The Mercedes lineup is crowded with fast convertibles. There’s the S63 and S65 AMG, the AMG GT Roadster, upcoming variants of the C63 AMG and likely a million other models. You might be wondering where that leaves the venerable SL roadster and its amped up Mercedes-AMG SL63 variant, but it leaves it right where it needs to be—right in the middle, where it’s fucking great.
(Full Disclosure: Mercedes wanted me to drive the AMG SL63 so badly that I asked for one, and they gave me one with a full tank of gas.)
It used to be that Back In My Day if you wanted a fast Mercedes convertible you were pretty much stuck with the SL, which actually ended up being beneficial to us weirdos who like strange things. You ended up getting cars like the SL60 AMG, SL70 AMG, and SL73 AMG, and those were all pretty rare and great. If you wanted a fast convertible, it had to be an SL, but Mercedes was willing to accommodate the particulars.
But over the past decade or so Mercedes has figured out that people actually like having the wind flow through their hair at alarming rates of speed, so now in addition to the SL63, you have the SL65, the S63, the S65, the C63, the SLC43, and the aforementioned AMG GT C. That’s fully seven flavors of sledgehammer-in-your-face convertibles, and while I’m not complaining, that sure seems like a lot.
Because in that group you have faster convertibles, bigger convertibles, smaller convertibles, louder convertibles, quieter convertibles, even another hardtop convertible.
Which all prompts the question: why does this one exist?
Because it’s got 577 horsepower, 664 pound-feet of torque, and it’s really really ridiculously good, that’s why.
Designing a convertible shouldn’t be hard, and yet it’s so incredibly easy to screw up. Big long hood, short little area for the trunk, and then the roof comes off. A lot of convertibles get it right, and also the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is a thing that existed once.
The SL63 takes that formula and translates it into the current design language that makes every new Mercedes look the same, and yet it all works. Some cretin is going to claim that this is indistinguishable from everything else, but do I care?
I do not care.
It’s got enormous brakes behind the tendrils of those wheels, FACT:
It’s got a folding hardtop roof that stows nice and neatly into the trunk. That’s still magical 15 years after its debut, FACT:
It’s even got the world’s most obnoxious feature (though it’s not exclusive to Mercedes these days), a light that emanates from ones own side mirrors, shining the Mercedes logo on the ground, so that if it’s night time and someone can’t quite tell it’s a Mercedes, THEY NOW KNOW IT’S A MERCEDES, FACT:
That is so incredibly tacky that it actually comes full circle and becomes good again.
Oh, and the inside looks good, too, with a little vent right at neck-level to blow warm air onto you, which Mercedes calls AirScarf. Because feeling the effects of winter isn’t for Mercedes drivers.
But who the hell cares about the inside or the outside of the AMG, because it’s an AMG. The star of this car isn’t how it looks, or the funny little eyebrows in the headlights, or the notion that you can still store golf bags in the trunk even when the roof is down.
No, the main attraction here is that 5.5-liter bi-turbo hand-built V8 engine.
It’s so nice, in fact, a man came and wrote his name on it.
That engine doesn’t just come with pretty statistics and an autograph, either. The throttle pedal has a huge amount of travel to help manage the nearly 600 equines that live underneath the hood.
Bury it—and you do really bury it way down there—and the whole thing first rumbles like a distant explosion, and then it really is like an explosion right in front of your face. Everything starts to melt, everything starts to move way too fast, and before you realize it you’re much further from where you were initially sitting.
It will even cause quite a bit of smoke to pour from the tires, if you put it into dynamometer mode. Except your head is be-bosomed by the loveliest little leather pillow.
And then when you want to stop, those massive steel serving trays that pass for brakes these days haul you all the way back in such a smooth manner that you know a massive swarm of German engineers sat there for months, if not years, to get the perfect amount of precision in there.
But it wouldn’t be a proper SL if it wasn’t a sumptuous grand tourer as well, and this is where it really settles into the sweet-spot of the AMG lineup. Whereas an AMG GT is too stiff and uncomfortable and delicate for any roads north of Miami or Los Angeles, and an S63 cabriolet is too big and heavy for the littlest of twisty roads, the SL get pull off those tight little sweepers, pull right onto the highway, and it’s a comfortable cruiser all over again.
Yes, it is a bit harder than an old Rolls-Royce Corniche, but so is everything else nowadays. It’s fine and lovely.
It’ll actually even drive itself on the highway.
The reason you have to put it into dynamometer mode if you want to smoke the tires is because otherwise, the computer won’t let you. You can never really, fully turn off the electronic nannies. If you do try to do some delicious burnouts, you may even stall it. That’s consider a feat these days in cars with automatic transmissions.
But if you sit back for a second and accept that yes, this is a Mercedes, and goddammit, I’m paying $162,795 for the thing, well then it better come with the finest gizmos money can buy.
And by howdy does it have gizmos.
- That power retractable hard top
- A power wind blocker
- Dynamic multi-contouring seats – these things actually have air bladders inside the side bolstering that recognize when you’re turning, and then inflate on the proper side to stop you from falling over
- Massaging seats. Oh yeah, it doesn’t just prop you up, it also brings you way down
- Rear view camera
- Ambient lighting
- The washers are in the wiper blades
- Harman Kardon surround system
- A clock
- Active Body Control suspension
- A seven-speed automatic transmission which is really just fine, I guess, it shifts the gears
- A limited-slip differential
- The little partition-thingy that stops you from suffering the horrific misfortune of actually seeing the folded-up roof when it’s down is electronic
- Active headlamps
- It knows when you’re sleepy
- Good airbags
- Carbon fiber abounds
- The glass in the roof is electrochromatic, flipping between opaque and clear when you push a button which really is just the coolest thing ever forever and ever
- It will drive for you, on the highway. It’s better than Volvo’s semi-autonomous system, but still not close to Tesla’s
- That system is basically called the Driver Assistance Package. It includes:
- Distance Pilot
- Steering Pilot
- Active Brake Assist
- Active Lane Keeping Assist
- Active Blind Spot Assist
- Many Assists
- All the assists
- It’s basically a point guard
And those are literally some of the things it has.
It has everything.
It’s even got a funbox.
Seriously, a funbox! Open that box and the roof comes down. It’s great.
It’s hard to say that a car has everything, but this really is one of those rare cars that has everything. It’s got an enormous nuclear device for an engine, it’s got the joy of the sky, and it’s got messaging seats. It’s even got that enormous $162,795 price tag to match.
Of course, you could choose to go the cheap route, and get the base model. But the base Mercedes-AMG SL63, with no options at all, still costs $151,350.
And at this point, it becomes a dream car. The sort of car that every carmaker fantasizes about pulling off, and pulling off well, but so few actually do. The sort of car that you need millions of Germans to engineer for any of it to work properly.
But it does. And it’s great.