not Porcelain White MBTex. Pity, for another plus is that vinyl is easier to clean.
I adore the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. I adore it so much, there's a scale model of one sitting on my desk here at Edmunds alongside a Z8 and 22 other model cars of various sizes. OK, so I have a toy-collecting problem, but that's not the point here.
After a weekend spent in the SLS Roadster, including a brief road trip down to San Diego, I came to the realization that despite my adoration for the SLS, I most definitely wouldn't get the Roadster. For one, I would never lower the top enough to warrant it. Second, there's less headroom than in the Gullwing and at 6-foot-3, my hair annoyingly grazes the fabric roof. Third, no convertible can avoid the rattles and creaks associated with a removable roof. Fourth, visibility is even worse and it can feel quite claustrophobic in the cabin with the roof up.
Oh, and the gullwing doors are awesome. I cannot deny those play an enormous part in my affection for the SLS.
Yet, as my seat time increased this weekend, I realized that even the Gullwing might not be the best choice for the hypothetically uber-rich Riswick. For, though I'm quite comfortable around town and in shorter, exuberant mountain drives, I started to get fidgety as the journey got longer and straighter. No matter how I adjusted the seat, I couldn't recline or track it back far enough to get my long legs comfortable.
As the dimensions indicate both Gullwing and Roadster have identical legroom, neither would be a good choice for a road trip. I know most supercar owners will never take their pretty motoring baubles on such journeys, but I sure-as-hell would, and they'd be a lot longer than just L.A. to San Diego.
Furthermore, there's a ton of road noise that gets awfully tiresome. The adjustable suspension could use a cushier setting, too. So damn it, that would probably put hypothetically uber-rich Riswick into a Bentley Continental GT V8. It's without question less lustworthy, its doors are boring and it's not amongst the 24 model cars sitting on my desk. But it's impeccably built, goes like hell, sounds fantastic and even looks better since its redesign.
Ah, screw it, I'm hypothetically uber rich. I'd get both. Hypothetical dilemma avoided.
Judging from the exorbitant price of our long-term SLS AMG roadster and its likely demographic, I was pretty confident that my golf bag would fit. Sure enough, it did, but just barely.
Granted, I don't have a sensibly sized bag for walking a course, no, that's what golf carts are for. I have a fairly large one that is one step below a tour bag (the ones that the pros use to break the backs of their caddies).
It took some wrestling to get the 3-wood into a little nook in the trunk. I'm confident a driver would fit, too, but I try to avoid those clubs because they're evil. Pure evil, I say. There was also just enough room for my golf shoe bag.
But if you like hitting the links with friends, the SLS is not a suitable choice since only one bag will fit. Fortunately for me, I was playing with Riswick and he had the Tesla. Then again, the few rich dudes I know belong to private clubs and they have a locker for their gear. That effectively eliminates the cargo problem. Hooray for rich people!
Unless you're parking the SLS next to a big mirror-tinted window, there's no way to judge the limits of the nose without using the parking sensors. And it's a good thing those parking sensors are as accurate as they are.
Besides the audible beeping that speeds up as you get closer to an object, there's a visual marker on the dash and just behind and between the seats. These lights start out as amber and go to red. The cool thing about the rear indicator lights is that you can see them in the rearview mirror as you back up.
Pictured above is the distance from a typical parking block when the red lights just activate. Now THAT, is close. You can still slide an index card between the splitter and the block, but probably not two.
There's only one time when it's not a good idea to drive with our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster's top down during a gorgeous, sunny day: When you're sitting in standstill traffic on the freeway with no hope of exiting any time soon. What's funny is that I had considered putting the top down when I first jumped in the driver seat. It's a beautiful, balmy Friday afternoon, why not? And I love hearing the thrum of the engine, the burble from the exhaust.
Well good thing I didn't! I would have been singed! Although I suppose I could have easily put the top back up while sitting in the left lane since traffic wasn't moving. At. All. Anyway, what a bummer way to kick off the weekend. Apparently the accident was bad enough that there were police and news helicopters hovering over the accident scene. And naturally as everyone drove by the accident they ALL had to look at it. L.A. traffic is such a buzzkill.
We've been testing this Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster since December. And we've now driven it about 8,000 miles. During the month of April we drove the supercar about 1,700 miles. The mileage included a few highway road trips, plenty of commuting and more than a few fun runs through the Santa Monica Mountains.
Running exclusively on its required 91-octane fuel the Mercedes is averaging 14.9 mpg, which is about a point shy of its EPA combined rating of 16 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.6
Best Fill MPG: 20.3
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.9
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): 14/20/16
Best Range: 378.6 miles
Current Odometer: 22,902 miles
When it comes to traversing a barren desert planet in style, nothing can beat the Mercedes-Benz S-LandSpeeder AMG.
Originally owned by Jedi Master "Tool Hand" Luke Skywalker, this fine landspeeder was restored to its original glory by its current owner. It is set to cross the block at the Beraat Jar-Jarkson Auctions in Mos Eisley this summer (but really, it's ALWAYS summer).
We're not expecting it to fetch a huge sum of galactic credits, though, as much of the "provenance" from Skywalker has been removed during restoration. The good news for Rebellion re-enactors and Luke Fans around the galaxy is that those extra parts (including some power converters from the famous tuner shop Toshi Station) are included in a separate shipping container.
Whether you just need to get back...home...or transporting "acquired" droids from some shady Jawas, this S-LS will do it with a flourish.
Carbon fiber is one of my favorite materials and our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster has just the right amount of it.
The carbon fiber on the SLS is used to accent the interior, line the engine bay and give things a more refined feel. Whereas full, unpainted body panels can come across as extravagant and tasteless on a high-end car (see: Koenigsegg CCX), Benz's sparing use of carbon fiber is handsome and elegant.
Senior Editor Josh Jacquot listed the embossed leather shifter among the finer details (http://www.edmunds.com/mercedes-benz/sls-amg/2012/long-term-road-test/2012-mercedes-benz-sls-amg-roadster-finer-interior-details.html) on the SLS AMG, and carbon fiber is another one.
Small, intricate sections of trim look like they've been flawlessly draped with unbroken sheets of carbon fiber weave. This attention to detail adds class to the SLS, and it's one of many things that help make it more than just a 563-hp muscle car.
Our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is big. It's over fifteen feet long and more than six feet wide. That's six inches longer than an Audi R8 and eight inches longer than our Porsche 911. It's got big wheels too: 19 inches in the front and 20s in the rear. Before I drove it, I was sure that a low-slung exotic like the SLS AMG would be hard to park and completely unable to turn around. But after a few days in the SLS, I've been presently surprised.
The Mercedes SLS is maneuverable at low speeds. Pointing the battle-cruiser-sized nose into parking spots is easy, and it can make a U-turn on average city streets. Its turning circle is about 39 feet, which isn't small, but the R8 and 911 only beat it by about a foot.
