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  by Marcus B. Fitzhugh

There's a line in a George Gershwin song "it's summertime, and the livin' is easy". In a few months the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster will be launched and the living will be even better.

The SLS Roadster is the soft top version of one of the finest supercars available. The new SLS will have the same powertrain and interior, but will come standard with a lot more headroom.

The convertible top necessitates the loss of the gullwing doors. Some will dearly miss those trademark doors, while others will gladly trade them for the open skies.

One would expect the coupe version to be more rigid and weigh less. That is half right. Additional bracing was added to the new SLS Roadster, making perfectly rigid for a street car. The purpose of the Roadster was to build an open air version of the iconic coupe. One that would be usable on a day to day basis, and not limit its audience.

The new Roadster is a little heavier than the coupe. The bracing and soft top added 88 pounds. With the amount of power on tap, the weight will go unnoticed.

Soft top designs typically encroach on luggage space. This is logical in that the top must be stowed somewhere. The engineers at Mercedes-Benz were able to limit the reduction in trunk space to one-tenth of one cubic foot.

Now that we've covered the bad news, lets look at what the Roadster version buys us. The open air experience was to be expected. The wind in our hair, the sun on our faces, and an unencumbered view were all expected. What we also get to hear an unimpaired concerto grosso of an exhaust note that passersby typically enjoy.

The mechanical composition is put on by the six point two liter AMG designed V8. This is the same engine that powers the gullwing version. This engine produces 571 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. This is a high revving engine, that can accelerate the SLS to 100 km/h in under 4 seconds. The power is transmitted through an ultra-light carbon-fiber driveshaft, to a rear mounted transaxle. The transaxle is connected to the engine housing by a torque tube.

Mounting the seven-speed dual clutch automatic in the rear, and placing the engine in a front-mid position resulted in a car with a very good weight distribution. The favorable weight allows for precise steering, excellent agility, and very good traction

The powertrain is wonderfully designed, but the roof is what separates this from the Gullwing version. The cloth top can be ordered in one of three colors; black, beige and a classic red. Under most conditions, the Airscarf feature and a detachable glass windstop help keep unwanted winds at bay. When it's time to raise or lower the top, the roof can be put up or down in less than 11 seconds and at speeds as high as 31 mph.

The SLS Roadster will make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Deliveries are expected to begin around that same timeframe.


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