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By Ghaith Madadha - Dec 31,2012 - Last updated at Dec 31,2012
An intercontinental ballistic missile among luxury sports roadsters, the new Mercedes SL-Class flagship is accomplished and formidable, with emphasis firmly on luxury and sheer brute force.
The second AMG SL63, the new car is technologically ahead of and more powerful than its predecessor, with Mercedes AMG’s new 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8.
A luxury muscle car with practicality and cache, the new SL63 features a more chiseled design, more power, improved efficiency and a lighter and stiffer aluminum chassis.
However, one can’t but think that the Mercedes AMG SL63 or the SLS Roadster are more or less vying for the same market share.
While the SLS Roadster may be slightly sportier and uses a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 engine and rag top rather than twin turbo and retractable hard top, both cars are luxurious and sporty two-seat grand tourers with similar size, weight and power.
At the heart of the Mercedes AMG SL63 is its epic twin-turbo V8, pumping out 530bhp at 5500rpm and 590lb/ft torque at 2000-4500rpm in standard state of tune.
However, the monstrous and enhanced Performance Pack version tested at the AMG SL63’s swanky St. Tropez launch doles out an even more compelling 556bhp at 5500rpm and a veritable tsunami of torque, peaking at 664lb/ft throughout a 2250-3750rpm mid-range.
With such prodigious torque throughout its mid-range sweet spot and savage power, the SL63’s on-the-move acceleration isn’t simply flexible but positively volcanic.
Prodding the throttle hard will elicit a bubbling and bellowing bass-heavy growl and enough g-force to firmly pin one into the seat back.
With such overwhelmingly brutal output, the AMG SL63 would be easily capable of attaining its electronically governed 250km/h if one were to try, while its blistering 4.2-second 0-100km/h acceleration time is only governed by how much traction could be reasonably generated by its already fat 285/30R19 rear tyres.
With a 38hp and whopping 199lb/ft advantage over its 6.2-liter naturally aspirated predecessor, as well as fuel consumption and emissions savings, the new Performance Pack equipped AMG SL63 however has a narrower sweet spot where its ferocious power and avalanche of torque are available.
Whereas the old engine was more progressive from tick-over to its high rev limit, the newer more brutal engine bursts to its potential once its turbos have spooled, and rushes swiftly through its rev range and into its lower rev limiter at an intense rate.
Driving with its 7-speed automatic wet clutch gearbox’s manual mode requires one to pull the steering-mounted up-shift paddle earlier than one would anticipate if driving for maximum power, as during the precious few milliseconds it takes to process the order, revs often and inadvertently run into and bounce off the rev limiter.
On test drive through winding French Riviera roads one found it both easier and quicker to switch the AMG SL63’s gearbox to Sport+, where gear changes were intuitive to both the requirements of a sporty drive and engine characteristics.
Suspension and settings
The SL63’s suspension and anti-roll bar settings are tuned for a sharp, eager and grippy turn-in with almost no under-steer, as well taut, poised and flat body control throughout a corner.
Complementing its firm chassis settings and snappy turn-in, the SL63’s long wheelbase to length ratio, wide track and wide low profile tyres can generate high levels of lateral grip when cornering hard at high speed, but the trick is to ensure the engine is at the appropriate rpm and to make smooth and calculated throttle inputs through corners.
Despite its grip level, the SL63’s sporty suspension setup and its brutal onslaught of torque can all too easily unstuck its rear tires, particularly if the turbos surge or one is too pushy with the throttle in mid-corner.
Driven well through winding roads, with downshifts completed and engine speed in the mid-range before corners, and smooth steering and throttle inputs, the SL63 can cover ground at an astonishing rate.
With dampers set to their firm setting the SL63 becomes more rigid and controlled through corners, but unless the tarmac is smooth and road wide, comfort setting works best for taking the edge off imperfections and for allowing more suspension leeway through corners, which tends to stave off unnecessary interventions from the overly cautious electronic stability controls.
Set in their normal setting the stability controls are perhaps too sensitive to anticipate grip loss, but on a looser setting intervene swiftly after a fraction of grip loss.
Stiff and swift
A stunningly swift and well sorted large luxury sports convertible, the SL63 features quick, light and precise steering, but this is no lightweight purist’s sports car and its steering could do with more resistance and feedback through corners.
