SALT LAKE CITY — Some automotive designs are timeless.
The Jaguar XKE roadsters of the late 1960s came to define the long, low and wide stance of a sports car. Many have followed suit, and Mercedes may have perfected the design with the SLS AMG coupe and roadster in 2010.
The coupe is known for its gull-wing doors and was the first Mercedes model entirely designed and built by its performance arm, AMG.
In roadster form, the car is no less beautiful. Though it lacks the signature doors, the roadster benefits from its menacing stance with the top down.
For Salt Lake Specialized Sales and Leasing owner Abdul Kisana, the 2012 Mercedes SLS AMG offers a combination that is tough to beat.
“This car is one of the most beautiful designs ever, combined with power and luxury. What better time of year to drive it?" Kisana asked.
The Mercedes combines supercar performance with a refined and luxurious interior.
The two-tone black and red leather and Alcantara reproduction suede is comfortable, sporty and simply beautiful, especially when combined with carbon fiber trim and Mercedes' signature round air vents. It goes without saying the exterior is gorgeous, including the front fender, chrome-trimmed air vents with the “6.2” engine emblems.
The 563 horsepower, naturally-aspirated V8 provides smooth and powerful acceleration with the seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. The paddle shifters provide instantaneous shifts and even smoother power delivery in manual mode.
The exhaust note is heavenly, loud and can be heard in all its glory with the top down. The 1000-watt sound system is rendered almost useless with the top down but rounds out the interior nicely with the easy-to-use navigation and infotainment system.
The redline-to-redline sport-plus mode makes driving exhilarating and sounds as satisfying as the power and hard pull.
The cons? In a word, suspension.
The steering, braking and acceleration are excellent and inspire confidence, but the suspension is the Mercedes' Achilles heel.
It is not uncommon for supercars to be built more for the track than for city streets. This Mercedes actually handles fairly well when driven sedately on the street, though, and would be a fine daily driver.
The suspension stiffens when pushed, however, and becomes squirrelly with the slightest variations in asphalt and concrete, particularly in sport and sport-plus mode. A sharp canyon curve with a seam in the concrete can be harrowing.
Mercedes' competition, the Porsche 911 Turbo, manages to handle this well while remaining planted when the roads aren't perfect.
While fairly minor, the fabric top on a car this well-put-together simply doesn’t fit. It’s not the only sports car with the lighter and less-expensive option, but a power hard top would make the car's design and function top-notch.
Soft tops simply detract from a car that costs north of $200,000. The refined interior suffers from noise and vibration with the top up, though normal volume conversation was possible.
The SLS AMG is the modern successor, in spirit, to the Mercedes 300SL, which was built from 1954 to 1963 and again from 1989 to 1993. Those earlier models also had gull-wing doors and were the fastest production cars of their era.
The modern SLS AMG travels at a top speed of "only" 197 mph. Considering the 200 mph mark holds a special place in the supercar world, it seems odd to cap the speed at just below that sought-after mark.
I’ve long had a soft spot for cars that provide the driver a great view over the hood. Modern aerodynamics often leave a lot to be desired. The SLS AMG provides an exceptional view from the cockpit.
The long, low hood is mostly in sight all the way to the front, with sharp flares at either side over the fenders. The rear part of the hood sports massive air vents on either side with two chrome wings that rise above and match the wings on the front fender vents.
The SLS AMG Mercedes proves old-world styling combines brilliantly with modern performance, power and luxury. A fine package indeed.
Vehicle type: front engine, rear-wheel drive, two-passenger roadster
Engine: 6.2-liter DOHC 32-valve V8 with aluminum block and heads; port fuel injection
Displacement: 379 cubic inches, 6,208 cc
Power: 563 horsepower, 479 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: seven-speed dual clutch auto with manual mode and paddle shifters
Wheelbase: 105.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,850 pounds
Performance: zero-to-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, standing quarter mile 11.6 seconds
Price as tested (29,960 miles): $125,786