I’ve never been one to quote poetry in my humble automotive scribblings. Maybe there was the odd bawdy limerick commencing with, “There once was a … .” But never poetry of the deep and meaningful kind.
But then I eased behind the wheel of the fearsome new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster, caressed the blood-red starter button, fired up, drove off and spent the better part of a week tumbling head over heels in lust with this road-going, intercontinental ballistic missile.
The love affair involved getting down on bended knee in front of the SLS and quoting, with hand on heart, the first line of that sentimental sonnet penned in 1845 by the English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
There are many, indeed.
Here is the canvas-topped version of Mercedes’ thundering gullwing-doored SLS Coupe, a car I loved with equal passion when I first drove it a couple of years back.
Of course, that was after I recovered from the repeated concussions from whacking my head on those levitating doors, which don’t quite levitate high enough.
There’s no such cranial-concussing problem with the SLS Roadster. Ease back on a center-console-mounted flap, and the three-layer fabric top whizzes back in a mere 11 seconds. This is truly the Usain Bolt of convertible tops.
Stickerwise, you’ll pay $206,000 for the Roadster, which is $6,500 more than the Coupe. Pick and choose from the laundry list of options that includes everything from the 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo ($6,400) to the carbon-fiber engine covers ($5,400) and you’ll easily get to the $231,325 price of our test car.
But let me count the ways driving this topless SLS will have you quoting Ms. Browning’s second line: “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”
Here, the love is one of sound. Folding the Merc’s top puts you front row and in direct earshot at one of the greatest rock concerts ever from the band “SLS and the Atomic Tail Pipes.”
Rev the Merc’s hand-built, 6.3-liter, 583-horsepower, aluminum and magnesium V8. Linda Blair in The Exorcist never had this many evil voices. It snaps and snarls, barks and bangs. And that’s just when you fire it up.
For the full AC/DC-meets-Guns N’ Roses-meets-Metallica soundtrack, find yourself a curvy country backroad and have at it.
As the revs soar, the big V8 emits the most glorious deep, bellowy, NASCAR-esque thunder. This is the sound of Smokey Bear clearing his throat after winter hibernation or Alice Cooper gargling with chicken heads.
But for the pièce de résistance, approach a tight curve, pull back once, twice on the steering column-mounted paddle shifters from 70 mph, revel in the 100-millisecond kick-down and listen in wonder to the staccato snap, crackle and pop played through those storm-drain exhausts.
As you might expect, it goes like a bat out of hell. Zero to 60 mph is covered in a blistering, head-snapping, knee-trembling 3.6 seconds. Flat out, you’ll see the world go by at a whisker under 200 mph.
Those light-switch-quick shifts are delivered from the SLS’s seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic. Playing tunes using those metallic paddle shifters is one of the great joys of driving this car.
But driver, beware; this baby can bite. Get overenthusiastic with the right pedal midcorner, and it’ll happily step out of line. Those 583 horseys break the traction of the almost foot-wide rear tires. A quick flick of the laser-precise, beautifully weighted steering will usually restore the status quo. Usually.
There’s nothing nimble or delicate about this droptop SLS. This is no Ferrari, McLaren or Lamborghini. Here is a modern-day, hairy-chested muscle car in the vein of a ’70s big-block Corvette. It’s a blunt instrument in a world of precision supercars.
And that’s part of its immense appeal. It’s one of the countless ways I adored driving it and went into mild depression when I handed back the keys.
How do I love thee? Simply 583 horsepower ways. And counting.