If you rotate to full lock of the steering wheel at less than 5 mph, the front wheels shudder a little bit, but U-turns don't seem to be an embarrassing five-point-exercises-in-patience. If you see a parking spot big enough for the SLS, you don't have to circle around the block just to find that its already taken and in a city like Los Angeles, that means a lot.
When my friend and fellow Edmunds co-worker Don got in to the passenger seat of our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, he was impressed. Not so impressed however, that he didn't complain. "My only problem is the controls for the seat, they stick you in the back of the leg," he said. To shut him up, I gave him a bit of loud-pedal-sponsored AMG soundtrack. An ear-to-ear grin quickly replaced his judgmental sneer, but I soon realized Don was painfully right.
During five hours in Friday afternoon traffic in the SLS, I noticed the seat bolsters dug in to my back four or five times. Maybe it's my bad posture or fat calves, but over the weekend I had to release the air from the inflated seat bolsters on at least ten more occasions. I imagine there are plenty of places that Mercedes could move the controls for the bolsters so they aren't firmly under my right thigh, but anywhere else would be an improvement.
When our list of cars made its way to me for the weekend and the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster was still available, I was ecstatic. For a spring trip to Palm Springs I couldn't think of a better car. I expected to get plenty of attention in the flashy convertible, that's normal. But in affluent areas like Santa Monica and Palm Springs, I got a very specific kind of attention.
On my way out of Los Angeles, I came alongside a bright orange Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder on I-10. He looked over and admired the red hand-build-supercar sitting next to his orange hand-built-supercar in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Then, while the irony of our cars moving a snail's pace during rush hour was setting in, he gave me an approving nod.
In Palm Springs I pulled up next to a Ferrari F430 Spider. The retirement-age owner and his lovely young female passenger (probably his daughter right?) looked over, admired the SLS, half-smiled and gave the same nod.
Back in Los Angeles and driving through Santa Monica, a Ferrari 458 Roadster turned in front of me as I waited at a light. He slowed down and delivered the same nod, as if to say "I approve of the way you've spent your quarter-million dollars good sir! Also, do you have any Gray Poupon?"
I don't receive this kind of attention in my modified 1996 Acura, but I could definitely get used to it.
Of all the audio interfaces in our fleet, the one in our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is my favorite. It's intuitive, has great tactile response and most importantly, it doesn't become useless in the sun.
A few months back, I took umbrage with our long-term Subaru BRZ's stereo display and its issues with visibility.
This is an unedited photo of the Merc's stereo in the exact same conditions: the sun is up, shining bright from behind me, directly on the dash and in this case, the top is down. The screen is clear and visible, even in the light. Put this touch of practicality in the win column for the 200-mph roadster.
Our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG's audio system accepts digital music files through either a 30-pin iPod jack (iPhone 4 or earlier), or a standard headphone/aux jack. Technology marches on and many of us have been upgraded to iPhone 5 with its new and controversial Lightening connector. Lacking a proper Lightening-to-30-pin adapter, the reliable Aux jack saves the day. This has its advantages and its disadvantages.
I can now use the familiar iPhone interface to select my music (and I'm not forced to decipher another software rationale for alphabetization, etc.)
I don't have to switch screens to control my music
The Aux cord I have is 6-feet long and it will extend to any seat in any car
The Volume control on the steering wheel still works
The "Next" or "Previous" buttons on the steering wheel do not work.
If I'm charging my phone at the same time (so as not to run the battery down while on a long drive), there are now two cords attached to my phone
There was some interference; a very high-pitched sound that grew more noticeable when I was also charging the phone
At $6.899 per gallon, the price of gasoline in Gorda, California illustrates what it might cost to fill the tank of our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG if we lived in Europe. Ouch.
I did a little more digging and discovered something else: That singular filling station in Gorda has a bit of a notorious reputation. At one time, that pump dispensed the most expensive gasoline in the entire United States. I have a feeling this is still true.
While driving our beloved 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG with the top up, I noticed a really annoying buzz/rattle over my left shoulder that sounds like a piece of plastic vibrating freely around. I could reach up and vaguely support something and make the buzz stop.
The next day, I lowered the top and I noticed in the rear-view mirror the infamous flap was not where it was supposed to be. I motored the top up slightly and tried to manually tuck it where it wants to go on the way back down. It refused to move into place.
When I put the top back up, it made a pop/crack sound in that same area, as if it broke something. That icky, uh-oh feeling rushed over me. This sounds like the first go around with the broken top.
We'll leave the top in the upright position until we can get it back in for Round 2 with a technician.
It was a beautiful weekend for a convertible and as luck would have it, I had the key to our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. Here you'll see it receiving a well-earned bath for its unfailing service.
Click through for a few impressions and photos from lovely Big Sur.
Maybe my behind needs to be recalibrated, but I'm fairly well convinced that the rear suspension has become softer. Even if I select the middle of the three suspension settings, it sometimes feels like I'm driving a 1965 Mustang with a droopy bum. I'll have to get a second opinion on this because it's been a while since I drove this car.
The SLS is still an effective tool to take advantage of the infrequent passing zones on Highway 1. The road is also highly patrolled, for good reason. So when it's time to blast past an RV who just happened to miss yet another turn-out, there's no better way to get the job done in a hurry and safely.
In some sort of miraculous happenstance, my manual tally of miles, gallons, and thus miles-per-gallon matched exactly that of the on-board trip computer. This has never happened, ever: 754.1 miles consumed 40.909 gallons of 91 octane for an average of 18.434 mpg.
The SLS is available. No. Yes. It seems a shame to just drive it home. Is it safe in my garage? But it's red. And it's a convertible. I don't really like convertibles. It's a little gaudy, too. This really isn't my kind of car.
Shut up, Kurt.
There are cars in this world that you should drive. You have to. Cars like an E-Type or a 289 Cobra. Air-cooled 911's or one of the first few generations of M3s. Drive a Z06 and an NSX and do your damnedest to get into anything that resembles a supercar.
For me, as it should be for you, the Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster is one of those cars. I can talk myself out of almost anything, but when the chance to drive one of the best motors in the world came my way, I took it. The noise alone is phenomenal and very nearly worth the price of admission all on its own. As for the rest of the car, it feels exactly like you'd imagine a car coast nearly $200K should feel: good.
It might not be my type of car, as it might not be yours, but never let that stop you. If you get the chance to drive one, or anything cool, take it. You didn't get into cars to turn down the opportunity to drive them, did you?
There's a lot to like about the SLS AMG's styling. The long hood and stubby tail give it classic roadster proportions. It gives a nod to Benzes past, while offering a thoroughly modern interpretation. But there's one thing that bugs me...
This fuel filler door seems out of place. On the whole, the SLS has a refreshingly clean design. Sure, it has a few shiny accents here and there, but this filler door reminds me of an over-the-top fashion accessory that is completely unnecessary.
I suppose the designers were shooting for something racy. Maybe some sort of tribute to roller latch fuel caps. But to me, it just sticks out like a sore thumb. I'd much prefer a plain old body-colored door.
People hate you when you drive a Ferrari.
There's something about the car that causes them to look at you with only the bitter bile of resentment. It isn't that you have the car. They aren't jealous of the machine. It's you, or more specifically, what the machine says about you, that they are reacting to.
