Since 1954, Mercedes’ SL has been synonymous with prestige, panache, comfort and effortless performance.  However driver involvement hasn’t always made it onto its CV – especially over the last few generations – which have seen larger dimensions being met with burgeoning body mass indexes.

This new sixth-generation addresses that trend by being the first SL to tap into the DNA of its distant forebear, by coming closer to the concept of the original “Sport Light designation”. It’s been on a serious diet and now weighs in at 1845 kilograms, some 125 kilograms lighter than the previous SL.

The massive weight shedding has been achieved by use of a lightweight all-aluminium bodyshell similar to that of the flagship SLS AMG supercar. Along with lightness, Mercedes claim it also enhances rigidity, safety and comfort. Visually the new car doesn’t look massively different to 2008 facelifted versions of the previous shape. Remaining are classic styling cues nodding firmly back to the 1960s original, although the large grille featuring a prominent 3-pointed star is now more upright and has grown in depth. Gone too are the twin ‘power domes’ on the bonnet.

In true Mercedes-Benz fashion, the SL’s interior oozes class: from the overall design and shape of the instrument cluster and tactile quality of switchgear, to the sumptuous implementation of leather, Alcantara and carbon fibre [wood is also available].

The central focal pieces of the dash are the four air vents styled like jet engines, the E-SELECT lever and the AMG DRIVE UNIT. Worthy of note are the AMG sports seats which have a multicontour and heating function, while AMG illuminated door sill panels, ambient lighting and an IWC-design analogue clock make this top-of-the-line model stand out from ‘lesser’ SLs. The Driver Information instrument cluster provides a wealth of information via a TFT colour monitor, including the particularly useful feature of flagging up the speed limit of the road you’re travelling on.

An interesting option on the panoramic vario-roof is the bizarrely named Magic Sky Control, which switches between dark or light transparency at the flick of a button – so you can have blue sky above you whatever the weather.

Although SL is strictly a two-seater, the space provided for two occupants is very generous indeed: more large saloon than sporty roadster. Along with an abundance of leg, head and elbow room, there are also plenty of cubby holes to stow an assortment of paraphernalia. Mercedes’ decision to house the audio system’s mid-bass speaker units in the footwells to improve fidelity, has resulted in extra-long door pockets. Additionally, there’s a lockable box located behind the passenger seat to hold valuables – useful for when the roof is lowered. In true GT fashion, the SL is equally accommodating with regards to luggage: there’s 504 litres of space in the boot to comfortably swallow a couple of travel cases and in the unlikely event that’s not enough, additional room for soft bags can be found behind the seats.

Stepping into the SL63 after less powerful cars is something of an eye-opener. One prod of the throttle and the 5.5 litre twin-turbo V8 blasts into action, emitting a thunderous baritone soundtrack, reminiscent of a NASCAR racer. You’re catapulted forward at a frankly staggering rate of knots.

Not that this car is just about raw power. The new SL63 gets a sophisticated chassis set-up that has been tuned for improved driving dynamics, with more negative camber than less powerful SL models. The AMG sports suspension utilises Mercedes’Active Body Control system, but sees numerous enhancements. During the design, development and testing phases, the focus was firmly on driving dynamics and performance. The car’s handling characteristics can be altered to suit driving conditions. The selectable modes consist of ‘Comfort’, ‘Sport’, Sport +’ and full-on ‘AMG’ mode. In all modes it feels well planted, but once you come out of the comfort setting, a sharper more engaging drive is apparent.

Regardless of which setting you’re in, the steering does feel more grand tourer than pure sports car – in that it lacks that last ounce of feel – but the performance of the SL63 does very easily make you forget that SL always has been more of the former than latter. Thankfully comfort remains firmly in the GT realm with the Mercedes offering a compliant and comfortable ride, devoid of any noticeable harshness.

On the road at moderate to fast speeds the Mercedes never feels uncomposed – even with 585 PS. You are reminded, however, on a regular basis just how much power and torque is being reined in by electronic wizardry: accelerating hard even at motorway speeds causes the traction control light to flicker, accompanied by a rise and fall of the tachometer – and exhaust note – as the engine’s copious power is regulated in accordance with available amounts of grip and traction and only fully deployed when suitable amounts of it are judged to be available. Those more accomplished at the helm can of course [conditions permitting] choose to switch off the traction control to exploit the SL63’s full ferocity, unbridled.


With prices starting from £110,000, the SL63 AMG’s rivals come in the form of Aston’s Virage Volante, Bentley V8 Continental GTC and Ferrari California. Even at these exalted prices there have to be compromises, yet each marque offers up something unique. The Mercedes is no different. What it lacks in ultimate purity of experience, it more than compensates for with blending enormous brand prestige, quality, comfort, practicality and awe-inspiring performance into one hugely appealing and user-friendly package.

Tech spec:

Mercedes SL63 AMG
OTR PRICE: £114,100
Max Power: 585PS at 5500rpm
Max Torque: 900 Nm at 2250rpm
Max Speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
Acceleration: 0-62 mph 4.1 seconds
MPG (combined): 28 mpg
CO2 emissions: (g/km) 234