Courtesy of Auctions America
  • 6.3-liter, naturally aspirated V8 engine
  • 7-speed automatic transmission
  • Less than 7,000 actual miles
  • Power top, windows, steering and brakes
  • Air conditioning
  • RENNtech tuned to over 600 horsepower
  • RENNtech long-tube headers
  • Ti Evo cat-back exhaust with carbon-fiber Akrapovic tailpipes
  • H&R lowering springs
  • ADV.1 bronze wheels
  • RENNtech carbon-fiber front and rear diffuser package

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster
Years Produced:2011–15
Number Produced:884 (roadsters for the U.S. market)
Original List Price:$196,500
SCM Valuation:$160,100
Tune Up Cost:$800 for 20,000-mile B Service
Chassis Number Location:Under right-hand seat
Engine Number Location:Front left side of engine block near oil pan
Club Info:Mercedes Benz Club of America
Alternatives:1999–2003 BMW Z8, 2003–10 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, 2005–13 Chevrolet Corvette
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 528, sold for $148,500, including buyer’s premium, at Auctions America’s Fort Lauderdale, FL, sale on April 1, 2017.

The Mercedes-Benz trifecta of speed — the SLR McLaren, the SL65 AMG Black Series and the SLS AMG — were part of a sweeping change at Daimler to re-establish the exclusivity of their performance vehicles.

The SLS is the most produced of the three — and arguably the most usable. You can even find them for sale on Craigslist — albeit for a higher price than this purchaser paid. But this is an unclear market, and we need to determine whether depreciation is at work.

A Baby Boomer indulgence

When the SLS was first released to an eager crowd of upper-middle-class retirees, I recall how every guy in that category at our MBCA events ordered a brand-new one — and bragged about it until my ears bled.

While I acknowledge that this is SoFla (South Florida, to the rest of the United States), and I further acknowledge that most of this hard-working demographic is well off and now enjoying their retirement, this car has all of the traits one would want in a high-speed toy.

I use the word “toy” pejoratively.

So far, amidst the financial shipwreck that has been most of the 21st century, most Gen Xers and Millennials have shunned the idea of having a nearly new $150,000 toy in the garage. This means the present glut of second-hand SLS roadsters are depreciating assets.

This is a vehicle for those who want the latest and greatest. While the SLS is a better vehicle than the SLR McLaren from a drivability standpoint, the crowd who was eager to get their hands on one five years ago now wants the AMG GT (or whatever else is next). The result is that the original list price of $196,500 is fading into the past. Options usually pushed these up to $225,000.

The SLS was designed to easily rack up 100,000 miles, but the majority of them barely got any use. So most of the examples on the market are almost-new cars. This formula works out better for someone who wants an exotic-but-reliable daily driver than for a collector who sees this car as an investment.

This car reminds me of how Thor Thorson puts certain race cars in the “weapons-grade” category. The SLS AMG roadster is a weapons-grade sports car. You won’t make any money on it, but you will have a hell of a time driving it.

Toys vs. investment-grade hypercars

Vehicles like the Ferrari Enzo, McLaren P1, Bugatti Veyron or Pagani Huayra are now great places to stash a few million dollars. While the buy-in is expensive, the financial future of these cars seems to be consistently above their initial purchase price.

When you consider the market performance of the generation of emerging hypercars and their predecessors — think McLaren F1 or the Pagani Zonda — you realize that the SLS is simply not in the same league.

These days, you can find multiple examples all over the biggest websites with under 10,000 miles begging for $170,000. So before pursuing an SLS, you must acknowledge two things:

  • The market is saturated.
  • These cars are slowly depreciating.

In short, these fine vehicles have all of the makings of a fantastic toy.

Other fantastic toys include — but are not limited to — most modern Corvettes, most of the V8 Ferraris, most modern Aston Martins and the bulk of new Lamborghinis.

In a way, this is advantageous for second-hand purchasers. I would advise anyone who purchases an SLS to get maximum use out of it. Take it to the grocery store, to work or to the golf course. Bang it up a little. It is still new enough to show off.

Don’t let anyone try to talk you into “investing” in one. The first generation of owners are not collecting massive revenues from the sales of their SLS cars, so don’t expect to either.

I find it depressing that the first owner of this SLS spent somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 at RENNtech — and then barely drove it. While someone duped into the snares of the investment unicorn might consider the modifications a black mark for future values, RENNtech does excellent work — and gets the remaining 10% out of the engine and chassis.

The SLS vs. the rest of the trifecta

This SLS, upon comparison to the rest of the examples in SCM’s Platinum Auction Database, might come across as well bought. However, this is simply a case of the market asserting itself in a fair sale.

The exception would have been if it were a (usually $550,000 or more) Black Series.

If you compare the SLS AMG to the SLR McLaren or the SL65 Black Series, our subject model is the cheapest entry — and the newest.

Most of these cars had some production overlap, and critics could say that Daimler produced too many high-performance sports cars at once — making the SLS and its siblings rather indistinct.

This indistinctiveness, I will argue, has plagued the Mercedes brand since they dropped the R107 in 1989 and replaced it with a parade of bland-looking sports cars. Only with the advent of its Black Series cars has Daimler been able to start reversing this issue, but the typical SLS is still overshadowed by vehicles like the BMW Z8.

Am I saying that the SLS is bland? While strangers call me demanding excellent examples of older Mercedes SLs, the glut of used SLS coupes and roadsters on the market is not bringing values up. In two years, this example might be considered well sold.

If I were the purchaser, I would enjoy mine while all of those control modules are still fresh. This lucky person got a barely used SLS —with a bunch of performance goodies thrown in for free. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.)

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