Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG: Three little letters make all the difference

The last Merc SL I drove was neither sporty, nor light (guess what SL stands for, kids). The AMG version, though, well, that's pretty sporty.

The combination of A, M, and G on the back of a Mercedes means that something special lurks beneath its skin. Something that's designed to go very quickly, make lots of noise, and be lots and lots of fun.

A car tuned by the chaps in Affalterbach means an easy drama is coming your way. I say an easy drama because cars tuned by AMG are designed to provide speed that'll knock your driving slippers off, but you'll still be comfortable.

The SL 63 AMG is, as expected, punishingly fast. In its standard trim it'll pop out around 530bhp, and with the optional AMG Performance Pack you get over 550bhp. That's quite a bit of power. Zero to 62 mph happens in just over 4 seconds and its top speed is 186 mph with that power pack. Without it you're capped at a statelier 155 mph. How pedestrian...

You'd expect a car with all kinds of big power to have suspension that'll hurt your spine. The SL 63 AMG doesn't have harsh springs, though. If anything it's comfortable, like getting a hug from an aunt. Well, an aunt that can travel at 186 mph.

AMG's cars are designed to take their occupants very great distances without causing them any great strain. As such, the car we had was loaded with plenty of journey-easing toys: seat heaters, seat coolers, seat massagers (four settings, no less), air scarves...everything. There was also plenty of safety tech -- prebreaking, blind-spot warnings, lane departure warnings...you name it, there's a safety system for it.

Nestled in the centre console, there's also a little dial, separate from the Comand knob (the thing that controls ALL of the infotainment. It's a bit good), that switches the car's electronic noggin from "comfort" to "sport," "sport+," or "manual." Comfort in the damp is twitchy, sport turns everything up to fun, sport+ more so, and manual lets you choose your own destiny. I liked sport, especially considering how little provocation the SL needed to get all slithery. There was one more button there -- the AMG button, which allows the car to use its full potential. It's a nice thing to have, but best left for the hands of the pros, methinks.

Speaking of slithery, there were three traction control modes -- on, "handling," and off. I kept it on. I like the safety net, personally.

Everything about the car feels light, despite the fact it's knocking on 1,990kgs. Its steering is light and direct, and makes the car skip merrily down your chosen road, while turning it in to a bend with precision. Twin that with its massive power and you're in for some fun.

Adding more "go" to the SL transforms it from something pretty "off" for the asking price into something that can take on pretty much all comers and win. AMG cars can stay, I think...

 

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