Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster review
“The new Mercedes SL gets the AMG treatment to add sportiness to its luxury”
- V8 sound
- Luxury interior
- Small rear seats and boot
- Six-figure price expected
Mercedes has been ramping up its EQ electric car programme in recent years, so it’s rather surprising that the all-new Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster has been launched. It’s Mercedes’ biggest and most expensive roadster, and features an opulent interior that has many of the same parts as the Mercedes S-Class and Mercedes EQS flagships.
It’s likely that this Mercedes SL Roadster will be the last petrol SL, and perhaps the last one full stop. So it’s going out with a bang, with development overseen by Mercedes’ in-house tuning division, AMG. That gives it far more bite and sportiness than its predecessor, but it still needs to be a superb long-distance cruiser as that’s always been the SL’s forte.
With the Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet not replaced, this new Mercedes-AMG SL is the brand’s most luxurious and expensive roadster. Prices are expected to start from around £140,000 for the fast SL 63, but you might have spotted that the new car comes with a fabric soft-top rather than the old metal folding roof. The new roof is slightly lighter, takes 15 seconds to lower and still insulates you from unwanted outside noise.
There’s no escaping the engine noise of the Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4MATIC+ range-topper we tested. Its sonorous 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is one of the many highlights, not only with its soundtrack but also its performance. This is a luxury car that can sprint from 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds – more than fast enough to pin you back in your seat.
But high-powered SLs have long offered jaw-dropping straight-line acceleration. Previous models have been designed with comfort in mind over sportiness, but AMG’s input in this new version means it’s astonishing in the corners, too. Despite the car weighing around two tonnes, its steering is pin-sharp, while a few degrees of rear-wheel steering help the car feel physically smaller. Standard-fit four-wheel drive vastly increases traction every time you press the accelerator.
The SL has a suitably luxurious interior courtesy of the Mercedes S-Class limousine. A digital dashboard is standard, as is a near-12-inch infotainment screen that can be angled to avoid glare from the sun when you have the roof down. There’s a lot of space in the front seats, although the rear seats and the boot are undoubtedly compact.
MPG, running costs & CO2
A new Mercedes SL feels a little like a dinosaur, with its thirsty V8 petrol engine at odds with the push to electrification. Mercedes is pushing ahead with its electric model range, with models from EQA to EQV on sale, but the SL is going to be such a small seller that its high fuel consumption and emissions won’t do much damage to Mercedes’ overall emissions.
Buyers will be prepared for its high running costs, given its starting price. When you’re not exploring the full extent of the car’s performance, up to 23.9mpg is possible. CO2 emissions of 268g/km aren’t too bad for a car this powerful, but it’s a high output nonetheless and ensures that the SL occupies the top band for company-car tax.
Engines, drive & performance
The seventh-generation Mercedes SL drives as sharply as it looks, thanks to AMG being responsible for its development. It uses a new aluminium platform that’ll also underpin the next Mercedes-AMG GT, and a familiar 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 engine. In this guise, it produces 577bhp, which helps the fastest Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4MATIC+ get from 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds. The top speed is 195mph, and a nine-speed automatic gearbox is fitted.
Considering the size and weight of the SL, it’s impressive that it’s so agile. Twisty roads and long, fast corners are now much more involving, even if the SL can occasionally feel a little twitchy on the motorway. Active roll stabilisation keeps the body level through turns, and four-wheel steering aids agility. When the wheels briefly lose traction, the stability system quickly steps in to keep you pointing the right way.
The SL 63’s V8 engine is thunderous higher up the rev range, but dial it back to the more comfortable driving modes and refinement is still top-notch.
Another V8-powered version called the SL 55 and a hybrid E-Performance model are both due later on. Even the SL 55 is slated to hit 0-62mph in under four seconds and a 183mph top speed.
Interior & comfort
The last-generation Mercedes SL had a very outdated interior by the time it went off sale, but the new one feels significantly more modern. A crisp 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster takes the place of analogue dials, showing all the driving information you could wish for, while a lot of the car’s functions are controlled by a stylish 11.9-inch portrait touchscreen.
There’s the very latest connectivity technology fitted, including live traffic updates and Car-to-X compatibility that can ‘talk’ to other so-equipped cars to share warnings about hazards. The sat-nav allows you to input a what3words address, and the Hey Mercedes voice assistant means you may never have to take your hands off the wheel. As it’s an AMG model, the SL also gets a Track Pack within the infotainment system.
Lowering the hood takes 15 seconds and can be done at up to 37mph. Despite the change from a metal roof to a fabric one, the cabin is still well insulated from road noise. There are a number of driving modes to pick from, with sporty and relaxed settings available depending on your mood.
Practicality & boot space
Changes inside mean the SL is now very spacious for front-seat occupants. The driver and front passenger also get Mercedes’ trademark Airscarf neck heaters. Rear-seat space has suffered, though. The SL is officially a ‘2+2’ convertible, suggesting that the back seats are only meant for occasional use or for children. Most of the time, they may be used as extra luggage space.
That’s because the boot isn’t enormous, at 213 litres. It’ll be fine for a set of weekend bags, but it’s quite deep so there’s a considerable load lip to haul things over. A ‘Load Compartment pack’ increases boot space to 240 litres. At least the fabric roof takes up less space than the old metal roof.
Reliability & safety
Reliability is hard to work out for the SL, because we don’t have any data from owners. But as it shares parts with the S-Class flagship, a lot of development work will have taken place to try and ensure the cars are reliable.
The new Mercedes-AMG SL may never be tested by Euro NCAP, but its thorough list of driver assistance features is a good sign. Among the standard features are blind-spot monitoring, speed limit and lane-keeping assistance and a driver attention detection system.