It would be uncouth to complain. After all, I get to experience so many different high-end machines. It’s quite the adventure. But often times, people reach out on social media, or even in person, and ask how I’m able to get all these cars. (Here comes the complaint)…it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, because I must write convincingly about them. Sometimes it’s easy. But then a car like this Mercedes AMG SL 63 shows up, and it becomes very difficult. What is there to say about a car that is technically perfect?
The 2023 Mercedes AMG SL 63 overview
I never like to fixate on price, especially so early in a review, but I think you deserve to know the root of the SL’s problem, which is the $208,035 sticker.
I tell you this not for the shock value, because price is relative. To one person, a 2 Series is expensive. To another, this SL is paid for with a single signed check. But regardless of your financial situation, the price of the Merc puts it toward the top tier of automotive experiences. If you can afford one, you no doubt expect this car to present a special drive each time you press the start button.
And in the family that is Mercedes, the SL is indeed very special. It’s always been a sort of touring car that you take with you to the casino for a weekend with your beau, showcasing the best of Mercedes style and design. But it’s become a forgotten element, outshined by the GT in its own showroom floor. So the big guns of AMG were called in. There have been AMG versions of the SL, but not like this. This car was designed in-house by AMG themselves.
Can they save this halo Merc?
Performance Score: 9. AMGo
The Mercedes SL 63 AMG lacks absolutely nothing in terms of performance, handling or speed. Pop the top off to hear it roar in stereo, or keep everything in comfort mode and relax down the highway as you glare at the peasants being steam-rolled beneath you.
But remember that this car is slower than an M5 Competition despite being a coupe, and though the GT is now out of production, it too was available as a soft top
Where does the SL fit?
The previous generation used to have a V-12 as an option. That’s gone, but I love what replaced it.
Finally, a turbocharged V-8 that sounds amazing! While pretty much every supercharged V-8 has pumped out a sweet, sweet symphony, turbochargers quiet things down.
Not so here. Place the exhaust in Sport mode (controlled by a stand alone dial), and you’ll get rumbles and a deep baritone roar without any of that vulgar popping other brands utilize. Dare I say it’s as loud as my straight-piped M3, yet much more refined, and can almost be a little too loud in some circumstances. Not for me though (evil laugh).
Otherwise, this is a 4.0 liter AMG engine with 577 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque taken from the GT. It’s a good motor, but not as responsive or smooth as its S63 counterpart from BMW. Part of the issue is the transmission’s programming – it holds the engine back to prevent wheelspin. This exacerbates the sensation of turbo lag.
Once the car hooks up, it feels like you shoot out of a canon. So explosive is the acceleration that I never really felt comfortable going all out. It’s the sensation of straddling a rhino – mount up, hang on tight, and just look as far ahead as possible. A rush for sure. Don’t even look in the direction of the SL55 in the showroom, you deserve more.
Give it a listen…
This really is the engine every AMG should get, from the C63 on up. It is visceral and raw.
Here is a nine-speed automatic that fires off rapid shifts in Sport mode, but makes the car very relaxed while cruising around. Each pull of the aluminum paddle produces a very satisfying “click”.
The powertrain’s issues stem from the way you have to drive the SL with this transmission. Tap the gas, and not much happens. So you toe in a bit more, then a bit more – ah, there we go! But that’s only after you’re moving a bit, say 5 mph, so the SL’s computer knows you’re hooked up. Now you have more power than you wanted, and can find yourself hurtling past Mach 1 in front of your house.
Nine gears also feels like a lot – do I need seventh or sixth for this turn? With so many drive modes and gears, it’s not easy to hop into the SL and drive it quickly.
Steering and Chassis
The SL has a myriad of driving modes, from full-on comfort all the way to track mode. Yet I never found a setting that made me go “Yes, this is it”, and the SL has some chassis tech that makes it unsettled when you push it.
Start with an all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering system. Yes, that’s right, like a 3000GT VR-4, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts at speed, but in much smaller angles. This makes the car feel twitchy and almost unpredictable. I will say that the steering itself is excellent – precise with just the right amount of heft.
Place the SL in full comfort, and it still doesn’t feel as if it’s totally calmed down. I can almost hear Toto Wolf over the radio, “No, no Michael, come on, you’ve got to PUSH!”
Surprisingly, the SL leans more toward a sport-oriented chassis despite its billing as a grand tourer, always firm, always taut. I say lean, but not as far as a 911 goes, giving the SL 63’s chassis setup a dual nature that provides you with a very good experience for any mission, but excelling at none.
Carbon ceramics are here, but difficult to see because of the unique wheel design with a cover in the middle. They work well, providing confidence to get you out of the many Oh, shit moments this car can no doubt provide. The brake pedal itself is firm and responsive, matching the rest of the SL 63’s control inputs.
Sports cars have traditionally traded convenience for speed and beauty, but times have changed. Many sedans and SUVs are as fast as this Merc, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While the raw performance is there, it’s not a playful chassis. This is serious German business.
