Balance Of Luxury And Performance The Way Only An SL Can Deliver
The SL roadster has quite a unique history for Mercedes-Benz, starting 70-years ago as an open-air-style icon, a time when Americans were focusing on shoeboxes and tailfins. It’s strictly part of the AMG family now, and that means we’re in for a high-performance good time!
When you think of all the driving pleasure this Mercedes-AMG SL 63 can provide, testing its limits through the turns of Savannah, Georgia’s Roebling Road Raceway is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But here we are, and this high-powered ragtop revivalist roadster is hanging in there just fine.
Would it be more in its element on the Sunset Strip, or sitting in Miami traffic, or even parked next to a Bentley at a private beach club? Perhaps, but with the laidback attitude of a seasoned veteran that only displays his true abilities, when necessary, this AMG is quite capable of getting around a road course in a hurry.
Empowering that mission is AMG’s excellent twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 with 577-horsepower and 590 lb-ft. of torque. At the risk of giving it all away, that hand-built aluminum torque monster is our favorite thing about the whole car. A detuned 469-horsepower version is also available in the SL 55. No surprise to find AMG’s 9-speed automatic transmission, but the fact that all SLs are all-wheel-drive is an unexpected turn, as that was never even an option before.
Put to the straight-line test, that engine gets this big beast up to speed in a real hurry. Just 3.1-seconds to get to 60 and 11.3 to clear the ¼-mile at 125 miles-per-hour.
With their tech heavy-handed approach to performance, all German performance cars are starting to feel very similar, and virtually everything about this latest SL wants to shield you from a true sports car driving experience rather than allow you to revel in it. But having said that, it’s hard to argue with the results. The unique multi-link front suspension with 5 control arms, as well as AMG’s Active Ride Control, keeps things very flat and stable even in high-speed corners.
It does feel very heavy, but it’s also very fast and well-balanced; both solid and soft at the same time. Brakes offer good initial bite, but then seem hesitant to deal with the full reality of all the weight here. To further tailor things to your needs, the SL is available in Touring or Performance fitments; Performance adding, among other things, the ability to dial up Race Drive Program.
The SL may not turn heads like some exotics or early SLs with gull-wing doors, but those that know, know. This latest version looks surprising purposeful and almost lethal, with Performance trim’s yellow brake calipers, yet still elegant and perhaps more traditional than ever with the stretched wheelbase, long hood, and new soft top. Changing from hard to soft retractable top not only saves 46-lbs of weight, but obviously requires much less space for storage. The whole folding process is smooth and only requires about 15-seconds.
Surprisingly, even with Mercedes’ shift away from fossil fuel vehicles, there’s an all-new architecture here mostly comprised of aluminum, though they claim it was designed to be adaptable to other propulsion systems as they arrive, and indeed some form of electrification is coming to the SL sooner than later.
Inside, there is a flagship level of technology, with features like AIRSCARF to help keep you comfortable and cozy on chilly fall days with the top down. Plus, a genuine 21st century application of old-world craftsmanship, exemplified by the steering wheel’s mix of old-school feel with modern tech. The center stacks tacked on tablet is an outlier, but at least you can move it around to best see it when the top is down. Regardless of our minor quibbles, materials, and fitment are exquisite.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 14-City, 21-Highway, and 16-Combined for a worse than average Energy Impact Score of 18.6-barrels of yearly oil use, with 9.0-tons of CO2 emissions.
SL 63 pricing starts at $179,150, just $1,800 more for Performance Trim. Bargain hunters can get largely the same experience with about a 100 fewer horsepower in the SL 55 for $138,450. The Mercedes-AMG SL continues the SL tradition of delivering equal parts performance and elegance; perfect for flaunting your good fortunes. It has also embraced being a tech-heavy showpiece that has come to define modern luxury. There are cars that have more performance, and cars that are more luxurious, but none strike this balance the way only an SL can.
Engine: 4.0L V8
Torque: 590 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 3.1 seconds
1/4 Mile: 11.3 seconds at 125 mph
EPA: 14 City / 21 Highway / 16 Combined