The car gods dwelling atop Mt. Autolympus decreed that the Mercedes mortals in Stuttgart should restyle their SL luxury roadster for 2017, and that was accomplished with excellent result.
Indeed, given the extensive cosmetic surgery north of the windshield, this revised Mercedes-Benz retractable hardtop is markedly more handsome than its predecessor. It is also more techy than ever.
The electronic magic includes a suspension control system that combats body roll during ambitious cornering by making the car lean into the turn like a motorcyclist. And there are the windshield wipers that spray heated washer fluid through the wiper blades so the driver’s vision is not even momentarily diminished.
This sort of techiosity is delivered in an environment resplendent with superb materials and flawless fits.
And all this high tech and luxury isn’t the province of some cushy boulevardier. These are performance-minded machines that mix sporty handling with acceleration times that range from fast to gantry candidacy, depending on how much you want to spend. Even the starter SL, the SL450, which opens at a paltry $87,000, will get you from a standing start to 60 in less than five seconds. If you have a tad more walking-around money, say, $219,850, you can get the king of this particular Mercedes mountain: the AMG SL65. The latter gets from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, which is the automotive equivalent of the speed of light squared.
The SL I tested was the “lesser” AMG model, the AMG SL63. Unlike the 621 horsepower engendered by the SL65’s 6-liter, twin-turbo V-12, the test car’s twin-turbo, 5.5-liter V-8 could only muster 577. But, in part because it’s a bit lighter, at 4,068 pounds, than the SL65, it’s only .3 of a second slower 0 to 60.
That means the $151,350 test car is virtually as fast as the SL65 for nearly $70,000 less. So, I think I’d take the SL63 at a mere buck-fifty. After all, I’m not an ostentatious guy.
AMG, by the way, is what Mercedes calls its “performance division.” Like the old Ford Special Vehicles Team (SVT), AMG is essentially a corporate tuner shop that tweaks the suspensions, steering, and engines of the company’s mainstream vehicles.
While the lesser SL models are regular production cars, as opposed to the AMG versions with special parts and hand-built engines, the entire SL line is rather exclusive business. Only about 4,000 2017 SLs will be sold here. Of those a mere 280 will be AMG SL63s, and a minuscule 40 will be AMG SL65s. Sounds like they’ll become quite collectible, doesn’t it?
After you get done marveling at this car’s aesthetic perfection, It’s time to get behind the wheel. Let’s turn the knob that controls the suspension and shift points from “comfort” to “sport.” Ahh, let’s let it all hang out and put it on “race.” Now, let’s bring the SL63 to a halt and then get on it.
Zero to 60 in four seconds flat translates into what I call “scary fast,” which is wonderful. It is all that limited-slip differential and those mile-wide, 20-inch rear tires can do to keep this boy in a straight line when the seven-speed automatic makes its first shift.
This car isn’t just stoplight Armageddon. It also handles beautifully, taking the corners like a true sports car. Braking in the tester was achieved by a carbon ceramic brake system with golden calipers, an option priced at $8,950. Carbon ceramic brakes will not fade, no matter how hard and long you brake. (A Mercedes engineer once told me it takes a week to make a set.)
Speaking of options, how about that lovely carbon fiber exterior trim priced at $3,570?
2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL63 Roadster
Base price: $151,350.
As tested: $181,845.
Standard equipment: 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, seven-speed automatic gearbox, rear-drive, and features ranging from heated and ventilated power front seats with massage to a parking pilot and a retractable hardtop with sunroof.
Options: Stuff like electronic safety devices ($2,250), carbon fiber engine cover ($1,500), and a Bang & Olufsen sound system ($5,400).
Fuel economy: 16 city and 25 highway.
Engine performance: Terrific.
Styling: Much improved.
Ride comfort: Surprisingly decent.
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper.
Four Bens: Excellent.