Now in its seventh generation, the new Mercedes-Benz SL continues a tradition dating back to 1954 starting with the now infamous 300 SL with its iconic gullwing doors.
While the vertical opening doors (which predate Lamborghini’s scissor doors by more than two decades) have been put to rest for now following the SLS AMG and uber-exclusive One hypercar, the SL as a grand tourer (GT) has lived on and become synonymous with the ultimate in German luxury touring.
The premise of the SL class has also changed over its rich 70-plus-year history. There had been some debate about what the abbreviation of SL actually meant, but in 2017 Mercedes-Benz found documents in corporate archives that clarified the SL was not Sport Leicht (sport light) but in fact, Super Leicht (super light).
Even though, if taken literally, it probably doesn’t live up to the super light name in its latest 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 iteration, which weighs a hefty 1970kg, the new R232 SL launches with a new formula that sees the reintroduction of a soft roof (21kg saving) and the addition of two rear seats that will see it compete more fairly against the likes of the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and more traditional competitors like the BMW 8 Series Convertible and the gorgeous Lexus LC Convertible.
It’s also the very first SL that doesn’t offer a Mercedes-Benz model. All new SL models are badged as Mercedes-AMG variants, and although this makes a great deal of sense in regards to the customer base and performance requirements, we are a little sad to see the iconic SL 500 badge disappear in its entirety – the previous R231 offered an SL 500 version in North America.
In fact, the entire SL range for the Australian market is limited to just one model, the AMG SL 63. In other markets the SL 43 and SL 55 are also available, but given the limited demand for these cars locally and the desire for Mercedes-Benz Australia to keep things simple, only the very best will do for our market.
It’s hard to describe the look of the SL just based on the photos you see here; the super luxury convertible is a substantial car in person and looks the business. With the extinction of the SLC (nee SLK), the SL can no longer be confused by the uninitiated for what is anything but the very top of the Mercedes family tree.
Measuring 4705mm long, 1915mm wide, and 1353mm tall with a 2700mm wheelbase, it doesn’t matter if the roof is open or closed – which takes just 15 seconds at speeds of up to 60km/h, but it feels a lot quicker unless you literally sit there and time it, as we did – the SL is an imposing car.
Those keen on design will notice the familiar vertical struts on the grille backed up by the twin bulging lines on the bonnet that Mercedes-AMG refers to as power domes. It’s an aggressive-looking car without losing its traditionally SL look and feel.
We do love the use of flush door handles and the designer’s capacity to hold themselves back from going over the top on the rear. It still carries the traditional trapezoidal AMG twin exhaust tailpipes, but it doesn’t scream ‘race me’ to the guy in his hotted by AMG A45 at the lights.
The AMG SL 63 does indeed have a rear wing that helps further amplify its sporty look when on the go, which can sit in five unique spoiler positions for differing aerodynamic requirements, from creating downforce for better cornering at different speeds to remaining low and making the car as slippery through the air as possible.
The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ is priced from $374,900 before on-road costs, which is $1721 more than the previous-generation AMG SL 63 when it was last sold here in 2018.
In the automotive world, we talk a lot about brands like Lexus sharing parts with Toyota; Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini borrowing from Volkswagen; and Rolls-Royce using BMW parts.
Brands like Porsche (even being part of the VW Group) and Mercedes-Benz have never had that issue.
In fact, earlier buyers of the Tesla Model S would be thrilled to know that most of the stalks and indicator switchgear are borrowed from Mercedes back with the German brand owned a substantial shareholding in Tesla. Even the most prestigious of manufacturers like Aston Martin and Pagani use AMG engines and parts.
However, where it does run into some potential customer resentment is when you notice the similarities between, say, the new C-Class and SL in the cabin – one of the reasons Mercedes-Benz has signalled it will look to discard some of the entry models in its family of vehicles, so that a $400,000 AMG SL doesn’t share too many things with an A-Class.
It’s a great deal for those buying an entry-model Benz to know that it all but runs the same technology, software and systems architecture as a car that costs almost 10 times the price – but it doesn’t bode all that well for an SL buyer.
Taken in isolation, the Mercedes-AMG SL 63 has a truly fantastic interior that can be optioned with different coloured seats (Black, Red Pepper or Sienna Brown Nappa leather) with a massage function or sportier AMG seats; however, if you’re expecting it to look completely different from the latest Mercedes range, you’ll be a little disappointed.
The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is matched to a 11.9-inch vertically-orientated touchscreen infotainment system that controls everything from opening the roof to raising the vehicle’s nose.
There is a dedicated button dedicated to the roof operation that needs to be pressed then tapped and held a second time to open and close the roof, otherwise, you can actually use the screen to perform the same operations as well.