With a lightweight chassis saving 125kg over its predecessor, the SL63 is lightened but not exactly lightweight, and one needs to appreciate its hefty 1845kg weight, huge thrust and width through tight mountain roads.
However, the SL63’s enhanced rigidity is definitely noticed over imperfect and snaking roads, where it seems composed and resistant to body flex despite the absence of a fixed roof.
Using large ventilated and perforated composite brakes the SL63 has excellent stopping power, while at high speed straights its stability is typically Mercedes in being planted and reassuring.
With a long bonnet, rearwards cabin and chiselled detailing, the Mercedes AMG SL63 is elegant yet imposing and at the same time is discrete but has a sense of presence.
With large swept back headlights, a slim, snouty and wide grille with a large tri-star emblem flanked by twin slats, the SL63 reminds one of the now classic 1980s R107-series SL-Class.
Safety and luxury
Built with a rigid passenger cell and impact energy absorbent deformable front and rear extremities, the SL63 also features a host of sensor and electronic based safety features, starting with adaptive braking that applies light brake pressure if one suddenly comes off the throttle or in wet weather to dry the discs.
The SL63 also features Mercedes’ PRE-SAFE system which activates precautionary safety measure in anticipation of a collision, while sensors can detect a collision with a pedestrian and automatically raise the bonnet for a softer impact.
The SL63 also comes with rollover protection and an attention assist function as standard, while optional safety features also include radar-based proximity and brake assist systems. Boot space is also generous with the roof up and down.
A well-equipped luxury roadster Mercedes SL63 comes with a wide range of electronic creature comforts and infotainment systems, and include a 6-CD changer and remote control boot and roof systems, while optional extras include things like climatised seats and neck level heating for cold weather top-down driving.
With a low driving position and good space inside, one feels ensconced in the SL63, while a rear wind deflector can be deployed to reduce wind buffeting.
Appointed with extensive use of leathers, soft textures and carbon-fibre trim, the SL63 has a sporty and elegant feel, while ergonomics and seat and steering adjustability are other points in its favour.
Supportive sports seats are complemented by an upright dashboard with four evocative round eye-ball vents, clear instrumentation and a chunky contoured flat-bottom steering wheel.
Engine: 5.5-liter, twin turbo, V8-cylinders
Bore x stroke: 98 x 90.5mm
Valve-train: 32-valve, DOHC, direct injection, variable timing
Gearbox: 7-speed wet clutch automatic, rear-wheel-drive
Ratios: 1st 4.38:1 2nd 2.86:1 3rd 1.92:1 4th 1.37:1 5th 1:1 6th 0.82:1 7th 0.73:1
Reverse / final drive ratio: 3.42: / 2.65:1
Maximum speed: 250km/h (governed)
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 556 (564)  @5500rpm
Specific power: 103.2bhp/litre
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 664 (900) @ 2250-3750rpm
Specific torque: 164.8Nm/liter
Fuel consumption, combined: 9.9-liters/100km
Carbon dioxide emissions, combined: 231g/km
Fuel capacity: 75-liters
Track, F/R: 1621 / 1604mm
Kerb weight: 1845kg
Steering: Electric assistance, rack and pinion
Turning circle: 11.1-meters
Suspension: Independent, multi-link, active dampers
Brakes, F/R: Ventilated & perforated, composite discs / discs
Tyres, F/R: 255/35R19 / 285/30R19
The smallest offering from Mercedes’ in-house tuning company AMG for the moment, the SLK55 is however one of the most interesting in a line-up that includes a high performance version of almost every model line currently produced by Mercedes.
Introduced one year after its coupe sister, in 2011 in entry level guise and joined by the featured and upgraded GT version in 2013, the Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS63 Roadster nears the end of the road as production is set to cease this year, to give way for an anticipated smaller sports car. While the new model is expected to be a more powerful and modern turbocharged rival for the Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 911, the outgoing SLS is flamboyant grand touring supercar with a gloriously potent large displacement naturally aspirated V8, at its most glamorously nostalgic in its rag-top Roadster version.
A stealthy beast that doesn’t attract unwanted attention in traffic as it looks little different from an elegant yet conservatively sensible stock E-Class, the Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 has always been a raging bull and brute under its grey business suit exterior.
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