When you start talking about high performance cars from Mercedes-Benz, models like the GT S and even the S-Class Coupe get most of the attention. Even though the 300SL is widely considered one of the greatest cars ever made, for some reason, the last few generations of the SL haven’t garnered as much attention. Even in AMG form, the brutally-fast roadster is mostly overlooked.
The day I had the opportunity to test out the 2015 SL63 AMG, though, I didn’t care at all that it’s not as cool or new as the Mercedes-AMG GT S. I finally had the opportunity to drive my first AMG car, and there was no way that wouldn’t be awesome. It also presented a much more interesting story than the more-talked-about models would have.
Most enthusiasts know all there is to know about the GT, and they already have their opinions formed about it. With the SL63, though, the lack of attention meant that there was clearly a need for some serious investigative journalism. Would it be nothing more than a very fast car for old men to drive to the country club? Would it drive like a primitive hot rod wrapped in a little bit of leather? Would it crash over every bump and crack in the road? Someone had to discover the answers to these questions, and if it had to be me, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Looking at the SL63 AMG in person, it’s an attractive roadster, especially with its top down. The current generation is also significantly more attractive than the previous generation, even after the facelift. Most of the rest of the current lineup is even better looking, though, leaving the SL unfortunately overlooked. Viewed in a lineup, most people’s attention is going to gravitate towards the S-Class Coupe or the GT, but the SL is still good looking in its own right.
If you’re going to spend more than $150,000 on a car, it better have a lot more to offer than being “good looking in its own right,” though. Thankfully, the interior of the SL63 AMG delivers. While I normally care a lot about these sorts of things, I didn’t have time to play with the infotainment system, so I can’t comment on how well COMAND works. Honestly, I didn’t even turn the radio on. I had an AMG convertible to drive, and the sound of its exhaust was all I wanted to hear.
Even if you’re exclusively focused on driving, you still have to sit in a car to do so, and I have to say, the seats are some of the best I’ve ever experienced. Granted, your standards for the seats on a car that stickers north of $170,000 with options should be extremely high, but even by higher-than-normal standards, the seats were very good. If you’re exceptionally small or significantly larger than average, you may not find them as comfortable as I did, but if you’re at least somewhat normally proportioned, you’ll be very, very happy sitting in those seats for hours.
The rest of the cabin didn’t disappoint either. Other than a few square inches of surface area, the entire interior was covered in leather, carbon fiber, or alcantara. The interior on a new S-Class probably edges it out as far as how well-appointed it is, but the SL still holds its own. The driver’s seat was an incredibly nice place to sit, and I would have gladly spent many more hours there if that had been allowed.
None of that really mattered once I turned the car on. At that point, all I cared about was the engine. The amazing 6.2-liter V8 may be gone, but trust me when I tell you that the 5.5-liter, twin-turbo V8 that replaces it is still absolutely spectacular. With 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, Mercedes claims there’s enough power to launch the SL63 AMG to 60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds.
I’m not one to instrument test cars, but I can absolutely tell you that the SL63 AMG was extremely fast. It was the kind of fast that even impressed a car writer who’s jaded from riding motorcycles. On the highway, all I had to do was put my foot down, and it would still jump forward like a lion pouncing on a zebra. In my head, I knew I shouldn’t have so flagrantly disregarded the speed limit, but feeling it accelerate made it too much fun to rein myself in.
Part of what made it so fun was that even with two turbos strapped to the engine, it still sounded maniacal and evil – exactly like an AMG engine is supposed to sound. You can appreciate listening to it in videos, but I don’t think you can fully understand it until you’re actually behind the wheel with the top down, listening to it in person.
What surprised me the most, though, wasn’t the sound or the power. Instead, it was how refined and sophisticated the ride was. The car felt lighter than I expected and surprisingly athletic. I don’t know if I would necessarily want to tackle the Tail of the Dragon with it, but it’s clearly been built to take a corner.
The suspension was also much less harsh than I had expected. Were I driving it around in the city, I’d probably have left it in comfort mode, but even at highway speeds, putting the suspension in sport mode didn’t lead to any crashing, punishing, or torturing. It felt taut and composed, but it was never harsh.
When you put all those pieces together, what you get is a truly spectacular vehicle. It may be the best-sounding car I’ve ever driven, it’s stupidly fast, and yet it’s also comfortable enough to drive for hours on end. Yes, it’s expensive, and no, it’s not the best-looking car in Mercedes-Benz’s current lineup, but it’s also one of those cars that taps directly into your emotions and makes you feel alive.
I don’t doubt that the Mercedes-AMG GT S is an amazing car, and I would still love to drive an SLS AMG, but believe me when I tell you that the Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG is worth not forgetting.