It wasn't exactly a well-kept secret, and now it's officially out: Mercedes-Benz "is working on an SLS roadster," the company confirms. Stuttgart has simultaneously leaked pictures of a prototype that seems to be production-ready.
The open version of the SLS AMG, of course, loses not only its fixed top, but also its gullwing doors. The doors of the roadster version cut down deeper into the flanks and are operated with utterly conventional, Mercedes-sedan-style door handles, as opposed to the coupe’s pop-out pulls. In addition, the doors stretch farther forward than on the coupe, but the impression of an extremely long hood is still intact.
The photograph taken from above somewhat conceals the fact that the trunk lid is actually substantially taller, in order to cover the electrically operated convertible roof—and we don't believe there will be much space left for your luggage, either. Rollover protection is provided by two fixed roll hoops, and the seats don't look much different from those in the coupe. We doubt the leather-lined interior will be waterproof with the top down, despite the fact that the pictures were taken in the rain.
While AMG is starting to replace its high-revving, naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 with the twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 (as seen in the S- and CL-classes), we suspect that the SLS roadster will keep the crazy 563-hp 6.2, which produces 479 lb-ft of torque. It is not only a trademark engine for the SLS, it fits the character of this sports car exceedingly well—and, with the top down, you will be even better able to listen to this engine's awesome soundtrack. With structural reinforcements and the convertible-top mechanism no doubt adding weight, performance could drop slightly.
Does the SLS AMG need an open-top version, since it is really defined by its gullwing doors? Well, this roadster proves that Mercedes is truly paying homage to the original 300SL, code-named W198; the gullwing W198 came in 1954, followed by a roadster version in 1957. Unlike its historical role model, however, the SLS AMG won't be entirely replaced by the roadster version. Rather, it will be complemented by it, with both cars being sold alongside each other.
While the SLS AMG coupe comes in at $185,750, the SLS roadster might break the $200,000 barrier. Mercedes-Benz could get away with it, as people are still lining up to get the revived gullwing coupe, so there is certainly no reason to sell this new variant at discount prices.
There's no rush for the carmaker, either: We don't expect to see the final car sans cover and tape before the Frankfurt show in September 2011, likely as a 2012 model. It will then compete with the Audi R8 Spyder, the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, and the top-level variations of the Porsche 911 Turbo cabrio.
Thanks to: Car and Driver