They just assume you're a jerk. The kind of person that would take their thirsty child's last drop of water. A corporate raider without a single pang of conscience that has stepped on too many regular people to earn too many millions to buy too many Italian jerkmobiles. They hate you and most would spit on your car if you were to leave it unattended.
Same thing goes for Lamborghinis and just about any other vulgar exotic that costs more than most people's homes.
The Mercedes SLS Roadster is different, however. Although it costs nearly as much as a 458 Italia or a Gallardo, when you drive the SLS people don't hate you, they like you. In fact, they find the Benz very approachable. They walk over and talk to you about it. They give you the thumbs up from their trucks and Camrys. When you catch them checking it out they give you a smile as opposed to a sneer.
I'm not really sure why this is. And the Mercedes isn't the only "exotic" that has managed to pull this off. I remember driving around in a Ford GT and experiencing something very similar. Also the Audi R8 and the Porsche 911 Turbo seem to keep the haters from hatin'.
I think this is a huge selling point for the Mercedes. Who likes to be hated?
Supercars aren't cheap. Owning and maintaining one isn't cheap, either. As a 99-percenter, I suppose it's easy to speculate that if you have a quarter-million to drop on a plaything, you can afford everything that comes with it.
Just as our SLS AMG term comes to an end (sniff, sniff), we had to take it in for repairs for the convertible top again. The service writer gave our car the usual once over and pointed out the tire wear.
The inside shoulder of the front tires are exhibiting the highest amount of wear. Aggressive negative camber will do that. But I'm glad for the front tuning, as I still feel like this car wants to kill me, and with less front cornering grip, it very well might. Honestly though, it's one of the reasons why I love it so much.
The rear tires aren't faring much better, but at least the wear is more even across the tread.
A quick look on tirerack.com revealed that a set of four Continental replacement tires would set us back $1,462 (not including rebates or shipping). That's not cheap, but I was expecting more. A set of Michelins would be $1,000 less or so.
Even though I don't have anywhere near the kind of funds it takes to own one of these cars, $1,400 seems reasonable for a set of tires. This is especially true when you consider the amount of entertainment that comes with it.
This month, unfortunately, our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster has been out of action for a couple of weeks. The convertible top has malfunctioned once again and the car spent the better part of the last half of the month at the dealership. It's back for now, but still broken. More on that in a forthcoming post.
Still, May is the month when we broke the AMG's previous record for best-fill MPG. It was after a stint of only 126 miles, but after filling up following that stretch the Roadster returned an impressive 24.7 miles per gallon. It goes to show how well even a monster like this can behave if its driver shows a bit of restraint. Make that a lot of restraint.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.6
Best Fill MPG: 24.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.8
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway/Combined): 14/20/16
Best Range: 378.6 miles
Current Odometer: 24,747
So the convertible top is broken on our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster...again.
We took the car back to the local Mercedes-Benz dealership, W. I. Simonson, where we've had good experiences in the past. We were told that the parts would need to be special ordered and that they'd give us a call when the repairs were complete.
After a week and a half had passed, we called the dealership to get a rundown of the situation. We were told that the top was fixed, but that they were waiting on a cosmetic piece that had to be sourced from overseas. Rather than wait another week or more, we elected to pick the car up and bring it back when the part finally arrived.
One baffling thing: They were adamant that we not put the top down, no way, no how. This was odd considering the missing part was supposedly cosmetic. If this part is merely cosmetic, wouldn't the top still work without it? And if not, said part is not merely cosmetic, but mechanically integral. Whatever.
One other thing: When we stopped by to pick it up, the battery was dead. Not just low, where the engine tries to turn over and goes nowhere. Dead dead. No lights, no sound. Nothing. If you've been following these posts, you'll recall this happened at the dealer once before.
Now, we're giving Simonson the benefit of the doubt, since we've had good luck with them in the past. Hopefully, sooner rather than later the mystery part will show and we'll finally get the top working again. And hopefully the battery doesn't die this time.
"The FR-S has to go to the track, so you can't take it on your trip. The only car available is the SLS."
So read the e-mail, and I can't exactly say it's the most crushing news I've ever received. True, I did declare that the SLS wasn't the ideal road trip car for me, and my journey to San Francisco and back within 32 hours would be a significantly longer haul than the relatively paltry hop, skip and jump down to San Diego that inspired that declaration. But hey, when would I ever again be able to take such a journey in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster? "Never" is most likely the answer, and away I went.
Originally, the plan was to take the more scenic California 101 to San Francisco, but given I needed to be at AT&T Park for a 7:15 p.m. first pitch between the Giants and Blue Jays, it seemed prudent to take I-5 for most of the journey and then cut across CA 152 to the 101 briefly and then I-280 into town.
To alleviate the cramped cabin that grew tiresome on my previous journey, I pulled out the driver floor mat to give myself a precious centimeter or two of extra legroom. More importantly, lighter traffic made it possible to use cruise control for much of the entire trip, allowing me to stretch out. Spacious the SLS shall never be, but it didn't feel like the V8-powered coffin I feared.
Once settled, I found it wasn't as loud as I remembered and quickly grew to appreciate the SLS's family genes. The same excellent controls you find in other Benzes are also there in the SLS. No sea of incomprehensible Porsche buttons, no aftermarket parts bin Aston Martin nonsense, no borrowed-from-Bentley Volkswagen touchscreen. If it wasn't for the constant stares, warbling exhaust and Batmobile view out, you're basically in any other Mercedes. Maybe some would think that makes it less special, but I say it makes it actually usable.
The decision to take the shorter route proved to be a wise one, as it deposited me quite perfectly at around 5:30 p.m. on my friend's quintessentially San Francisco street. Providing wonderful views of the Transamerica building in one direction and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in another, it's also hilariously steep. This presented a challenge when parking the low-slung and long-nosed SLS in my friend's garage.
As the photo above shows, adding to the degree of difficulty was a garage entrance that did not line up with the narrow driveway ramp and a rather perplexingly placed fire hydrant. A mail truck parked on the left made the scenario almost laughable, but with a spotter, a bit of care and only a smidgen of truly unavoidable nose scraping, the SLS was tucked safely away for the evening while we walked to the palace that is AT&T Park to watch my Blue Jays once again lose.
I stopped there the next morning to take a photo and was once again back on the road. In total, I would only be in San Francisco an hour longer than I was in the SLS. And even then, I was sleeping for much of the stay.
This time, I kept going on the 101 after I-280, enjoying both highways' scenic beauty and sweeping curves. The drive between Paso Robles and Santa Barbara is truly one of my favorites, and with the SLS's abundant power, it made it so much easier to make my way around left lane hogs doing their damndest to ruin my carefree drive. Just plant my foot, relish the bwaaaaaaaa! bellowing forth from the exhaust and suddenly I'm going 90. That purple PT Cruiser and its flock of tailgating sheep I was once a member of are now in my rearview mirror and cruise is once again set at speed limit +9. Power really is an absolute necessity on a road trip.
