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First drive: Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

First drive: Mercedes-AMG SL 63
Barking mad biturbo V8 SL goodness from Mercedes-AMG.

   



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First drive: Mercedes-AMG SL 63

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

It's time for a facelift for the entire Mercedes SL 'R231' line-up and that includes the Mercedes-AMG variant tested here. No absolutely seismic alterations have been made, yet that doesn't stop us falling head over heels for this bombastic SL 63 iteration of Stuttgart's iconic roadster.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG SL 63
Pricing: SL range from £73,805; SL 63 from £114,100
Engine: 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: seven-speed Speedshift dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door roadster
CO2 emissions: 234g/km (VED Band L, £870 first 12 months, £490 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 28mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited); optional 186mph limiter offered
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Power: 585hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 900Nm at 2,250- to 3,750rpm

What's this?

Mercedes-AMG's facelifted version of the sixth-generation SL, which appeared in 2012; and by extension, the 'regular', non-AMG SLs have been nipped and tucked too. When Mercedes overhauled the A-Class in 2015, changes to the design were nigh-on infinitesimal. However, no such accusation could be levelled at Stuttgart this time around, as the fresh SL is easily identifiable by its entirely redesigned conk.

Light clusters that ape those of the AMG GT frame a radiator grille that has a unique shape in Mercedes' world; its wider lower section is deliberately designed to invoke memories of the 300 SL Coupés that dominated the 1952 edition of the highly dangerous Carrera Panamericana. Sitting below that indulgent piece of reminiscence is the 'A-wing' AMG air dam and topping the whole lot off is a bonnet bearing two 'power domes'. A cohesive overhaul, it makes the SL look almost like an all-new car, rather than a facelift, and we like it a lot.

It doesn't look better than as the SL 63 as tested here, either, which is adorned with further AMG accoutrements such as quad exhausts, gorgeous ten-spoke alloy wheels and some neat bits of carbon fibre detailing. The AMG variants also get twin-bars flowing away from the front-mounted three-pointed star, rather than the regular SL's single-bar items.

The interior was fine enough as it was, so sundry trim changes and connectivity updates and additions round out a cabin that will be familiar to pre-facelift R231 owners, while the main technical alterations for the SL 63 are a rejigged seven-speed dual-clutch transmission; the ability to drop or raise the Vario-Roof folding hard-top on the move at speeds of up to 25mph; the inclusion of Curve Tilt Function, the 'lean the car into the bends' system first seen on the S-Class Coupé (this software has been added to the 63's Active Body Control (ABC) adaptive damping); and a standard-fit rear differential lock.

How does it drive?

It is positively indecent how something that weighs all but two tonnes can pick up its skirts and hurtle maniacally at the horizon like this. Thank the mega 5.5-litre, biturbo V8 for such lunacy, as it deposits 585hp and a startling 900Nm of torque on the tarmac in a ridiculously capable manner. You don't spend your time in the SL 63 fighting with traction issues though, AMG's engineering know-how instead allowing the car to punt you into the distance on a wave of seemingly unending acceleration.

However, straight-line pace has never been a shortcoming of AMG Mercedes - nor has the absolutely marvellous V8 soundtrack that accompanies the 63's exertions. What's impressive here is that the SL, while not as delicate as, say, a Porsche 911, now feels like a sporting GT, rather than a GT that tries to go quickly through the bends. Its iron-fisted body control, Samson-esque brakes, beautiful steering and sublime seven-speed MCT all work in perfect harmony to permit its driver to really hurl the big convertible about with abandon. At no point does it feel intimidating or badly resolved, yet at the same time it rewards positive inputs and genuine driver interactivity meaning that the SL 63 is no 911 Turbo or Nissan GT-R, cars where the electronics do a lot of the work for you.

Of course, as a grand touring open-top first and foremost, the Mercedes-AMG SL 63 never quite scales the final few dynamic heights that would make us award it five stars, yet for a car of this type it's unsurpassed by any rival we can think of. But don't fret that it has gone all sporty at the expense of typical SL comfort - if anything, it's even better as a cruiser than it is barrelling up a mountain pass, doing its best impersonation of a Mazda MX-5 that's been at way, way too many steroids. The V8 engine still sounds epic when it's just woofling around town, but it layers on a generous serving of discretion that means you can pass through the most discerning neighbourhoods without offending the local gentry. And the ride is as near flawless as you're going to get in a convertible like this, even with the ABC uprated to AMG Sports Suspension (£1,570) that takes a firmer hold on the SL's oil reservoir-equipped adaptive dampers.

Hood down and the electrically powered pop-up wind deflector in place, the SL 63 is the very epitome of 'feel-good'. The occupants are well shielded from wind buffeting and this 585hp rocket prowls about in an easy-going manner that is wholly befitting of the SL lineage. Treading that fine line between out-and-out GT and out-and-out sports car is tricky, but we reckon nothing does it better than this AMG.

Verdict

At £114,100, keen drivers could obviously spend their money on something a little sharper than the SL. Similarly, there are a number of other, less focused and cheaper GTs - not least the SL 400 lower down the Mercedes pecking order - that would probably do the gentle-driving thing as well as, if not better than the AMG 63. But that noise... that power... that poise when pressing on; it's all enough to have you considering how you could ever sort out the finances to possess the Mercedes-AMG SL 63. The SL has always been a beast cut from slightly different cloth anyway and that fine individualistic tradition continues in this, one of the best high-performance all-rounders we can think of.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 27 Feb 2016



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2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.



2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2016 Mercedes-AMG SL 63. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 






 

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