Mercedes-AMG SL63

Demon droptop gets new face and now faster than ever

by DYLAN CAMPBELL

ENGINE 5461cc V8, DOHC, 32V, twin-turbo / POWER 430kW @ 5500rpm / TORQUE 900Nm @ 2300-3700rpm / WEIGHT 1770kg / 0-100KM/H 4.1sec (claimed) / PRICE $385,000 (est) W hen it’s time to reheat an existing model it’s odd for a car company not to bump power up even a few token kilowatts, but the new Mercedes-AMG SL63 is probably the one car that could get away with it.

It more or less carries over its 5.5- litre twin-turbo V8 with the same outputs as before, few customers apparently complaining that 430kW and 900Nm weren’t enough.

Instead the changes to Merc’s timeless SL are mostly cosmetic, the front end completely restyled, grafting on a version of the new corporate face.

A new rear bar with diffuser is about the extent of rear styling changes, the interior also copping more software than hardware tweaks.

And with the 463kW/1000Nm V12 SL65 sadly axed from Australia as of this facelift, it now means the 63 is the fastest SL you can get.

The SL63 misses out on the new 9-speed gearbox adopted by SL400 W and 500, it not being able to take the torque. But instead AMG insists the 7-speed wet clutch auto now shifts noticeably faster than the previous model. And as with the last model, no manual is offered.

Active suspension is the big news in the chassis department, the SL getting something called Active Body Control, effectively replacing conventional sway-bars with computer-controlled dampers working against dive, squat and roll.

The plushly-sprung SL63 probably needs it, particularly given it’ll do 0-100km/h in a scorching 4.1 seconds with launch control. With an engine very much about torque than revs, the SL63 slams you back from even low in the rpm band with enormous levels of turbocharged shove. And charges past 100km/h like it’s in a hurry to hit its 300km/h limiter.

To the uninitiated the SL63’s acceleration will feel like a top fuel dragster. And even for someone who’s owned a fast car or two before, its maniacal urge will take a long, long time to wear off.

The funny thing is, it felt blisteringly quick yet our US test cars were running on only 91RON. Sheesh.

You sit fairly rearward in the SL and it feels like two thirds of the car is in front of you rather than behind – partly confirmed by a 51.2/48.8 frontrear weight distribution – a sensation of forward mass that can make picking your line into a corner tricky with the SL’s variable steering.

There are more intuitive front-ends around but with time you and the SL start to gel and it becomes less of an issue. And the 63 in particular is only too eager to cast aside its cruiser personality with the press of a button.

In A45, C63 and AMG GT S the Sport Plus setting is way too stiff for the road but in the SL63 it’s pretty much perfect for a mountain blast, the big Merc sitting impressively flat, keeping its cool over bumps with no scuttle shake

Like Does fast and cruiser with equal talent; the noise STAR RATING Dislike There are sharper and more intuitive front ends 4.0

as it leans into sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.

The SL63 has tonnes of lateral grip and conceals its 1770kg well, probably no small thanks to the imperceptible workings of the Active Body Control.

Luxury-tuned steering (now with a “constant and more direct ratio”) is great around town but the trade-off is very little feel, understeer felt more through the seat of the pants than the hands if you push too hard.

Out back, traction is strong from rear 285/30ZR20 tyres despite the teutonic 900Nm. But on corner exits, thanks to a mechanical limited slip diff the rear is only too willing to wag and lay big black lines with some hearty throttle application, even in the satisfyingly lenient Sport ESP setting.

Tight and twisty, uphill roads are rather fun indeed.

Reconsider optioning the expensive carbon ceramic brakes – on our test car the pedal started to soften and lengthen towards the end of a punishing downhill run.

Switch the settings back to Comfort and the SL63’s personality turns instantly to lazy cruiser with incredible ride for 30-profile tyres and a pleasant, breezy interior even with the roof down at highway speeds.

For all AMG’s tweaks, the SL63 is plainly one of its more sensible models, deliberately avoiding most of the attention-seeking ostentatiousness of its stablemates and shunning even an active exhaust button. That said, the engine is still loud enough with a lower-frequency V8 burble and the occasional crackle with downchanges.

But the SL63 impresses most in the way it strikes a balance between lazy top-down boulevard cruiser and tearyour- face-off performance weapon.

In this AMG has done an excellent job.

Hardcore drivers would be tempted by convertible sports cars much more intuitive and precise than the SL63 – like the $410K Ferrari California T, or the $396K Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet – but they won’t “cruise” anywhere near as sublimely as the big Merc and AMG is the first to admit it’s not made for the track. They know most SL63 customers will have another car for that.

Mercedes-Benz Australia says the facelifted SL63 will come in under the current car’s $399K when it goes on sale in Australia in July. M

The rear is only too willing to wag and lay big black lines with some hearty throttle application