2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (1)
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  • Long-Term

Read the introduction of our long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.

See all of the long-term updates of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.

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.

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster

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.

Our Impressions

  • "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

  • 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster

  • "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

  • 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster

  • "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

Regular Maintenance:
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.

Service Campaigns:
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.

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster

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.

Summing Up

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
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
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.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests