Mercedes-Benz SL-Class SL 63 AMG

April 2008

picture of car from the front

New styling gives the SL 63 AMG a more aggressive look

Ratings

Overall Rating 9Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 4Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 9Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 9Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


Likes

  • Looks stunning - exterior changes have helped to lift the SL's image
  • Drives as good as it looks
  • New colour touch screen infotainment system intuitive to use
  • Air scarf feature keeps occupants warm no matter the weather

Gripes

  • More equipment and performance has meant a price increase
  • Race start function is, realistically, a superfluous feature
  • Won't win any eco-driving awards
  • Running costs are very high

Despite a fiercely competitive market, the SL continues to be one of the most desirable cars in the premium sports cars sector, with the AMG variants topping the range. The company has replaced the SL 55 AMG with the SL 63 AMG, which features AMG sports suspension, Speedshift multi-clutch transmission and a V8 engine.

The SL 63 AMG comes with a raft of sports packages that make it one of the most powerful and capable sports cars on the road. It certainly looks the business too, and the styling revisions give it a meaner, clean-cut and purposeful stance. It has the technology to match, too.

Replacing a traditional torque converter in its seven-speed auto gearbox with a dual-clutch arrangement, the SL 63 comes with a new AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed auto 'box. The advantages include a more manual gearbox-like behaviour. Owners also get to choose from four drive modes which are selected via a rotary switch located next to the gear lever.

Comfort mode provides smooth shifting whereas in Sport mode the engine and transmission interact with more aggression; upshifts take place at higher engine speeds, downshifts are more spontaneous and shift times around 20 per cent faster. The real fun starts with S+ mode, which makes shift times 20 per cent quicker again while M (manual) mode provides even more bite, with gear shifts occurring in half the time of those in C mode.

Designed for driving enthusiasts, the SL's new transmission is also capable of multiple downshifts, so kickdown will enable the drive to move straight from seventh to fourth, for example. However the icing on the cake for many will be the Race Start function. Once activated, the system allows the car to maximize acceleration from rest; automatically ensuring optimum traction and providing lightning-fast gear shifts.

Our verdict on the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class SL 63 AMG

As the successor to the SL 55 AMG, the SL 63 AMG is a cracker of a car both in terms of its looks and driving characteristics. The new engine and gearbox have given it a real sporty trait, although as an SL, it hasn't lost any of its cruising capabilities. Smooth and refined, the powerful two-seater comes with a fiendish streak, which gives owners the choice to travel in style and comfort then dial in for some serious fun behind the wheel.

Costs
Costs rating 4

Apart from the considerable initial outlay, the SL 63 AMG is not a cheap car to run. Admittedly its fuel consumption figures aren't that bad, particularly when driven conservatively, but its emission figures will make for even more costly trips when driving into London's Congestion charging zone or any future emissions-linked road toll zone. Insurance costs will also be high, as will servicing and tyre costs - especially if you drive the car hard.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 9

Buy a car like this and you'll soon discover what it means to travel light. That said, there is enough space in the boot for some decent sized squashy bags while the cabin offers a surprising number of cubbyholes of useable sizes. Nets in the footwell, the storage in the centre console and a generous sized glovebox add to the car's levels of practicality.

picture of car from the rear

There are plenty of AMG badges inside and out

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

There's an AMG ergonomic sports steering wheel, plus an easy to read AMG instrument clusters. Most of the controls are tipped with aluminium which adds to the sporty feel of the cabin, and they are laid out in a logical and easily accessible manner. The dash swoops down towards the driver in the centre, where most of the controls are located, and they are intuitive to navigate. All of the displays are clear and uncomplicated to read while the switchgear displays a quality feel.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 9

Despite its sporting character the SL 63 AMG is an accomplished cruiser, able to provide a smooth, relaxing and comfortable ride if and when desired by the driver. The well specced interior, with the body hugging AMG sports seats, ensure occupants are snug. The Airscarf system, a heater located just behind the occupant's neck, ensures that passengers stay warm when motoring with the roof down. The fully adjustable steering wheel also guarantees a comfortable driving position.