It was less so during my final 45 minutes stuck in abysmal West Los Angeles traffic, which proved to be the downside of taking the 101. As I eventually pulled into my own, far more accessible garage, I was frankly rather happy to be out of the car. Part of that is driving for 15 out of 32 hours, and part is indeed being folded into a space not large enough for me. Now, would I have been more comfortable in the Lexus GS, Mazda CX-5, or heck, even the Scion FR-S and its greater legroom? Oh yes, without question. But there's no way in hell I would remember that trip so vividly.
The Mercedes SLS made the drive as much of the event as the baseball game. It certainly turned out better.
Rise and shine, neighbors. It's 5:15 a.m. and I'm headed to work.
Sorry, but I can't crank this 6.2-liter V8 over any quieter. That throttle blip is built into the starting sequence.
What's that you say?
No, it just says 6.3 on the fender. The actual displacement is 6,208 cubic centimeters.
I know, right? It's not even close.
The Karma is on its way out, while the Model S is the favored new kid on the block (at least in Southern California), but why?
During my recent journey to San Francisco and back in the SLS, I rediscovered Mercedes' excellent cruise control. There's no on/off switch, so just up or down to set, forward for cancel, pull to resume, down to slow and up to go faster. There are also detents you can push through in both vertical directions that increase or decrease speed by 5-mph increments. That in particular is excellent.
The system also does a great job slowing you down and keeping you at the desired speed, which is especially helpful on down grades. While other cars zoom forward into the radar traps of awaiting highway patrolmen, the SLS hangs safely back with the speedometer needle glued in place. After all, when you're driving a bright red $200,000-plus supercar Mercedes, who are the cops more likely to pull over?
Now, many owners do not like the cruise stalk's location up at 10 o'clock, as it drops the turn signal down to 8 o'clock. This opinion was apparently prevalent enough that recently introduced Benzes have actually adopted a more conventional set up. I really don't mind it as it was. Yes, my pinky does get a work out with the lower turn signal, but it does make regularly operating the cruise control stalk much easier. The relocated one is harder to reach and see in its new position halfway between 7 and 8.
Our long-term 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is equipped with Keyless Go. What this means is that there's no need to remove the key from your pocket in order to start the engine.
However, this car does not have keyless entry. So you end up needing to fish the key out of your pocket/handbag/backpack/shoe to unlock the door anyway. (No, that little black Chiclet on the door handle pictured above does not lock or unlock the door. In fact, it appears to do nothing at all.)
Note to automakers: keyless ignition without keyless entry is pointless.
Also, this thing costs a quarter-million bucks and doesn't have keyless entry? Say what?
As Jason Kavanagh noted last week, our long-term 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster has Keyless Go, but it's missing keyless entry. I'll take it a step further and say that I think it's missing two other features on the keys.
Specifically, Remote Start and a remote convertible top. The only thing that would make the brutal, snarling V8 startup better than it already is, would be the ability to hear it on approach. The added utility of allowing the interior to cool down without you sweating on the expensive leather seats is practical, too. Putting the top down remotely would be purely for showing off, but that's already half the reason you get this car anyways.
If I can spend $600 on an alarm system that integrates remote start on my 18-year-old Acura (the other key in this photo), Mercedes can surely include it on its flagship roadster.
The Month of May saw another 1,912 tacked on to our long-term Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster. The beast spent quite a bit of time at the dealer waiting for a repair to its top (again). Were it not for Riswick's trip to San Francisco, we would've only logged 1,200 miles or so. James also eked-out an impressive 415.9 miles on a single tank on that trip.
The SLS has not been a big hit with editors with kids and adult-ish responsibilities. Its two-seat cabin and small trunk are the culprits, no doubt. It might also be a little too brash for some, as well. Still, it's incredibly cool to have something like the SLS AMG at our disposal.
Worst Fill MPG: 7.3
Best Fill MPG: 24.7
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.7
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): 16 mpg
Best Range: 415.9
Current Odometer: 26,659
I've lucked into our long-term 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster several times over the last month, when every other car in our fleet had been signed out. I imagine the other editors passed on driving the two-seater because they needed "more practical" options.
Perhaps the SLS is up for grabs because it's hard to park, or because entry and exit from the seats aren't the most graceful activities. Maybe it's because most of them have families to ferry around or teak lumber to bring home, while I'm sans kids and without any cool construction projects. For me, our 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is extremely sensible.
The SLS has just as many seats as my personal car, and its way more comfortable. Not to mention, the seats on the Merc are far more adjustable. Here, I turn on the passenger side seat heater without a passenger.
And it kept my Portuguese Sausage Royale warm all the way to work on a 30-minute commute.
Here, we can see it matches my red and black luggage. Fashionable and sensible!
Our former long-term Audi A8 had some cool pop-up tweeters in the dash, courtesy of Bang and Olufsen. Our Mercedes SLS AMG has similar tweeters, but they're not supposed to pop up. One did, anyway.
I got in the car and my eye was immediately drawn to the misaligned speaker panel where it meets the dash. In a car where almost everything is built to exacting standards, even the smallest flaw sticks out.
Once I got home, I gently pushed the speaker back down. The mounting pins/clips didn't feel very substantial, which might account for it coming loose in the first place. It didn't snap into place, it just sort of slipped in with a rubbery squish. I wouldn't be too surprised if it happens again.
The final piece to fix the convertible top on our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster has arrived. Some damage was done to the headliner when the convertible top failed a few weeks ago. We dropped the car off bright and early one morning at W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz in Santa Monica for the necessary repairs. This was after a few weeks of driving around with the top up.
It'll be exciting to open it up on warm summer days and hear the exhaust burble on deceleration again.
The last full moon was a supermoon. This meant the moon was at its fullest point in the monthly cycle and about an hour later it was at perigee (its closest point to Earth for that month). According to the interwebs, this is pretty rare so I went out searching in our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.
I drove around for two hours and finally the Supermoon emerged from behind the clouds. It lit up the empty rooftop and the SLS long enough for me to snap a few shots and appreciate the engineering required to make such a comfortable, drivable road car capable of going 200 mph. I imagine similar levels of intellect were required to track the moon as it came within 221,823 miles of Earth.
In high school, I watched a video in Driver Ed class that I'm sure most of you have seen. All the clothes were at least 15 years out of date and I mostly remember making fun of bad acting with my classmates. This weekend while driving our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, I remembered a very specific scene from the video.
A ball bounces out into the street, and naturally, a child runs after it without looking. They were probably trying to teach us a lesson that involved staying alert and obeying speed limits in neighborhoods. Apparently, it worked.
I was cruising at about 33 mph in a business zone with a posted speed limit of 35 mph and a basketball bounced out in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes, screeched to a halt, hitting the ball with the nose of the SLS, sending it a few yards down the road. The frightened child chasing after the ball looked up from his pursuit when he heard the screeching tires.
After the initial shock wore off, I moved forward, rolled down the window, and asked the 6-or-7-year-old where his parents were.