Using the screen – as we found out – makes the roof inoperable when reversing as the camera takes over the screen, so the physical button comes in handy. Either way, it’s a quick 15 seconds for the world to open up and the mechanism itself is as quiet and elegant as you can imagine.
Unlike the roof operation though, the front suspension lifter – which was sorely missed in the previous-generation SL, GT and SLS – is controlled solely via the screen. The good news is that you can program it so it is location-based, meaning that the first time you ask the car to lift the nose in that location, it will remember the GPS coordinates to do it again as you approach in subsequent visits.
So, if you frequent a bad garage or car park, you only have to tell the SL once, and it will know to lift the nose up in anticipation. We imagine this will lead to much happier marriages.
As expected, wireless Apple CarPlay is standard and works a treat, so while the standard MBUX is the best it has ever been, we found ourselves resorting to CarPlay at a moment’s notice for navigation and music playback.
The full-colour head-up display is also ever-present and helps keep your eyes on the road, and the SL carries the absolute latest in Mercedes’ active safety systems, which means it can basically drive itself if you just keep your hands on the wheel for legal purposes.
We found the autonomous system to work rather well on the highway, but it’s not something you would use if the road is a little twisty.
The standard front seats are supportive and have a decent massage function for both front occupants.
You can go for the optional AMG seats for $2495, but then you lose the massage function, and we feel that while the sportier seats may look better, the benefit of having a casual massage as you cruise along in your SL is worth the minor sacrifice.
The rear ‘seats’ are really not made for adults. Even Mercedes admits that – at best – they are ideal for people up to 150cm in height. Basically, young kids and at desperate times small adults can fit in for a quick drive. The good news is that the shape of the seats means you can easily use them for soft bags.
What the 2+2 option allows is the versatility that some get from a Porsche 911, whereby if you have extra passengers you can try your absolute best to make it work for just a quick trip. This option is important to many buyers and may swing a few in the SL’s favour.
The standard 11-speaker, 650-watt Burmester surround sound system may not be the crazy 31-speaker, 1750-watt system found in the S-Class limousine, but we found the audio system to be absolutely top-notch and blew us away with its clarity and bass, especially with the roof down on the highway.
While you’re enjoying the music, you will also be pleasantly surprised by the Airscarf system that blows hot air on your neck and head through the headrest. You won’t need this during the QLD summer, but on a night drive in winter with the roof open it will add that extra bit of magic.
The SL 63 4Matic+ has 240 litres of boot capacity, which shrinks to 213 litres when the electric soft top is retracted. It can indeed fit a set of golf clubs.
SL 63 interior choices:
- Black (Nappa leather)
- Sienna Brown / Black
- Red Pepper / Black
- Truffle Brown / Black (optional)
- Macchiato Beige / Titanium Grey (optional)
- Crystal White / Black (optional)
The SL 63 4Matic+ is powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with 430kW of power and 800Nm of torque.
This is mated to a nine-speed automatic with a wet multi-disc start-off clutch, with drive sent through a fully-variable 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system.
Merecedes-AMG claims the SL 63 4Matic+ can make the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.6 seconds, and flat out you’ll be doing 315km/h.
The SL 63 4Matic+ comes standard with the AMG Dynamics Plus Package that adds dynamic engine mounts, a ‘Race’ driving program including ‘Drift’ mode, and an electronically-locking rear differential.
The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ is claimed to consume 13.9 litres per 100km on the combined WLTP cycle, but realistically you will want to use a lot more fuel than that to enjoy the car for its intended purpose.
The new Mercedes-AMG SL 63 uses the same underpinnings and platform as the next Mercedes-AMG GT which is set to be unveiled imminently.
That means a few things. First of all the SL is wearing an AMG badge because it’s a real AMG, not because of some marketing ploy; and secondly, this is a genuine sports car albeit one that is tailored to those long highway drives (ideally on the autobahn at 300km/h).
There is no hiding the SL 63’s weight, for it is a heavy thing, but the super clever suspension and engineering keep the vehicle feeling as nimble and light as possible without breaking the rules of physics.
Mercedes was so confident in its new SL it sent us off on the old Pacific Highway up toward the Hunter Valley a few hours out of Sydney.
These super twisty, poorly surfaced roads would easily highly the weakness of any poorly tuned or setup car, but the SL rode over it with ease while also pushing hard in and out of corners with full composure. A little surprising for us, given the vehicle’s weight and size.
The ride is plush without being soft, but the real wow moment for us in the SL was just how ridiculously quiet the interior is at highway speeds.
You could genuinely fall asleep in there. This thing is made to do long-distance drives, and if you have the means and a reason to drive long distances and wish to do it in extreme class and style, this is definitely one of the best choices out there.
This is a very different vehicle to an S-Class and the previous-generation AMG GT – sitting somewhere nicely in the middle of comfort and sporty, but it’s certainly no slouch and with a 0-100km/h time of just 3.6 seconds, it feels blisteringly quick.