Car security
Security Rating 8

In terms of security, there's the usual alarm system with immobiliser and interior protection and central locking. The storage boxes are located behind the seats, in the doors and under the passenger seat. Some are lockable and invaluable for keeping the cabin clutter-free with your possessions out of sight. The convertible hard-top roof offers an advantage over fabric roofs.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

In addition to ABS, there's an AMG-specific three-stage ESP system, Active Body Control, a high-performance braking system, adaptive brake lights and a new Intelligent Lighting System, with lighting functions for different types of road and directional headlights. Should the worst happen, there are automatically deployed pop-up roll bars and four airbags - driver, passenger and head/neck sidebags.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 9

The SL 63 AMG is one of the best driving experiences money can buy. Everything about the car appeals to the senses; it looks good, the V8 engine sounds great and its handling and driving characteristics are impressive. It's lost the rawness of its predecessor, offering a more refined ride.

picture of car interior

The interior exudes quality

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 4

The SL 63 AMG holds little family appeal, unless it's acquired as the family's second car and has been bought with the intention of treating the parents to some fun on the weekends. It may double as a one-passenger family taxi, but the boot space will limit what it can transport. The same applies to shopping trips, so it's best role is as a self-indulgent purchase for motoring pleasure.

First car appeal
First car Rating 1

There are few that hold less first car appeal than an SL AMG. Not only is the price tag considerable, but insurance will be equally eye-watering. Inexperienced drivers shouldn't really choose something so powerful, and they are also likely to find the SL's modest rearward visibility an issue.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 9

The Mercedes SL is a car with a long and distinguished history and the sales figures prove it. Along with the SL 65 AMG, both AMG variants are considered to be the trophy cars of the range. It's flashy and pricey but says much about the brand, exuding quality and class, and the car has become an icon for the rich and famous. Quality comes at a price, though.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Its low ride height might pose a slight difficulty for some, particularly since the door sills are raised and require stepping over to enter the cabin. However, the doors open wide and once settled into the cabin the driver and passenger benefit from the multi-way electrically adjustable AMG sports seats. The memory function is worth programming for added convenience.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A Harmon Kardon Logic7 surround sound system takes care of the music, and includes an MP3-compatible CD or DVD player as well as Bluetooth phone interface. A top of the range Europe-wide sat-nav system is displayed on a high-resolution colour display. A voice-operated control system for audio, navigation and telephone is also included, as is a music library function to store audio files plus an SD memory card slot.

picture of car in detail

The S+ driving mode promises plenty of fun

Colours and trim

The interior is filled with soft leather with aluminium and carbon fibre trim, giving the cabin a quality and modern feel. There's a good range of colours to choose from. It's hard to find a colour that the SL 63 AMG doesn't look good in; white works best, while red, both standard and metallic, is the least flattering.

Parking

The speed sensitive steering provides plenty of assistance at low speeds so parking is easy when manoeuvring. The low ride height and restricted rear visibility don't help but it is the long shape of the car, and the inability to see where the bonnet and boot start and end, that can make for some tricky and testing times. This is one car you don't want to damage.

Spare wheel

Steel space saver fitted as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 3.5-litre (315bhp); 5.5-litre (388bhp); 5.5-litre (517bhp); 6.3-litre (525bhp); 6.0-litre (612bhp). Transmission options: 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic, AMG MCT seven-speed automatic, five-speed automatic. Trim levels: standard and AMG.

 

Alternative cars

BMW M6 Convertible Lively performance but boasts challenging looks

Jaguar XKR Convertible Looks good but isn't as hard core as its rivals on the road

Lexus SC430 Fast drive but no sportscar

Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet Stunning performance but not as glamorous as the SL



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April 2008