"Inside," he responded shyly. I decided to keep my instructions to the pre-youth 'PG' Rated.
"Hey buddy, go ask one of them to watch you while you're playing outside, OK? And look both ways before you cross the street," I said.
I drove off slowly, confident that this would be a very different story without the optional $12,500 AMG Carbon Ceramic Braking system. Worth every penny.
Finally. The Roadster portion of our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS is again fully operational. It was a long process, totaling 20 days. Take the jump for details.
Here is how things broke down. The first time our top failed, it was at the W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz dealership for 7 days. Most moving parts, including the soft top cables and pulleys, were replaced.
A few weeks later the top broke a second time. The dealer informed us that it needed to replace the same parts again. This time the car sat 10 more days under the dealer roof. It wasn't until I called that our advisor informed me he was waiting on "one more back-ordered part. It will be available in 3 weeks," he added. Forget that. We picked it up and heeded his advice to avoid lowering the top until this last piece was installed.
Three weeks later our advisor called. The part was in. We dropped the car off and waited another 3 days for the extended repair to (finally?) be completed.
The top has been down ever since and we aren't looking back. If we don't see the dealership again before this loan ends it will be a good thing.
Total Cost: None
Total Days Out of Service: 20
During a recent slog through L.A.'s awesome traffic in our Mercedes SLS AMG, my iPod kept cutting in and out. Yes, yes, I should've been listening to the pop-burble-popopop of the naturally aspirated V8, but, as we've discussed, I want music AND engine noise.
At first I figured I'd simply plugged it in wrong. I was, after all, using a 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter so that my iPhone 5 would actually play in this thing. Sure enough, when I opened the glove box I saw that the cable wasn't fully connected. I tried shoving but that was no use.
Some close internal inspection showed that the silly Mercedes plug has some bent connections that are preventing it from mounting correctly. Further proof that these silly, manufacturer-specific docking cables are stupid and that USB inputs are the way to go.
After more than 27,000 miles of driving, the black finish on two of the SLS's wheels is beginning to peel. The wheels on the driver side are perfect, but the two on the passenger side are looking worn.
Curb rash surely started this process, but the deterioration of the black finish is accelerating. Now that it has vacated the entire edge of the rims, it has begun to flake away from the spokes. The situation has gotten bad enough that we're investigating a fix.
A few nights ago I took our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG out for a drive. I didn't have to go anywhere necessarily. My thinking was pretty much this: The SLS isn't going to be in our long-term fleet forever, and how many more times in my life will I get to drive an SLS? Never, maybe. So off I went.
The drive was eventful, though not for reasons that I would have anticipated.
This particular night in Los Angeles was cloudy, and actually a bit of rain was coming down occasionally. I was driving along Sunset Boulevard then Pacific Coast Highway, two crowded roads that can still be fun. I suppose I'm a seasoned enough driver to know that drizzle and high horsepower just don't mix.
Apparently, an Audi S8 driver wasn't as seasoned.
At one point I was actually stuck in a rather long queue due to construction. A bunch of other cars and I were all lined up to access the 10 freeway. I finally made it to the front and was about to start accelerating, which is when the S8 burbled past me on the right. It was dark, and the S8 was black, but it seemed like a first-generation car with, at the minimum, an aftermarket exhaust. He got about three car lengths ahead of me, flashed his hazards a couple times, and gunned it. Would you care to guess what happened next?
Yep, a Russian car-cam moment.
Despite having all-wheel-drive traction, the S8 driver lost control. He fishtailed to the right, at which point I think he either counter-steered or backed off the gas. But either way, the S8 then got hopelessly out of control, fishtailed even harder the other way to the left…and sideswiped straight into a cement construction barrier on the right side of the road. The S8 then bounced from this barrier to the other side of the road, which was also lined with construction barriers. He pinballed off from the left side, went across the road again, and finally smacked up on the right side where I thought he might even flip.
Fortunately, he didn't. Nor did he hit any other cars.
I was already firmly on the SLS's brakes at that point. I pulled over to make sure the driver was all right. By the time I did that, he was already out of his car yelling expletives, seemingly fine other than being supremely pissed that he just stupidly bashed up his S8.
I guess the whole "With great power comes great responsibility" quote comes into play. But it does truly speak to treating high-horsepower cars with respect. With modern stability control and such, most drivers are protected from their own stupidity. But turn it off and, well, this is what happens.
Even in Los Angeles, our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is the odd man out. When we park it in grocery store parking lots, shoulder to shoulder with gray SUVs and mass-produced four-door sedans, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Earlier this month, however, I took it to a small local car show where it fit right in. Click through to see photos from the show.
This engine bay is filthy. Our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster gets hand-washed weekly and yet this affront to purists everywhere has apparently gone unnoticed. I recently had a friend and fellow auto-journalist ask to see the engine bay and, to my dismay, it was covered in a thick layer of dust and shame. This earth-moving 6.2-liter V8 deserves better.
So, I took out the detailing-duffel-bag and went to work. Equipped with a bottle of degreaser, water, quick-detailer and some microfiber towels, I soon brought the engine bay back to respectability.
Excellent. As my great-grandmother used to say, "What good is a 563-horsepower naturally aspirated V8 if you can't show it off?" Well, maybe that's not exactly how she said it.
When I pulled into the service area of W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz my hair was on fire. Thirty minutes earlier the SLS's top had broken for the third time and I was over it.
With steam pouring from my ears I cycled the top for the first dealer employee that appeared. Between the look on my face and the busted piece of trim slapping against the red quarter panel, he quickly assessed the situation and ran off to get someone with some power. He returned with Babs Hamilton.
Babs is a service adviser and one of my new favorite people. I was clearly frustrated, but Babs calmly listened to my rant about this being the third time and how I was not leaving the car and how hard can it be to make a convertible top that works and this being the third time and Jeter is still on the DL and...
And when I was done she said, "Let me get someone to have a look at it. Maybe it's an easy fix."
She returned with a tech. The problem was obvious. A small piece of trim that fills a gap alongside the folded top was hung up. Jammed. The piece is purely aesthetic and essentially unnecessary. In fact, I realized I would never miss it.
So I said, "Can you just remove the broken piece? Without it everything will function perfectly."
"I'll try," he said. "Might take some time."
Then Babs chimed back in, "How about a cup of coffee?" I handed over the key to the SLS and was escorted over to a finely appointed lounge, where I feared I would be spending the rest of the day.
I poured myself some java, reached for the packet of Splenda and looked up when I heard my name. Babs was back.
"Scott, you're all set."
"All set?" I said. "He fixed it? That quickly?" Only a few minutes had passed.
"Yup, you're good to go." Babs returned my key, walked me to my car, which was now missing that small meaningless piece of trim, and sent me on my way. Top down. Big smile on my face.
And that, my friends, is customer service.
Even without any official road trips, our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster went nearly 1,700 miles in the month of July. Apparently, we really enjoy driving the SLS. It has used approximately 150 gallons of 91-octane fuel over the last 30 days and we hit an mpg milestone. Can you guess what kind of milestone it was?