Utility: 8. Space, the final (sports car) frontier
Another sports car stereotype is a cramped cockpit, a particular sticking point for a guy like me with a 6’1 frame.
But the Mercedes SL 63 AMG is proof that comfort need not be left on the cutting room floor when making a sports car. There’s enough room in the trunk, even with the top down, to use this car as your daily errand runner. A small (very small) back seat is more useful as a padded shelf, but also allows small children to enjoy the top-down experience if you move up the front passenger seat a bit.
In the front there’s room for your coffee, and my head never hit the beautifully-lined alcantara roof. Ingress and egress are also elegant affairs, despite deeply bolsters bucket seats. You most certainly get what you pay for when it comes to packaging.
Economy: 3. Restoring the roar
A philosophical question for you – does this car’s intended buyer care about being able to afford its monthly fuel bill?
Personally, I saw 17 MPG combined in and around town, which is really good for a car that encourages you to downshift at every turn. That makes me wonder why AMG is so hellbent on killing the V-8. The AMG GT grand coupe had a V-6 that achieved 19 MPG, so please Mercedes, don’t do it. Allow us to continue to enjoy this marvelous motor, and we’ll let you know if fuel becomes an issue.
Features and Comfort: 10. SL-uxury
Naturally you expect the SL 63 to have everything, and it does. But a WRX has Lane-Keep assist and a backup camera too…point is, the Merc does everything better than any other car.
I’ve spent a lot of time in low cars, and sometimes you just can’t see out of ’em, including at traffic lights. Mercedes knows this and gave the SL a camera that activates whenever it detects you’ve stopped at a light, popping up a view that seems as if a helicopter is hovering just above your roof. I didn’t know I wanted this until I knew it existed. This is the kind of detail that the SL 63 brings.
Speaking of looking up, I’m glad the hardtop roof phase has left us. This softtop is so well-insulated, it’s quieter inside than most conventionally-roofed cars. The alcantara liner is beautiful, and makes the SL just as nice a place to be with the top up.
But when you do want it off, it’s easy to complete the task. Just press a button, and the top motors and latches all on its own, even if your moving at low speeds. Cold? The Merc has seat warmers that can roast a chicken (or your butt), along with an air scarf system that really does keep you toasty. No excuses to not enjoy a topless experience.
Sit inside and notice the leather is butter soft – it made my garage smell like a Macy’s Furniture gallery. There’s a large iPad-like screen in the center that adjusts its angle so the sun never washes it out, but it takes the place of almost every button. Adjusting the temperature two degrees should not require a multi-step process.
Like most modern Mercedes, it looks amazing at night, with all that ambient light on display. Be careful moving the air vents – they look straight out of a General Electric turbofan engine. Stunning.
As a final exclamation point – the digital dash. You’ve heard they make me grumpy. Well, if they all looked like this I’d be in love. The Sport display looked absolutely amazing (and logically laid out). Finally, the designers used some imagination beyond simply mimicking conventional dials.
Body by Toto
F1 used to draw little interest in the US, but that’s changed over the past few years, so I’m surprised the SL doesn’t have at least a subtle nod to all those titles. If BMW’s motorsport division had the success that AMG does, you can bet there would be a million special M3 versions. “Valtteri Bottas Moustache Edition”
I mention it because the SL 63 looks like it was styled in Mercedes’ F1 wind tunnel. Those hips. The way the body shrinks around the wheels. The SL has always been subtle and subdued, but with this generation, Mercedes saw fit to give the G designer guys some crayons and have at it.
It looks great top up or down, and the paint looks like a million bucks. If I’m picky, the car will lock automatically and hide the door handles, making it annoying for those of us who sometimes forget things in the garage.
Take it all in, and the SL 63 is Star Trek come to life, and you get to drive it to Dunkin’ Donuts.
The Mercedes AMG SL 63 Roadster is a technically perfect car, but not a great one
I’m back to square one. Hopefully I’ve impressed upon you just how amazing many aspects of this Mercedes is. Perhaps that’s enough – a guided tour of cars, here’s the specs, off you go.
Admittedly, I will tell you this car is worth the lofty $208,035 price tag. Purchase one, and drive off the lot with a smile knowing you have perhaps the pinnacle of current automotive technology, comfort and style. Mercedes cheats you out of nothing. It was a joy and privilege to drive this car for a week.
But I can’t just be “wowed” by these machines, so I scrutinize and swish the wine around the glass, an automotive sommelier. And here it is.
The SL never asks you to go faster. Never entices you to get the tail out. Its control inputs are precise and to the point. You get out after a drive and think “does this car even need me?” If the SL never asks you to put it in sport mode, why even include it?
Once we reach this price point, we unlock achievements like the Lamborghini Huracán, which will provide a much more sport-focused drive. Or, for the ultimate in grand touring, try a DB12 from the Aston garage. I’m not calling them better cars, simply more focused on their sole missions.
But if you have just one garage space available, consider this Mercedes. Sometimes, a jack of all trades is all you really need.
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