January 11, 2013
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.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor