Beginning with the fabulous 300SL Gullwing in 1954, the Mercedes Benz SL Class has been one of the most honored in automotive history. It has also been one of the most successful, having sold more than 634,000 SL cars over the years. For 2009, the folding-hardtop SL63 AMG roadster remains a limited-production high-performance machine.
The SL line has undergone a refreshing for the 2009 model year. A new single-bar grill is flanked by L-shaped headlamps. Overall, cars have a chiseled, edgy look to the front end. Side-fender “air gills” behind the front wheels have been added as both a nod to the Gullwing past and as functional engine-compartment hot-air extractors. Other external changes, like larger side mirrors and trapezoidal exhaust tips, are minor. Interiors are customizable, with a wide variety of leather and wood trim combinations. AMG versions have undergone minor external refreshing, including a lower, more aggressive front air intake, grille and headlight revisions, special side skirts, and a new rear fascia.
This high-performance SL is equipped with a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 that spins out 518 hp and 465 lb-ft torque through a seven-speed AMG-modified automatic transmission. AMG rates the 0-60 jump at 4.3 seconds. AMG engineers modified a seven-speed Mercedes transmission by replacing the torque converter with a wet clutch. Five rotary-dialed shifting modes are available: comfort, sport, sport plus, manual (using either the shift lever or steering-wheel paddles), and launch control. In sport plus mode, shifts are faster than sport mode and more revs are added to the downshifts. The transmission is the closest thing Mercedes has to an automatic manual transmission – Audi and BMW use twin-clutch, twin-shaft gearboxes, which are heavier.
The SL63 AMG's handling is worthy of its impeccable sports car heritage. It feature Mercedes' remarkable Active Body Control System (ABC) that employs airsprings, driver controlled dampers, and solid construction. AMG massaged the SL63 by adding racing-level technology to the suspension bits, allowing an even higher level of handling performance.
SL63 AMG interiors are not forgotten, being as opulent as would be expected in this price range. Occupants are treated to yards of soft leather, burnished wood finishes, and tasteful chrome trim. Seats are so comfortable one reviewer claims he could sleep in them, which could be dangerous! The cockpit includes plenty of creature comforts, including the Airscarf feature borrowed from the SLK line – fans located in the headrests blow warm air down passengers' necks to extend the top-down driving season. Reviewers report that the roadster is quiet enough at 100 mph with the top down for normal conversation levels - putting it down takes only 16 seconds, as the two-piece hardtop folds away in the 10.2-cubic-foot trunk, reducing it to 7.2 cubic feet.
Brakes are powerful and fade resistant. Steering is managed by a new variable-ratio system that activates more the more the wheel is turned. Reviewers reported that although the steering’s communication with the road is far from the Porsche experience, it is well suited for an ultra-luxury touring roadster.
Mercedes claims that the solid-roof roadster is “the world’s safest convertible.” Objectively, the SL class has received top “good” ratings in all IIHS tests and a four star frontal rating for the driver and five stars for all the other NHTSA tests. Safety features include ABS antilock brakes, a sophisticated electronic stability system, a full complement of airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag, popup roll bars, and active head restraints.
The SL63 AMG has been and continues to be one of the most prestigious and gratifying luxury performance sports cars.