The SLS AMG clocked its worst mpg on record this month, averaging 7.3 mpg for one tank of fuel. This milestone, compared to the milestone our Benz achieved in June when we recorded our best fuel economy yet (24.7 mpg) shows the wide range of real-world fuel economy you can expect based on your driving habits.
However, even with our heavy feet, we're still within 1 mpg of the EPA's 16 mpg combined estimate over the life of the car.
Worst Fill MPG: 7.3 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 24.7 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.9 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 16 Combined (14 City / 20 Highway)
Best Range: 415.9 miles
Current Odometer: 28,350 miles
When you pay $240,000 for a supercar, it's reasonable to expect that it be pretty much free of fault. I do anyway, on the occasions when I spend $240,000 on a supercar. But the 2012 Mercedes SLS has some flaws, our well-documented fabric-top troubles among them. Then there are these lumbar/bolster controls, placed unhelpfully right next to and under the knee.
Normally this isn't a huge deal. Your driving position sort of adapts and that little module mostly stays out of the way. Until it doesn't. When I got in the SLS the other night, top closed, I twisted around, braced my right hand on the passenger seat and backed out of the parking spot.
Immediately I got a fistful of lumbar. While turning my torso to look behind, I'd pushed up off my right heel to get a better look out the back and pushed my calf into the adjustment button. Somehow I managed to avoid doing that in previous drives with the SLS. I think I was being extra cautious backing out the SLS, as it was parked next to one of those concrete ninja pillars in our garage.
Dumb placement of seat adjusters, though. Between these and the ragtop issues, should be a $225,000 supercar.
This is, admittedly, folly. First, had I known the box would be that big, I'd have at least chosen the Dart. But the box arrived after I'd signed out the SLS for the evening and even then I thought, "should be OK."
It was, but just. That 18x16x14 box did just slot into the passenger space, seat fully extended. What's in the box? Glad you asked. Inside is a laundry sack worth of packing peanuts protecting two JBL monitor speakers in individual boxes.
All credit to B&H Photo Audio Video in New York City for pro packing. But really, had I just opened the box here at the office and left it, those two JBLs could have inconspicuously ridden shotgun or even in the trunk. Not sure why it didn't cross my mind. I don't think I expected THAT volume of packing peanuts.
But it wouldn't have made for a very good photo, and anyway it made right-hand lane changes a little more exciting that evening.
Seems like the 2012 Mercedes Benz SLS has taken the "long hood, short deck" school of design to the extreme. That proud hood takes up half the length of the car and it certainly looks really cool, but it makes pulling into tight parking spots tricky. Thankfully the SLS comes with front (and rear) parking sensors to ease the task. Besides, I'll usually back into a spot if possible as it makes leaving much easier. The long hood has a purpose, as it allows the big engine to be set far enough back in the chassis to avoid having a nose-heavy weight distribution. At 47% front and 53% rear, there's even a little rearward bias, part of the reason the SLS turns into corners so eagerly.
But dang, this thing is wide too. I took it on one of my fave canyon roads where the SLS's sharp steering and buttoned down composure were plainly evident and enjoyable. But it felt like it was taking up the whole lane from the yellow line to the shoulder. Narrow two-laners are not this car's preferred playground. At 76.3 inches, the SLS is nearly four inches wider than a C6 Corvette, a sports car considered rather "hippy" by most enthusiasts. Heck, the SLS is even three inches wider than a Cadillac XTS.
Away from the tighter stuff best left to Loti and Miatas and cruising through more sweeping turns on the way towards PCH, the SLS was more in its element. Still, stepping into that monster V8 whenever the road straightened out never got old.
It has been a while since I've driven our long-term 2012 Mercedes SLS convertible. I'd forgotten how much attention this car draws from passersby. People on the street stop you to ask if they can take pictures, saying things like, "I've never seen this Mercedes in person before."
As long as I'm not in a hurry I never mind chatting up car people and letting them take pictures.
My neighbor across the street is a huge Porsche fan and owns a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. He thought it would be fun to photograph the cars side by side.
He was amazed at how large the SLS's brakes are, even compared to those on this Porsche, which are not small. Then we went for a ride.
Two great cars on a summer's day.
There are a lot of reasons I love L.A. This is one. On just some idle Monday on my way home in our 2012 Mercedes SLS, I happened upon this fine example. A Lamborghini Countach 5000 S.
Truth be told, I was never much of a Lamborghini fanatic growing up. My mid-1980s dream cars were a Porsche 959, Ferrari Testarossa and even a classic 427 Cobra. I was more interested in the entry-level Jalpa over a Countach. But seeing this black wedge cruising east on the 10 Freeway was pretty special.
But let's look at what we thought a supercar was back then.
The Countach 5000S had a 4.75-liter V12 that made 375 horsepower. To put that into perspective, today's 5.0 Mustang makes 420 hp. The SLS AMG I was in churns out 563 hp. Yes, we have come a long way, indeed.
But is it just numbers that make a supercar? Of course not. A supercar has to look the part, and this Lambo most certainly dressed for the occasion. The SLS styling, to me, always looked like it was balanced between regular and supercars. Sure, it's got a ridiculously long hood for the proportions of the car, but it doesn't look as bonkers as supercars should. A gullwing coupe certainly has more presence with the doors up, but even then, it's not all that super.
Nowadays, we've got the Ferrari La Ferrari, McLaren P1 and Lamborghini Aventador. Now those are supercars.
What say you? Does the SLS AMG qualify as a super car?
Driving into the California sunset in our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster is evocative, awe-inspiring, marvelous and to date one of the high points of my driving life. It is also really tough on my eyes. From the driver seat, the tiny sun visor in the SLS ends a few inches short of where it could be really useful.
As you can see in the photo, there's a wide gap between the A-pillar and the sun visor. Extending the visor by an inch or two would make it legitimately functional when driving into the sun.
Fortunately, the Benz's A-pillar is massive, so leaning to the left or right quickly puts the sun out of my direct line of sight. However, if I drive the SLS around sunset again, I'll be bringing my darkest sunglasses.
If you've been waiting for the electric Mercedes SLS AMG to come to the U.S. simply so you can single-digit salute your attorney neighbor and his Tesla, well, the good news is that the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive debuts in the States next year.
That's about the only Benz EV you'll see here for awhile, as M-B has no plans to offer the SLS AMG Electric Drive here. The $550,000 price could have something to do with it. That mass of Benjamins buys a lot of Ferrari, Lamborghini or middle-class housing in the U.S., so Mercedes probably thinks it a bit of a lost cause.
So we content ourselves with daydreams.
To announce its launch, Mercedes dragged the SLS AMG Electric Drive around the Nurburgring north loop in 7:56 minutes, on par with the Corvette Z06 and 911 Turbo. Electric motors at each wheel deliver full-time all-wheel drive and, supplied by a 60 kWh battery pack, generate 751 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque, the latter found in equal measure in the twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 found in the SL65 AMG.
