Convertibles are indulgences first and foremost. Sure, some automakers market hardcore, ultra-sporty droptops, but in terms of outright performance, they’re almost always inferior to their hardtop counterparts. And that makes the new Mercedes-AMG SL a breath of fresh air.
Taking the place of the AMG GT Roadster, the revived SL-Class adds a two-plus-two layout and a softer, more pleasant overall character. It’s a thoroughbred grand tourer but in SL63 guise, it’s still an absolute rocket ship, capable of keeping pace with most sub-$200,000 convertibles and roadsters on the market with a 3.5-second sprint to 60.
– Exterior Color: Manufaktur Monza Grey Magno
– Interior Color: Black
– Wheel Size: 21 Inches
To the untrained eye, the SL-Class is barely distinguishable from the svelte shape of the AMG GT Roadster. There’s a long hood and a pert rear decklid, with relatively short overhangs at either end. Slim, angular headlights and taillights wrap around the SL’s curves. And our tester’s matte gray paint, red fabric roof, and optional AMG Night package give the SL’s exterior all the menace it needs.
As expected, the cabin is gorgeous. Black leather and carbon-fiber trim (the latter a hefty $2,850 option) contrasts with aluminum brightwork, while the 11.3-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen serves as the cabin’s crown jewel. An AMG steering wheel is, aside from the trim and leather colors, the lone aesthetic option of note. And frankly, the cabin is so damn pretty it doesn’t require fiddling with an options sheet.
– Seating Capacity: 4
– Seating Configuration: 2 / 2
– Cargo Capacity: 7.5 Cubic Feet
A luxury convertible is nothing without a good roof. And in the SL’s case, the fabric top operates quickly and, when up, does a fantastic job of keeping the outside out. There’s no cowl shake or whistling of wind, even at high speed. Steering isolation is quite good, and in general, the AMG SL63 has an excellent handle on noise, vibration, and harshness.
Mercedes markets the SL as a four-seater, but those two rear chairs are only suitable for short folks. The front seats are fantastic, though, sitting low in the cabin and offering oodles of support and adjustability, along with an optional massage function. Heating and ventilation are standard, as is Mercedes’ fantastic AirScarf system. So engaged, there’s not really a season or condition where the SL won’t work.
– Center Display: 11.9-inch Touchscreen
– Instrument Cluster Display: 12.3 inches
– Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto: Yes/Yes
The main displays wear clean graphics that render bright colors, while the MBUX operating system found here is identical to the new S-Class and C-Class sedans. Response times are excellent and the layout is as simple as can be. The steering wheel, as we’ve experienced with other new Mercedes products, has inferior and inaccurate touch controls, though. It’s the one weak point in what’s otherwise an excellent tech suite.
– Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-liter V8
– Output: 577 Horsepower / 590 Pound-Feet
– Transmission: Nine-Speed Automatic
The SL might be a grand tourer, but in terms of the powertrain, it’s pure sports car. The V8 provides monstrous thrust once those big turbochargers spool up, and the standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive system provides unflappable grip. The sprint to 60 takes a claimed 3.5 seconds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a conservative claim.
The firmer ride, along with the SL63’s standard four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars, provide handling that borders on the unnatural. Turn-in is immediate and cornering effortlessly flat. And of course, stopping power is immense, even with the standard six-piston calipers and 15.3-inch discs up front – don’t feel like you need to drop $9,000 on the flashy carbon-ceramic stoppers.
– Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
– NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
– IIHS Rating: Not Rated
The SL63 is the king of the convertible heap at Mercedes, but it still packages active safety gear as an optional extra. The setup is affordable, though, at $1,950, and it includes everything in the Mercedes driver-assistance arsenal. The systems work beautifully on the road, too, with nary a hint of instability or unpredictability.
– City: 14 MPG
– Highway: 21 MPG
– Combined: 16 MPG
– Base Price: $137,400 + $1,050 Destination
– Trim Base Price: $179,150
– As-Tested Price: $205,135
Prices for the 2022 SL-Class line start at $138,450 in SL55 guise, while the SL63 sees a big jump to $179,150. There’s much more hardware in the pricier model (active anti-roll bars and four-wheel steering are standard here and optional on the SL55), and it’s much more powerful too. Is it $40,000 more car, though?
And in terms of competition, it’s not all sunshine and buttercups. The BMW M8 Competition Convertible has a roomier cabin (including more usable rear seats) and starts at $144,695, although it’s quite long in the tooth. The SL63 fares better against entries from Porsche and Bentley, though. It handily undercuts the V8-powered, $217,000 Continental GT Convertible, and even comes in well under the $198,150 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet. And loaded down with options as my tester was, the $205,135 price tag is still competitive with those products.