by: Mike Ginsca
Although this looks like a completely new SL-Class, it is in fact a mid-generation facelift and refresh. But unlike other auto manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz decided to update nearly every aspect of the car expect for the chassis. That remains unchanged since its introduction in 2001.
Performance – This SL63 AMG replaces the outgoing SL55 AMG. The 55 was powered by a 5.4L supercharged V8 but in an attempt to improve fuel economy, lower emissions, and improve power, the new 63 AMG is powered by a 6.2L naturally aspirated V8. This new engine, developed and built exclusively by Mercedes’ in-house tuning company AMG, produces 25 more horsepower for a total of 518 and 460 lb-ft of torque, a drop of 70 lb-ft over the older engine. Despite the loss in torque, the SL63 reaches 100km/h 0.3 seconds faster and can finish a quarter mile in half a second faster over the SL55. Better yet, the fuel economy has been improved by almost 12%. It doesn’t sound like much but when you have a big V8 that can manage 12.4L/100km on highway, every little drop of fuel helps. The new engine has plenty of grunt at almost any rpm and best of all, the power doesn’t overwhelm the tires so wheel spin is kept to a minimum allowing for a lot of off the line traction. Also the snarling noise coming from the quad exhaust sounds very menacing and intimidating. It almost sounds like a lion growling when an intruder steps into its territory.
The transmission has also been replaced with a new 7-speed gearbox. The gearbox itself is actually an automatic transmission with planetary gears and clutches for gear selection but instead of a torque converter, it has a “wet start-up clutch”. This new MCT gearbox shifts as quickly and as smoothly as Porsche’s PDK dual clutch transmission however on a cold start up and in “Comfort” mode, the transmission does have a tendency to be “lazy” and unresponsive to driver input. Thankfully once the car does warm up a little bit, the transmission provides smooth power delivery and is responsive to driver inputs, especially in “Sport+” mode.
In a straight line, the SL63 chassis can easily cope with the engine’s power. Despite Mercedes’ stereotype for being a European muscle car, the SL can also go around a corner with dignity. Yes, traction control and stability control will interfere if you’re in 2nd gear and planting your foot on the gas pedal but if you’re gentle in feeding the power and minimizing steering input, the big convertible will feel like a sophisticated sports car around corners. I’m not going to say that it is on par with a Porsche 911 in terms of handling but a good driver can set a good lap time around a twisty and technical track.
Comfort – From a car costing in the 6 figure range (brand new), you’d expect the interior to be loaded with the latest gadgets and the rarest materials. Thankfully Mercedes-Benz did not overlook the interior as it is one of the most comfortable 500+hp car that I’ve had the opportunity to drive. When the suspension doesn’t have to cope with the power of the V8, it allows the SL to become a Grand Tourer that can absorb most of the bumps and potholes on the roads without the driver needing to avoid them. The plush leather seats further aid in driver and passenger comfort along with Mercedes’ trademark massage and Airscarf features.
Gadgets in the SL are the standard that you’d expect; Satellite Navigation, Harman-Kardon radio, 5.1 surround sound, a 4GB hard drive to store your music, and a push button engine start that to some makes them feel like they’re in a race car.
Odds and Ends – The revised styling makes the SL63 look more like the beast which powers this car. The noise and performance of the engine now matches the flared wheel arches, the large 19” AMG wheels, the quad exhaust tail pipes, and the more menacing looking fascia. This car isn’t quite the same head turner as the modified CLK 500 but gear heads will know about the savage power that is under the hood of this car when they see it passing them on a highway.
Thank you to Autoform performance Inc. for providing the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.