Does independent drive at each wheel dial back some of the death-twitch inherent in the rear-drive V8? We may not know that for awhile. So let your attorney neighbor prattle about his Tesla's superb crash test performance. Dopes like him will never need to worry about a small error on a thin margin, and the choice of going out in a hairy ball of fire or an equally hairy shower of arcs and sparks.
We've now driven our beloved Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster about 15,000 miles since December and a small problem has come up. Its driver seat has become a bit loose in its mounts. It isn't a big deal, but you can feel it when you're driving the car.
Accelerate and the seat rocks back. Brake and it rocks forward. Not much, the play is maybe a quarter of an inch or less, but it's certainly something we'll have addressed when we take the Benz in for its 30,000-mile scheduled maintenance.
I pulled into the gas station just west of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to top off our long-term Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster. I had just driven the supercar north several hundred miles from Los Angeles for the famed Monterey Car Weekend and I had stretched its gas tank as far as it would go.
And that's when the Tucker pulled in. Yes a Tucker. One of just 51 produced in 1948 by Preston Tucker before his revolutionary car company was unplugged. Tuckers are never really seen in public. Most live in very private collections or museums. Want one? Bring seven figures. And here's one at the gas pumps.
Welcome to Monterey.
But here's the best part. The guy climbs from his million dollar classic and beelines for our Benz. "Nice car," he says.
"Thanks," I say a bit stunned. "Yours is better."
He laughs. "How is that thing every day?" he asks. "Can you drive it every day?"
"You can," I tell him. "Been driving it every day since December. No complaints. Even drove it to South Dakota and back in February."
"Really," he says. "Long trips aren't a problem? It's comfortable?"
"It's great," I tell him. "In fact I just drove it up from L.A. No issue. I feel great."
I make a feeble attempt to turn the conversation to his ride. But he still wants to talk about the Mercedes.
"I've been thinking about getting one," he says. "What do you think?"
For the next 20 minutes we talked about every aspect of the SLS, from its in-cabin electronics to its trunk space and its awesome engine sounds, and, of course, my endless enthusiasm for the two-seater. It was only after he pulled away that I realized I didn't get a picture of his car.
I have little doubt my new found friend will own an SLS soon, however, my owning a Tucker remains doubtful.
We accumulated over 1,800 miles on our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS in August and broke through the 30,000-mile barrier. The bulk of the mileage was split between a drive to Monterey and a supporting role in a C7 Corvette comparison test. Take a look at its fuel economy vitals below.
Worst Fill MPG: 7.3 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 24.7 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.4 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 16 combined (14 city / 20 highway)
Best Range: 415.9 miles
Current Odometer: 30,159 miles
The last time I took our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG to a car show, it was one of the most expensive cars there. This last weekend I took it to a local show in the San Fernando Valley called Supercar Sunday and things were a little different.
Our SLS AMG Roadster was parked amongst suped-up muscle cars, rare classics and rat-rods with beat-up grills that only a mother could love. It also shared a parking lot with the world's fastest production car.
If you're interested in seeing all the photos from the show, you can check out the full album here. Otherwise, here are some highlights.
A replacement for the Gallardo is overdue, but I still love this design.
The 911 Carrera S is extremely common in Southern California.
Several Shelby Cobra replicas showed up. For me, this is one of the best looking shapes ever to hit motorsports.
With 54 inches of rear tire tread, this wide-body Corvette has you covered in the traction department.
Rust. Ain't nothing wrong with that.
Car show color coding not required.
And with a customary crowd gathering around it, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
Somehow, this feels much more like home for the SLS.
The Edmunds.com staff loves driving the long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, so much so that it just crossed the 30,000-mile mark. It came to us with over 14K miles on the clock less than nine months ago, and I imagine most SLS owners don't hit this kind of mileage in their first year of ownership. Over the last 10,000 miles the car has seen quite a few service visits, mostly related to its problematic convertible top, but for a few minor issues as well.
On a trip to Mount Rushmore a rock struck the windshield on the SLS, and we opted for quick repair rather than a replacement. The tires are wearing down (as we would expect) but we haven't replaced them just yet.
The biggest problem, of course, has certainly been the convertible top. It has broken three separate times, and by Mike Schmidt's count, that has put it out of service for twenty days. When we've had the convertible in the office, though, it seldom sits for long periods of time. I'll miss the SLS dearly when it's gone.
While hand-washing our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS I found this defect. Take the jump to see what I'm talking about.
My trusted helper and I dried off the whole car before I popped the trunk to get back there. That's when water stored along the trunk lip dripped down onto the clean quarter-panel. Isn't that horrible?
If this were my personal car, this would just get added to the list of SLS idiosyncrasies. You know, the kind of quirks that fellow SLS owners joke about when they're standing around, talking SLS. They'd say, "No, you didn't." And I'd say, "Yes, I did." We would hold our bellies laughing. Then we would be reminded that we own quarter-million dollar supercars and wash them ourselves. And then, we would laugh some more.
What We Got
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS was offered in two variations: the gullwing SLS AMG Coupe and the convertible SLS AMG Roadster.
Both SLS models were powered by the same dry-sump, naturally aspirated 6.2-liter engine. This drool-inducing V8 generated 563 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission transferred all that power to the rear wheels via an AMG limited-slip differential. Oh, and inside the cabin was a Bang & Olufsen stereo, COMAND media interface and the usual fare of Mercedes-Benz refinement.
So which one did we get? That decision was made by Mercedes-Benz as it was offering up the loan. In the end, we were tossed the key to an SLS AMG Roadster with one stipulation. We had to return it in eight months. We agreed, and from then on we had ourselves a $242,675 supercar for a daily driver.
