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Mercedes-AMG SL 63 review: 4.5/5

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Facelifted madhouse Mercedes-AMG SL 63 remains a brutal piece of kit.

Matt Robinson

Words: - @MttRbnsn

Published on: February 27, 2016

Words: - @MttRbnsn

Published on: February 27, 2016

Tech Specs

Model testedMercedes-AMG SL 63
Pricing€271,000
Engine5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmissionseven-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch MCT, rear-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door roadster
CO2 emissions234g/km (Band G, €2,350 per annum)
Combined economy28mpg (10.1 litres/100km)
Top speed250km/h (limited); optional 300km/h limiter with AMG Driver's Package
0-100km/h4.1 seconds
Power585hp at 5,500rpm
Torque900Nm at 2,250- to 3,750rpm
Boot space504 litres hood up/364 litres hood down
EuroNCAP ratingnot tested

No extra power for the first of Mercedes-AMG's two SL offerings, the 5.5-litre V8 '63', but with its notable facelift, extra in-car connectivity and Curve Tilt Functionality, there's enough here to interest fans of this historic Mercedes model. The fact it goes like fury and sounds extraordinarily good in the process only adds to its appeal.

In the Metal:

Maybe it was just the way Mercedes-AMG specified the facelifted cars on the launch event, but somehow the SL 63 was the more appealing of Affalterbach's mental pair of roadsters, overshadowing its big brother, the SL 65. In bright, strong colours, lacking the garish polished chrome of the V12 model and featuring neat bits of carbon fibre addenda (such as door mirror caps and a discreet lip spoiler on the entirely carbon fibre boot lid) the SL 63 looked every inch the GT-roadster-meets-supercar its incredible specification demands. Like all SLs, the 63 has the new LED Intelligent Headlights, original 300 SL-copying radiator grille (that's unique to the SL alone in Mercedes' stable), A-wing lower front air dam and the visually more aggressive bonnet, featuring two 'powerdomes'. No matter which angle you view the SL 63 from, it just looks so right.

The interior is marvellous too, the driving position superb and the AMG models get a slightly different arrangement of buttons on the transmission tunnel (aft of a bigger gear lever than the strangely diminutive item the 'series' SLs possess), which are a little more intuitive to use than the regular layout. The dials are all AMG branded and there's a lot of carbon fibre trim to remind you what you're in; it's all rather fantastic. Like other SL models, the 63 can drop its roof on the hoof at up to 40km/h, while it has the automatic boot separator to allow quick and hassle-free access to luggage if the top is down.

Driving it:

The big mechanical additions here are Curve Tilting Function, which tips the car up to 2.65 degrees into a bend - rather like a skier, high-speed train or motorcyclist - to negate body roll, along with a re-tuned AMG Speedshift seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Other than that, the 63's thunderous and wonderful (thunderful?) 5.5-litre biturbo V8 remains as it was; well, come on, 585hp and a goliath 900Nm of torque are more than enough to satisfy the most demanding of needs. And while the car gets Active Body Control (ABC) as standard, as before, it can be upgraded with the more aggressive AMG Sports Suspension package (the 65 gets this set-up straight from the factory) that basically sees AMG tweak the software programme controlling the ABC to its own preferred settings.

Whatever the black magic going on in the SL 63's underpinnings, the outcome is absolutely remarkable. Some critics will tell you the SL is no sports car, but for a near two-tonne machine (with driver on board), it's incredibly deft and agile. The 63 changes direction without fuss, its body staying flat and composed even through the most violent of S-bend flick-flacks, while the lovely, lovely steering and epic body control allow you to lean on its prodigious abilities without ever wondering what a mess 900Nm would make of you if you took one liberty too many. It's not that the SL drives for you, though, which is what makes it so appealing to hurl up a challenging mountain road - you feel like you are learning something from it as you push harder and harder through each bend.

AMG's real genius, however, is that the SL 63 is no less capable than its series siblings when you decide to throttle things back and waft. In fact, the ride might even be better than that on the SL 400 thanks to the extra weight of the 63's powerplant, and despite its big wheels on rubber-band tyres; covering mammoth distances in the AMG SL would be no hardship whatsoever.

Save for the regular fuel stops. Use even a modicum of the V8's massive abilities and the economy drops into the low teens, flirting dangerously with single-figure returns. And you will use the 5.5's monster performance regularly, for one good reason: it sounds absolutely phenomenal. It's perhaps never quite as loud as you might expect from a potent AMG V8 engine, but actually the way it has been calibrated is exceptionally clever because it permits the 63 to be hushed when cruising, and yet bellow heartily when it's in Sport+ mode and dissecting a flowing back road in short order. This drivetrain is absolutely magnificent to listen to, especially in its sportier settings where a crackling, burbling exhaust note overlays the rippling V8's soundtrack. Convertibles might not be everyone's cup of tea, but this engine/exhaust combo deserves to be heard by more than just bystanders, and the SL allows its occupants to thoroughly experience the full glory of its symphony.

What you get for your Money:

The SL 63 costs an eye-watering €271,000. It is, however, massively cheaper than the Mercedes-AMG SL 65 (which is 'price on application') and it sounds better, corners quicker and subjectively feels every bit as ballistic as the V12 car in a straight line.

Alternatives

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible: even louder V8 histrionics from the Jag but less capable as a GT, so - much as we didn't expect to hear ourselves say this - the SL 63 would be our preferred choice.

Maserati GranCabrio: despite glorious looks, evocative badge and characterful V8, this is dated in many respects and is due for the chop soon.

Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet: astonishing engineering makes this less like an open-topped sports car and more like a missile equipped with four tyres. SL is the classier motor, though.

Summary

OK, a two-seat convertible that'll do considerably less than 20 to the gallon and which'll likely cost the wrong side of €200,000 here in Ireland is hardly representative of motoring for the masses, but as fans of cars we have to exult in the existence of vehicles like the Mercedes-AMG SL 63. It's brash and loud, yet cultured and quiet, all in one fabulous, 585hp package that has been notably improved by a raft of modest, yet well-judged alterations. The open-top SL will celebrate its 60th birthday in 2017, but on this showing, the old-timer clearly has no intentions of slowing down just yet. And that's chiefly why we absolutely adore the SL 63; it's disgracefully naughty. Who wouldn't like such a thing?



Tech Specs

Model testedMercedes-AMG SL 63
Pricing€271,000
Engine5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmissionseven-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch MCT, rear-wheel drive
Body styletwo-door roadster
CO2 emissions234g/km (Band G, €2,350 per annum)
Combined economy28mpg (10.1 litres/100km)
Top speed250km/h (limited); optional 300km/h limiter with AMG Driver's Package
0-100km/h4.1 seconds
Power585hp at 5,500rpm
Torque900Nm at 2,250- to 3,750rpm
Boot space504 litres hood up/364 litres hood down
EuroNCAP ratingnot tested