After a few years on the naturally-aspirated temperance wagon, the AMG-fettled SL V8 is back on the boost, with a downsized twin-turbo engine and all-new aluminium clothes.
Read on for CAR Magazine's first drive review of the new 2012 Merc SL63 AMG.
So the orginal SL55 was powered by a supercharged 5.5, and the outgoing SL63 by a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre motor. What’s under the bonnet this time?
It’s the 5.5-litre twin turbo V8 that’s been available in Merc’s hot saloons and coupes for the last year, although it retains the 63 badging. The unblown V8 was a fantastic engine, but 20mpg didn’t suit the Merc suits concerned with green matters, and some of Merc’s customers felt it lacked torque after the tyre-shredding 55. The new one should shut the whingers up.
Exactly how much power are we talking?
That depends whether or not you select the optional power pack. The standard car delivers 530bhp and 590lb ft, up from 518bhp and a kia Picanto-esque 464lb ft in the old 63, and hits 62mph in 4.3sec, 0.3sec faster than before. But thanks to an extra helping of boost pressure, the power pack car pumps out 556bhp and a transmission-terrifying 664lb ft. That knocks another tenth from the 0-62mph sprint, It also adds close to £10k to the price, which is why Merc estimates only 25% of buyers will say yes to tyre distress.
The SL55 was dominated by its engine and the 63 tried harder to be a proper sports car. Where does this one sit?
It’s your classic all-rounder: stonking straightline go, impeccable refinement when you’re mooching along, but absolutely pointy, grippy and balanced enough to indulge in some serious A and B-road law breaking. At 1845kg, it’s no lightweight, despite the 125kg daintier aluminium body, but it corners without roll thanks to its active body control system and the structure feels unbelievably stiff. Scuttle shake? Forget it.
The seven-speed auto ‘box (as before, mated uniquely to a wet clutch, rather than a torque converter) isn’t as sharp as a Ferrari California’s dual clutch transmission, but the only real disappointment is the electric steering, which is quick-witted and responds in a very linear fashion to inputs, but never quite keys you into the action in the way a Jag XK’s steering does. Which means the SL63 remains a rung down from the SLS when it comes to fun.
Any other tricks up its sleeve?
Well, everything that’s great about the new SL is great here. With the roof closed, it’s as tight and squeak-free as a coupe. Or you can drop the top, raise the windows and brilliant wind deflector and, after a few minutes, you’ll be wondering why you ordered that blue headlining. Cabin quality is noticably improved over the old car’s, if still lacking the bespoke feel of a Bentley, and you can still lift up the folded roof to get at your luggage, rather than having to erect the whole thing.
Sounds good, but having mulled it over, I’m not convinced that 556bhp and 664lb ft of torque is enough
Fortunately for the truly unhinged, the bi-turbo V12 makes another appearance under the SL65 banner, bringing 613bhp and 738lb ft and sub-4sec 0-62mph capability for around 50% more money than the £112,000 Merc wants for the SL63.
We’re not big fans of the latest SL’s styling, although it seems to fit better with the AMG’s butch persona, and the 63’s slightly surgical steering is a little disappointing, given that this is the most performance-focused version in the range. If we did half stars, that’d still only be enough to knock the SL63 down to 4.5, so good is the rest of the package. But as we don’t, we’ll call it 5. If you’re in the market for a big GT, whether hardtop or roadster, and have £100k to spend, this is the car to beat. And before you throw another £60k away on an SLS roadster, be sure to consider the SL.