Like the 911 is to Porsche and the M3 is to BMW, the SL is a pillar of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Only recently, various members of Daimlers senior management reiterated that while ever there is Mercedes-Benz, there will be an SL.
With a history stretching back over 60 years, the SL has developed a reputation as an old man’s car. Perhaps even worse in the eyes of a reader, it’s also considered to be an old woman’s car. Personally, I first fell its charms as a 25-year-old when I drove the R230-generation SL55 AMG with its supercharged 5.4-litre V8, complete with rippling NASCAR soundtrack.
While it might not be ‘it’ or ‘now’ or various other words that a forty-year-old motoring journalist should never use, the SL63 AMG is far from over the hill. Firstly, it looks stunning in blue with contrasting black wheels. Even my neighbours, who are used to my one-night stands with exotic metal, were keen to find out more. Before they asked, everyone knew that it was money And at $368,715, the new SL63 certainly costs a chunk of charge, but the new price represents a healthy $30K reduction over the pre-facelifted model.
Even with the significant price reduction, that amount of money buys some very serious cars, includirg McLaren’s entry-level 540C ($325,000) and Audi’s R8 V1O coupe ($354,416), while Lamborghini’s $378,900 Huracan LP580-2 won’t stretch the monthly finance payments too far. Then of course, there’s Mercedes-AMG’s own GT S at $294,325.
While these two-seat, hard-top sports cars aren’t direct competitors, the SL63’s competitive set doesn’t make it any easier on the big Mercedes roadster. For broadly similar outlays (and remember, at this end of the market, $50K is not a figure to quibble over) there are offerirgs from Ferrari, Bentley and Porsche. Despite the lorgevity of its nameplate, the SL63 can’t match the badge cache of the $409,888 Ferrari California T.
While we’re big fans of Ferrari’s revised California T (especially so when fitted with the optional Handlirg Speciale package) it doesn’t have the swaggerirg character of the thunderirg AMG. That said, we do know that many California owners are new to the brand and many have been recent SL owners. Starting at $420,000, Bentley offers a choice of V8- or W12-powered Continental GTC models. For our tastes, the pick is the V8 S, but even this model cannot match the dynamics of the AMG. But the Bentley brings a level of bling and character that neither the Ferrari nor AMG can cover. Porsche’s 911Turbo and Turbo S Cabriolet models (from $406,400) are more dynamically focused and significantly faster than the SL63, and the Ferrari and Bentley models mentioned above, but they are also very clinical.
In the face of such stout competition, the SL63’s USP is its thundering 5.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V8, and every time you prod the cool metal start button you’ll thinkyou’ve gotten a bargain. The turbos might calm the cold-start theatrics compared to the borderline-anti-social 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 of old, but there’s no mistaking this engine for anything other than a product of sleepy Affalterbach.
In a rare sign of Germanic restraint, the peak outputs of 430kW and 900Nm (having been deemed enough), carry over from the pre-facelifted SL63. Despite the 1845kg weighbridge ticket, the SL63 hooks up and storms to 100km/h in a claimed 4.1seconds. In truth, it feels so much quicker than that, and the roll-on punch from 100-200km/h feels at like a match for some of the more exotic options mentioned at the top of the piece.
We first drove the revised SL63 earlier thisyear on the desert roads inland of San Diego. With no one around we thundered to the 250km/h speed limiter with two of the seven gears to go. Australian-market SL63s are fitted with a 300km/h limiter, which sadlywe didn’tget to trouble this time around. Without electronic interference, the SL63 will exceed 330km/h.
With so muchweight to brake and turn, and so much torque providing the thrust, you might be tempted for a lazy point-and-shoot drivirg style. Fall into this trap, and beyond the awe inspired by the thundering engine, the SL63 isn’t that rewarding. Instead, it’s best to dial back your commitment and let the road come to the big roadster. Driven in a milder manner, the SL63 can muster mind-bending cross-country pace.
Perhaps a defibrillator should be on the options list.
2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63
Engine: 5461cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 430kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 900Nm @ 2000-420Orpm
Weight: 1845kg (233kW/tonne)
0-100 km/h: 4.1sec (claimed)
Top speed: 300km/h (limited)