A few days ago, I jumped on a train in London to head down to Weybridge, Surrey to Mercedes Benz World about a half hour southeast of town. When I got there, I found a facility far bigger than I expected, along with a lineup of Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined up ranging from Smart’s electric cabrio car to the Lego-like Mercedes G 350 SUV, and from the Smart ebike to the monstrous Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster. It’s all part of a media event many manufacturers hold regularly to get press familiar with their cars, and this is my first time at one with Mercedes.
The SL-Class is the Benz that’s always interested me the most, so it wasn’t a stretch to pick the Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG Roadster to take for a spin. After all, with the “V8 Biturbo” badge on the side, who could resist?
Note: This “Quick Drive” series is when we get to drive a car, but don’t have it for long enough to provide an in-depth review. Any opinions or observations with the car are based on a limited time driving (usually anywhere from a half hour to a few hours) and normally only in one situation (either in-city or country, or on a track, etc.)
Sometimes on these events, we team up with a driving partner, and at lunch I met up with a young editor named James Taylor (no not that one,) from a local car reviews website, parkers.co.uk so we teamed up and took a matte gray (£1,255 paint option) SL 63 AMG Roadster out after filling up on sandwiches and pudding. He was the first to drive.
In the passenger seat, I was a bit short of legroom, but mainly because we put our gear in the passenger footwell since there wasn’t much room to put it in the boot when the hard top was folded down and we couldn’t be bothered to fold it up just to put our stuff back there.
When we took off and started turning around some corners, I was pleasantly surprised by a feature I hadn’t experienced before – active bolsters. The seats otherwise held you in place pretty well, but when going through turns, the passenger seat’s bolsters move in accordance with the g-forces created by the car’s going around corners. When turning a hard right, the left bolster folded in toward me to hold me in place. Necessary? Probably not, but a cool feature to make sitting in the passive seat more tolerable, and a nice conversation piece at the pub.
While tinkering around with some buttons inside, we also came across the “air scarf” (£575 option) – a feature that surpasses heated and cooled seats and blows cool or warm air across the back of your neck from the seats. Especially useful in a convertible, and although it didn’t work at the start (and nobody could figure out why,) it suddenly decided to start working mid-drive. Along with the electronic wind deflector (a £525 option, otherwise it’s a manual fabric standard deflector) we were able to drive with the top down on a nippy day and stay warm.
When I eventually got in the driver’s seat, I was a bit surprised at how tame the car was considering its dual-turbo 5.5-liter AMG V8 producing 530 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. It didn’t let you forget it though; at low- to mid-throttle, the car’s AMG exhaust emits a healthy, low pitched purr to let you know it can spring into action if you so desire. But it’s not too rough; lay down into the throttle and the healthy purr gradually turns into a growl, but it’s not an explosive action.
This car isn’t about embedding your spinal cord into the upholstery – it’s a comfortable drive that can get sporty when you want it to. Even in Sport or Sport+ mode, which we stayed in most of the time, the ride is smooth and comfortable. Acceleration and suspension change noticeably when switching modes, but it doesn’t change the character of the car, at least while traveling at normal speed on normal roads.
I think with AMG mode selected (which we didn’t activate this time since we didn’t want to tempt ourselves with so much traffic around) and on a track, this comfy GT car could turn into something more aggressive and lively.
I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the styling of the newest generation SL-Series. It looks like the front-end is trying to jump out of the car. The AMG package on this SL 63 is welcome though, and I like the matte gray paint. With the AMG styling, you get AMG-specific front apron with the cross strut and side vents painted in silver chrome, the rear apron and side sill panels in the vehicle color, but our car had the £2,510 carbon fiber exterior package fitted, which adds (real) carbon fiber to front apron cross strut, exterior mirrors, and adds the slick CF boot lip spoiler you see in the photo above.
Inside, you get all the stuff you’d expect from Mercedes like auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing, heated-adaptive wipers (they call it “Magic Vision,”) three-color ambient lighting, memory seats/steering wheel/mirrors, and an internet-connected multimedia system with nav, while selecting the AMG package adds a branded clock, floor mats, sport seats, a sport steering wheel, instrument cluster, plus a load of performance features like 27 more hp, bigger brakes, more dynamic suspension and steering, 19-inch AMG wheels, and a special AMG 7-speed automatic transmission.
The on-the-road price for the Mercedes SL 63 AMG Roadster is a whopping £110,760 in the UK, and our car, with all its options, adds up to a surprisingly high £147,200 (that’s about $225,290 USD, but it’s not fair to compare currencies in a different market.) Yes, that’s too much money for this car, but it does have its market, and I see them on the road regularly.
Mercedes cars are unique in that they provide features that no other competitor has, are always on the edge of technology (even if nobody understands it,) and has so many variations in model, trim, and packages, there’s always a car for any niche. This one is for the middle-aged gentleman that wants a comfortable GT convertible that has power, but not so much to get him into trouble or surpass his reaction time, and adds the AMG package to have some fun when he really wants to. But not too often.
Check out below for some more photos of the SL 63 AMG Roadster we drove.
photos: Chris Burdick