Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster

The 2012 SLS AMG Roadster — Sky and stars above, 563 horses below, and in front the road awaiting the driving signatures you want to etch into it.

With its long hood, rear-biased glasshouse, long wheelbase and wide track and styling celebrating the company’s legendary 300 SL coupes and convertibles, the new two-seater car from Mercedes-Benz is the excellence you’d expect from the standard bearer of luxury, class and performance.

Scheduled for a Sept. 13 premiere at the International Automobile Show in Frankfurt and to the United States market shortly after, the SLS Roadster is the second car to be developed independently by AMG, the M-B performance associate which transforms great cars into chariots. Expect an MSRP approximately $185,750 with destination, although M-B, characteristically, has not officially announced pricing; already available, the Coupe starts at $184,000.

“If the AMG SLS Coupe is the ultimate sports luxury car, the new SLS Roadster from AMG ratches that up a notch,” says Robert Moran, Mercedes-Benz spokesperson from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Montvale, NJ. “With the top down and the throttle open, its sense of speed and power are without parallel — even in this day of the super car.”

On first sight of the new supercar, the past passes by in slow motion: The wide radiator grille, the fins on the hood and on the vehicle sides, the curving body lines recall the original two-seat masterpiece, which sold from 1954 through 1963 and is today an automotive icon.

Unmistakably, though, the new SLS Roadster is a car of the moment, uniquely crafted, styled and engineered — equal to the demands of today’s ultra-discriminating buyers who demand a car that’s as beautifully agile and responsive at 180-plus as it is beautiful in the garage. Nine exterior and eight interior colors are available.

This level of performance comes from a naturally aspirated 6.3-liter V-8 front-mid engine, with dry sump lubrication, double overhead cam, four valves per cylinder and11:3:1 compression ratio — all putting down a maximum 479 pound-feet of torque.

An AMG Speedshift DCT seven-speed dual clutch transaxle transmission with a 3:67 final drive optimizes this power at all speeds up to almost 200 mph. Mercedes-Benz claims a 3.7 second 0–60 sprint and commendable 14/20 city/highway fuel mileage. The company also reports an excellent power-to-weight ratio of 6.5 pounds per horsepower for the convertible.

Individual performance comes by way of the console-mounted AMG Drive Unit with E-Select Lever, which enables you to choose the best shifting for road condition, ability and mood: “Comfort,” for getting to the every day, “Sport,” for getting on the open road, and “Sport Plus,” for getting places you aren’t allowed to go.

A sports suspension with aluminum double wishbones, coil springs front and rear, and anti-squat and anti-dive systems in the rear keeps you moving exactly as you demand. Stability control is provided by the AMG 3-Stage ESP. An option, the Adaptive AMG Sport Suspension, provides for electronically controlling the gas-filled shocks.

Track your moving experiences: The optional “AMG Performance Media” is a multimedia color-display system with telemetric real-time outputs such as engine oil, coolant and transmission fluid temperatures, torque, 0-60, quarter-mile and lap times and braking performance. For legibility, particularly during sprints or laps, the instruments simulate traditional red needles.

For three years, AMG developed the coupe and roadster together. While the coupe displays the classic gullwings of the 1950s/60s SL cars, the roadster has traditional doors. The engineers were therefore attentive to the challenges posed by the convertible — specifically, bodyshell rigidity, driving dynamics, the soft top and NVH, Noise, Vibration and Harshness.”

Because M-B planned the convertible and the hardtop together, lightweight aluminum was specified for both. The weight-optimized aluminum spaceframe comprises 26 percent of sheet aluminum, 18 percent of cast aluminum and 6 percent of steel. High-strength, heat-formed steel in the A-pillars also ensures rigidity and safety. And, because the Roadster lacks a fixed roof and the gullwings, the convertible has been fitted with reinforced side skirts with greater wall thicknesses and additional chambers.

At the same time, the engineers have kept the weight down, avoiding the traditional scenario of the overweight convertible: The Roadster bodyshell is only 536 pounds, just five pounds more than the Coupe’s, and the curb weight is 3,661 pounds — just 88 pounds heavier than the Coupe. Trunk capacity is 6.1 cubic feet top up or down — about equal to the 6.2 cubic feet for the Coupe.

Engineers have also delivered a low center of gravity at both the powertrain and axles and the bodyshell. For example, the flexural and torsional connections between the front and rear and the passenger safety cell incorporate low force paths.

In addition, the cross-member carrying the dashboard has additional supporting struts at the windshield frame and at the center tunnel, and a structure between the soft top and the tank stiffens the rear axle. Another cross-member behind the seats supports the fixed rollover protection system. The 250-watt subwoofer of the Bang&Olufsen BeoSound AMG sound system, in fact, is located in the cross-member rather than in the parcel shelf on the Coupe.

The three-layer fabric soft top with heated safety glass can be opened and closed in just 11 seconds — even if you are moving at up to 31 mph. A water pocket under the soft top catches rainwater and directs it to the underbody by way of two openings.

Stored behind the seats in a Z-formation to save space, the magnesium/steel/ aluminum structure provides a low center of gravity and has been designed for speeds up to the maximum of 197 mph.

That makes for no ragtop flapping, booming, hissing, clattering, whistling or howling, says Mercedes-Benz, which tested the mechanism for 20,000 closing cycles on a stationary rig, followed by 2,500 closing cycles while moving — in heat, cold, high humidity and desert winds on various tracks and locations worldwide including the dusty environs of Laredo, Texas. In addition, overall endurance testing for the Roadster has included 6,200 miles on both the famous Nürburgring’s North Loop and in city traffic.

Rain in the desert is often at monsoon level: The Roadster, and every M-B, must pass the 16 criteria of the “Sindelfingen rain test” at the Mercedes Technology Center (MTC) in Germany to ensure watertightness.

Stopping is by way of compound discs, front and rear, internally ventilated and perforated. Tires are 265/35 R19s in the front and the wider and higher 195/30 R20s in the rear. Steering is an agile speed-sensitive power rack and pinion.

The interior is a cockpit, refined with single or two-tone designo leather, matte-finished metal or optional carbon fiber. The dashboard is winglike, the air vents reminiscent of jet engines and the E-Select lever reiterates an aircraft’s thrust control. The leather-lined AMG performance steering wheel has a flattened bottom rim to optimize control.

Standard are heated AMG sports seats, a detachable glass windstop, COMAND with Navigation and DVD player, anti-theft alarm system with tow-away protection and interior monitoring, dual-zone automatic climate control and the KEYLESSGO starting function.

Also standard is the AIRSCARF® system, which warms head and neck areas from backrests of the AMG sports seats. You can adjust airflow for your occupants’ sizes as well as the warmth level.

“The original SL gullwing and roadster showcased the company’s forward-thinking with innovations such as direct fuel injection and a tubular space frame,” Moran says. “The 2012 AMG SLS Roadster, and the previously released Coupe, similarly point to a future of Mercedes-Benz exclusivity, performance and heritage.”

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