Driven | 2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63

When I was growing up I recall being amazed with the Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG as it was groundbreaking in the looks and performance departments but fast forward to now and thanks to this mind-warpingly beautiful SL63, it has turned into an obsession.

The main purpose of the 2017 version of the SL63 (the midcycle refresh) was to get the iconic looks back and if you ask me, they have hit the nail on the head in this department. From the front it is menacing yet elegant thanks to some reshaped headlights, and an entirely new grille. The rear end remains mostly untouched but if you know your stuff**, you will notice the AMG chrome tailpipes extend slightly more on the new version and the rear looks a little more streamline. The profile has not change much but this did not need to as top on or top off it is one of the most stunning machines on the road today and you struggle to take your eyes off it when walking away from it. They also updated the roof mechanism in the boot so the luggage cover moves automatically which is rather neat and the roof can be opened and closed up to speeds of 40 km/h which helps when the robot turns green and you are stuck trying to get the roof open or closed.

The interior remains much the same but it does feel special and more importantly extremely comfortable. The model I had on test had the Apple CarPlay system in it and if you are an iPhone user, this is a very nice to have feature. I like a ‘gearknob’ in cars when choosing gears and although most Merc’s have the silly gear selector on the steering column, the SL63 has it’s in the traditional placement and this is a thumbs up for me.

As with AMG models, it has multiple driving modes; Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and Individual. Comfort really is comfortable if you don’t feel like making a noise or using too much fuel, then this is the mode for you. This was the first new AMG I have driven where I was happy to drive it slowly because it was so comfortable. The C63 S Coupe and A45 AMG were harsh on the road so there is no point in driving it in comfort at any point in time. This is a grand tourer supercar hybrid and with the driving mode selector you can decide what type of car you want at the drop of a hat. The 0 to 100 km/h quoted time is 4.1 seconds but it felt a lot quicker than that so I scoured for some other sprint times in South Africa (and more importantly in JHB) and it has been recorded doing 3.9 seconds at Gerotek.

Pop the car into Sport+ (the best mode) and the exhaust note changes, all the power from the BiTurbo V8 is available, the suspension stiffens, the throttle response improves and the car comes to life in a way that is hard to explain. Under the hood sits a 5.5-litre V8 pumping out 577 horses and a earth-turning 900 Nm of torque. Connecting this power plant to the rear wheels is AMG’s 7-Speed Speedshift gearbox and when you decide to put the power down, your body is pushed into the seat in an almost suffocating but excellent manner.

Acceleration off the line is not mind-boggling as 900 Nm of torque will break traction no matter what surface you are on but once you are rolling, 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to 4th is the most astonishing feeling I have felt in any car. You do not expect a car that looks like this to go like a bat out of hell. The turbo lag is noticeable but once they are spinning this car feels like it will take off. Pushing the car hard is why I fell in love with it. Calm, quiet and sensible the one second and an organ rearranging rocket-ship the next. The exhaust could be louder in Sport+ but we need to remember that this is more of a gentleman’s cruiser than a boy racer like the AMG models mentioned above.

Back to the comfort aspect and if you are not careful, you will get yourself into a lot of trouble with the law because when you look down you are doing a lot more than what is legal even though the insane Magic Body Control system makes you feel like you are not. Even the little wind-deflector that you can engage dramatically decreases the wind coming over the windscreen (makes it feel like you are going slower than you are) when the top is off and when it is showing off it’s drop-top glory, the sound behind your head will reward you every single time you push the loud pedal.

A lot of people have asked me how I rank this compared to the other Merc’s I have driven and to be completely blunt, this is it. I would take this SL63 over the C63 S Coupe and even over the AMG GT. Something about this car hits me where it counts and this is the sort of car that needs a place in my future garage. The Mercedes-AMG team has done an astonishing job on the styling of this car and the overall package is something to behold. Yes you will need to part ways with R2.5 million but if you are shopping for something in this league, there are not too many competitors that will get in your way.

** A quick way to know if it is a facelift model or not is to look at the rear badges. 2017 model has AMG badge on the left and older version has it on the right.

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