"People hate you when you drive a Ferrari. There's something about the car that causes them to look at you with only the bitter bile of resentment. It isn't that you have the car. They aren't jealous of the machine. It's you, or more specifically, what the machine says about you, that they are reacting to.... The Mercedes SLS Roadster is different, however. Although it costs nearly as much as a 458 Italia or a Gallardo, when you drive the SLS people don't hate you; they like you. In fact, they find the Benz very approachable. They walk over and talk to you about it. They give you the thumbs-up from their trucks and Camrys. When you catch them checking it out they give you a smile as opposed to a sneer.... I think this is a huge selling point for the Mercedes. Who likes to be hated?" — Scott Oldham
"There is no better normally aspirated V8 in production today than the 6.2-liter M159 V8 in our long-term Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. Forget the LS7. Never mind the Coyote. Disregard the BMW S65. Even if they could match the sheer might of this engine, which they can't, none of them come even close to the depleted-uranium-warhead-in-an-Alcantara-gauntlet-ness of the M159. It is in a class of one.... AMG knows its way around an engine, but its earlier work was essentially hot-rodding. It's not quite the same as designing from scratch.... In any case, the M159 makes piloting the SLS a freakin' blast and, frankly, has much to do with making the car special to drive. There's so much torque on tap, and the soundtrack is just intoxicating. I've said it before, I'll say it again: With this engine, the Germans have out-America'd America." — Jason Kavanagh
"First of all, don't attempt any ESC-off limit-handling until its tires are up to temperature. It's a spooky and squirrelly car to begin with and even more so with cold, hard tires. On-throttle or off-throttle, it will spit you off the road quicker than you can say 'damnit.' That said, steering response is very good up to a limit, when mild understeer creeps in. Breathing the throttle would seem like a good idea, yet too much and lurid oversteer is the result. Also, this is a wide car requiring what feels like exaggerated, unnecessarily wide transitions.... Steering is exceptionally informative, with both texture and weight fluctuations transmitted through the steering wheel. This is a wonderful, even glorious, 8-9/10ths car that turns evil at 10/10ths." — Chris Walton
"'That's not a good car for around here,' said the clerk at Casey's Corner Store in Bozeman, Montana. She was straining to see over the heavy snow accumulating on the mini mart's window to look at our red Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, which was parked near the Exxon pumps. 'Here we practically all drive Subarus.' With that she gestured with her left thumb across the station parking lot covered with fresh white powder. 'That's my Forester over there. Your car's beautiful, but you guys are nuts." — John Pearley Huffman
"Most of the time I drive our SLS roadster with the top down and stereo off. Really, the best music from this beast comes from under the hood and out the tailpipes. Every now and then, though, I do listen to the $6,400 Bang & Olufsen audio system. For that price, I expect the audio to sound like the London Philharmonic is somehow assembled inside the cabin. It doesn't. But that's not the fault of the system. No, it's more the amount of noise coming from the engine and exhaust, and maybe the lack of sound insulation you'd get with a coupe.... If you're parked with the engine off and the top up, the 11 speakers deliver amazing sound. The quality is crystal clear throughout the range and there's plenty of powerful bass to get your gut thumping. Despite the tight confines, the staging manages to feel as if the sound is emanating just a few inches in front of your face.... All things considered, the Bang & Olufsen system sounds amazing, but that quality is simply wasted in a car like this... unless you just leave it parked. And that'd be criminal in my book." — Mark Takahashi
"During a recent slog through L.A.'s awesome traffic in our Mercedes SLS AMG, my iPod kept cutting in and out. Yes, yes, I should've been listening to the pop-burble-popopop of the naturally aspirated V8, but, as we've discussed, I want music AND engine noise. At first I figured I'd simply plugged it in wrong. I was, after all, using a 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter so that my iPhone 5 would actually play in this thing. Sure enough, when I opened the glovebox I saw that the cable wasn't fully connected. I tried shoving but that was no use. Some close internal inspection showed that the silly Mercedes plug has some bent connections that are preventing it from mounting correctly. This is further proof that these manufacturer-specific docking cables are stupid and USB inputs are the way to go." — Mike Magrath
"At first I thought the driver seat in our SLS was pretty decent. It has good adjustable side bolstering, heat, nice leather. After a half hour, I needed out. It's the lower back support. Rather, the lack of lower back support. The problem seems to be related to the inflatable lumbar. Not only is the lumbar balloon in the middle of your back when inflated (the sitting-in-a-pregnant-lady's-lap sensation) when it needs to be much lower, it provides no discernible support when deflated, instead turning into flaccid mush." — Jason Kavanagh
"Whether it's people seeing it drive by on the street, or passengers who bug us for a ride, the SLS is everything a supercar is supposed to be. That, of course, includes its mileage figures, which are predictably poor. This is a big car, but it's not that big. We've had Suburbans that turned in better than 13.4 miles per gallon. It's still early, though, so as the miles pile up the SLS may bump its overall average up considerably. Not that it matters." — Ed Hellwig
"Judging from the exorbitant price of our long-term SLS AMG roadster and its likely demographic, I was pretty confident that my golf bag would fit. Sure enough, it did, but just barely. Granted, I don't have a sensibly sized bag for walking a course. No, that's what golf carts are for. I have a fairly large one that is one step below a tour bag.... It took some wrestling to get the 3-wood into a little nook in the trunk. I'm confident a driver would fit, too, but I try to avoid those clubs because they're evil. Pure evil, I say. There was also just enough room for my golf shoe bag." — Mark Takahashi
"While out on the town with my girlfriend, she said that even without a steering wheel in front of her, SLS entry and egress is no picnic. This is especially true if you're wearing heels and a dress. Since I don't wear heels or dresses (well, anymore), I'll let her explain.
'There is not an easy way to get in and out of this car, gracefully. I believe that I have narrowed the problem down to the height of the sill being even with the seat. The main problem is that the seat cushion bolsters are higher than the sill and the bucket of the seat. It is easier to exit the car if there is a curb to exit onto. When climbing into the car, wearing heels, it is important to remember to lift your feet very high, think knees to forehead, in order to give the heels clearance over the sill as not to scratch it.... Best advice? Wear flats and pants. There is nothing easy to climbing in or out of this car.' Given this complaint, neither of us considers this a deal breaker, because the car is so freaking awesome. Seriously, the SLS AMG is bonkers." — Mark Takahashi
Maintenance & Repairs
The only routine service interval during our test of the SLS came at 20,000 miles. It included an oil and filter change, brake fluid flush and cabin air filter replacement. The bill was an attention-grabbing $688.
Our biggest problem with the SLS Roadster was the repeated failure of its convertible top. Sure it was under warranty, but it broke three separate times and spent 20 days parked awaiting parts. Small fixes, like a windshield repair and tire swaps were our only out-of-pocket expenses beyond the routine.
There were no recalls or TSBs during our test.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
We averaged just over 14 mpg after 15,000 miles of mixed driving. Our best single tank garnered 24 mpg and covered 415 miles. Not only was the SLS easy to drive around town but its range made road trips far less stressful.
Resale and Depreciation:
Mercedes-Benz loaned us an SLS Roadster with an MSRP of $242,675. When the car arrived it already had 14,000 miles behind it. We added more than 15,000. With a total of 30,159 miles on the odometer, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued our SLS at $162,596 based on a private-party sale. This marked 33 percent depreciation from its original MSRP.
Pros: The 563-horsepower engine is spectacular, one of the best naturally aspirated V8s ever, the transmission has no trouble keeping up with the engine, more braking power than you'll ever need, plenty of room for taller drivers, enough cargo space for a golf bag, adequate range for road trips.
Cons: Suspension requires an experienced hand at the wheel to get the most out of it, seat support isn't ideal, SUV-like mileage, convertible top doesn't always want to open and close without incident, difficult to get out of gracefully.
Bottom Line: Despite its supercar price, the Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster is not a temperamental trailer queen. This is a car that can be driven and enjoyed on a daily basis as long as you're OK with less-than-graceful exits from its low-slung cabin.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$688.29 (over 8 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||$370.34|
|Warranty Repairs:||Replace converitble top components, twice|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||1 with dead battery|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||2 to repair convertible top|
|Days Out of Service:||20 waiting for convertible top parts|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||1|
|Best Fuel Economy:||24.7 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||7.3 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||14.4 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$162,596 (private-party sale)|
|Depreciation:||$80,079 (33% of original MSRP)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||30,159 miles|
Go here for a gallery of SLS road trip images.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.