First drive: Mercedes SLS Roadster

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For a supercar, being fast and grippy isn't enough, is it? A simple ability to cover the ground rapidly is no longer a USP. You can get that in a saloon. We don't hear anyone accusing four_doors like the M5 or E63 AMG of being ‘a bit slow from A to B'.

For supercars to be able to stand apart from all the hyperpowered saloons and big_money GTs, they need to add some memorable sensation to the mix. The intimate feel of the road, the holler of an engine. Or, of course, the wind over your skull.

This is why we're loving the SLS AMG Roadster. Unless you've got micro_sensitive telematics set up, we're willing to bet you won't detect any difference in straight_line or round_a_track speed compared with its tin_topped Gullwing brother. But by golly, the Roadster makes you think it's a whole other league faster.

The epic 571bhp, naturally_aspirated V8 is as timewarp fast as it is in the Gullwing. But if the fact your spleen is wrapping itself round your spine isn't enough to tell you about the acceleration, with the roof down in the Roadster you've got a direct accoustic path from the exhaust. It's an extraordinary canon of sound to go with the power. A belly_shaking, sabre_rattling roar that hilariously multiplies the sensation of speed.

And roof down, there's breeze too. Nothing drastic _ there's no buffeting like you get on a four_seat cabrio. The seats are heated, and ‘Airscarf' fans blow hot air onto the back of your neck via the headrests. But it's plenty enough to amp up your impression of motion. And isn't that why we like driving in the first place?

I'm struggling for a downside. Roof up in the rain, the hood's quiet and insulating. The handling and steering, roof up or down, are as per the SLS _ a proper old_school rear_drive monster, with an ESP system that wriggles quite enough to let you know you're pushing it. The Roadster's £176,895 is more than the Gullwing, but it's a trivial difference compared with the general entry ticket to SLS_land.

The Roadster makes SLS life a bit better when you're going flat_out, and that's all to the good. But far more important, it turns up the experience to 11 even when you're not.




Author: TopGear
TopGear is the world’s best-selling motoring magazine. The Malaysian edition holds similar status, as acknowledged by the industry.