The all-wheel-drive system helps get the power down both from a standstill and mid-corner, helping dig your way out of any difficult moments you may find yourself in.
Perhaps the only legitimate complaint we have with the SL 63 is the engine noise. The super lovable 4.0-litre twin-turbo AMG V8 has been with us now since 2015, and while there are three variants (M176, M177 and M178) with slightly different specifications, the M177 unit used in the new SL is disappointingly quiet in this application.
Of course, the SL is made for a more sophisticated buyer who may not appreciate the growl, crackle and pop of a V8, but we hoped it would at least make some level of noise to soothe the heart.
Alas, that is not the case, and it hurts even more because we know it can be tremendously loud, given it has been in all sorts of cars from the old fire-breathing AMG C63 to the all-new Aston Martin DB12 – but in the SL, it has been told to keep it down.
Overall, you won’t find yourself in a new SL 63 asking for more performance bandwidth. It’s as fast as you would ever expect a GT to be and gives the driver a reassuring sense of confidence to tackle the next bend just that little bit faster, or turn the music up and relax. Whatever works.
SL 63 4Matic+ highlights:
- 21-inch forged alloy wheels
- Yellow AMG brake callipers
- AMG Active Ride Control suspension
- Digital Light headlights
- Active hydraulic anti-roll stabilisation
- MBUX 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- MBUX 11.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- DAB+ digital radio
- Satellite navigation
- Voice assistant
- Head-up display
- Wireless phone charger
- 11-speaker Burmester sound system
- Dual-zone climate control
- Airscarf neck-warming
- Wind deflector
- Ambient interior lighting with 64 colours
- AMG Performance steering wheel
- Massage seats (front)
- Exclusive Nappa leather upholstery
- 8-way electric front seats with memory
- Heated and cooled front seats
- AMG aluminium trim
- Black Dinamica microfibre roofliner
- AMG floor mats
- Illuminated door sills
AMG Night Package: $6,900
- 21-inch 10-twin-spoke forged wheels (matte black)
- Darkened headlights, tail lights
- Aerodynamics Package
- Black badging (side, rear)
- Radiator fins in black
- MANUFAKTUR trim in black chrome
AMG Carbon Fibre Package: $11,990
- AMG Exterior Carbon Package
- 21-inch 10-twin-spoke forged wheels (matte black)
- AMG Carbon-fibre exterior mirrors
- AMG Carbon-fibre interior trim
- AMG performance steering wheel in carbon fibre, DINAMICA
- Sun Yellow
- High-Tech Silver
- Hyper Blue
- Obsidian Black
- Spectral Bloue
- Alpine Grey
- Selenite Grey
- Opalite White Bright: $2190
- Opalite White Magno: $10,190
- Patagonia Red Bright: $2190
- Spectral Blue Magno: $10,190
- Monza Grey Magno: $10,190
While the SL is yet to be tested by any safety authority, we can assume based on all models that Mercedes-Benz has released in the last few decades, that a top-notch safety rating would be the order of the day if it was to be tested.
Nonetheless, standard safety equipment includes:
- 8 airbags
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian detection
- Junction assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Exit warning assist
- Lane change assist
- Lane keep assist
- Active steering assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Driver attention assist
- Surround-view cameras
- Parking assist
- Anti-theft alarm
- Interior monitoring system
- Tyre pressure monitoring
The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ will be covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty like the rest of the Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicle range.
Servicing costs and maintenance schedule for the AMG SL are yet to be confirmed by Mercedes-Benz Australia.
Apart from wanting a louder exhaust note and more buttons to fully control core functions instead of relying on a super-high resolution and responsive touchscreen screen, there is really not much to complain about the SL 63, apart from the price.
The $400,000 asking price will likely balloon out to about the mid-$400,000s if you start to tick a few options and get picky with the colour and wheels; and while the SL buyer of old would have done this and moved on without much hesitation, there is now more choice in this segment than ever before.
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet can be had for similar money, and while it lacks the grandness of an SL and is certainly not as suited for long-distance drives as the mighty Mercedes, it’s more agile and more willing to have fun when asked.
BMW also makes the M8 which is all but forgotten but deserves a look at this price point. Go a little left of centre and you could also find yourself in Aston Martin DB12 territory, which comes as a Volante (convertible) and is powered by the exact same engine.
At the other end of the spectrum, Lexus has the LC 500 Convertible, which is the best car coming from Japan today. It’s loud, beautiful, and full of soul and character while packing a stand-out interior that rivals the SL at about half the price… but it’s a Lexus, and at this end of the market the badge means a lot.
The good news is you can’t possibly go wrong if you choose an SL as your next GT, just make sure you put plenty of kilometres on the odometer and make the most of what is, without doubt, one of the best GTs on the planet today.
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