by Gabe Beita Kiser
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 luxury roadster remains a compelling choice for those who want sublime comfort as well as barnstorming performance. Fitted with a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8, the SL 63 produces 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque, which it sends to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. A more comfortable alternative to the Jaguar F-Type, the AMG is designed to be a convertible from the get-go. However, this does mean that it isn't quite as sharp on the limit as some rivals. With numerous standard features, the starting price of $154,450 is eye-watering at first, but it seems like good value the more time one spends in the cockpit. However, it seems the writing is on the wall for the SL family as a whole, and with Mercedes-AMG's own GT Roadster giving buyers an almost identical, but far more contemporary offering, one has to wonder if the SL is even necessary anymore?
With a major refresh to the range in 2017, nothing has changed for the 2019 year model besides the fact that the SL 63's overbearing big brother, the SL65, has been dropped. The SL 63 is therefore now the most powerful and best-equipped Mercedes-Benz SL you can buy.
The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 is endowed with the type of body that brings to mind flowing water, with smooth lines only interrupted by the typical AMG flairs like bonnet vents, a fake side-grille, and quad-tipped exhausts. LED lighting is standard all around, while 19-inch wheels in staggered widths are wrapped in sticky Michelin rubber. 19/20-inch staggered wheels are also available, as are carbon fiber or gloss black exterior accents. What hasn't changed in decades, however, is the cab-back stance and the long hood that seems to stretch on for eternity from the driver's seat.
A fairly large roadster, the SL 63 is 82.6 inches wide and measures 182.7 inches long. The cabriolet's wheelbase is 101.7 inches with its height measuring 51.2 inches. It tips the scales at 4,123 lbs, making it a relative heavyweight, largely thanks to the folding glass and metal roof mechanism. This isn't too bad when compared to the heaviest Jaguar F-Type drop-top that weighs less than 3,700lbs. However, the Jag has a noisier folding soft top.
A choice of 11 exterior paint options is available for the Mercedes-AMG SL 63, with designo Cardinal Red Metallic being the most striking of the lot, but also an expensive option. More demure colors fill the rest of the palette, but they suit the elegance of the large Merc well. Choices include Black, Polar White, Graphite Grey Metallic, Obsidian Black Metallic, Dolomite Brown Metallic, Iridium Silver Metallic, Brilliant Blue Metallic, and Selenite Grey Metallic. Designo Selenite Grey Magno is the only matte option and joins Cardinal Red and Diamond White Metallic on the designo list of colors.
Only one AMG variant of the SL body shape is now available. The SL 63 powerplant is a 5.5-liter V8 with two turbochargers. This motor produces 577 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. Unlike other modern AMG models, the SL is still a rear-wheel-drive-only product. Gear shifts are taken care of via a seven-speed automatic, which helps accelerate the cabrio from 0-60 mph in four seconds dead. The top speed of non-AMG models is limited to 155 mph, but here you get the full experience, only running into the electronic limiter at 186 mph. The Jaguar F-Type R, on the other hand, shares its top speed with the Merc but takes longer to get from 0-60 mph. The exception is the hardcore SVR model, which is faster all around, but is much more brash about its performance delivery. Thus, one could say that the SL 63 is perfectly positioned as a fast - but not overly athletic - GT cruiser.
One engine option and one gearbox are available for the SL 63 only: a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that sends power through a seven-speed slushbox to the rear wheels only. The handbuilt AMG engine produces an intoxicating 577 hp and 664 lb-ft, which is more than enough to blow your toupee back. The engine provides a smooth but strong surge of acceleration regardless of where in the rev range you are, and under hard driving, the automatic gearbox changes up quickly enough to ensure that those in slower vehicles have no chance of reeling you in. However, this is no track special. The shifts, although quick to engage, take a fraction to actually be chosen between your clicking of the steering-mounted paddle and the action of an upshift taking place. It sounds contradictory, but it is a Mercedes trait that plagues their less-focused sporty cars and makes it feel as if there is a buffer between the paddle and the solenoid that activates the gear changes. On downshifts, the gearbox is even less responsive, but we're comparing this to some of the more racy luxury vehicles out there. As a boulevard bruiser, the SL 63 does its job perfectly, providing phenomenal acceleration and focusing on a velvety smooth experience.
The large Merc hides its weight well, thanks in part to the adaptive suspension that the SL 63 is fitted with. In corners, the roadster turns in well and has phenomenal levels of mechanical grip. Thanks to a limited-slip diff, one can disengage the traction control for some controllable slides, but unlike the C63 S or other more aggressive AMG products that can sometimes feel like they're trying to kill you, the SL 63 remains composed in almost all conditions, even if it doesn't beg to be tossed about.
As a GT, comfort is of paramount importance, and the lithe cabriolet delivers. Only really massive bumps will unsettle the car mid-corner and even large expansion joints barely register. That said, non-AMG SL's (reviewed separately) will be even more supple and compliant. The SL 63's braking is good and easy to modulate, but there is the option of grabbier carbon-ceramics for truly eye-popping stops with the trade-off of slightly less smooth town stops. The steering setup feels great too, with just the right resistance and no dead spots. It's not perfect though - the more you turn, the more the wheel ought to weight up at low speed, but that doesn't happen here. Again, only those used to more aggressively tuned and speed-focused sports cars will notice this. Overall, the SL 63 is not offensive and will satisfy those looking for a comfortable but capable cruiser. Job well done, then.
The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 is not the most economical car out there, but compared to the Jaguar F-Type R convertible, it's perfectly matched. Both vehicles scored the exact same results of 15/23/18 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. However, the SL 63 has a bigger gas tank at 19.8 gallons, compared to the Jag's 18.5. This allows a reasonable expectation of 455.4 miles of range with mixed driving in the SL 63 and only 425.5 miles in the F-Type R. As is the case with any big, turbocharged V8, delve too heavily in the loud noises and capable chassis capabilities, and you'll be in for far worse mileage than that.
The range-topping SL 63 is lavishly furnished with beautiful leather trimmings and aluminum switchgear, plus an analog dash-top clock to make it feel extra special. As is typical of most Mercedes products, and particularly those fettled by the AMG division, the build quality and layout are out of the top drawer. However, the seven-inch COMAND infotainment system is a tad dated and a bit less intuitive than the systems found in some rivals or even newer Mercedes models, hinting at the age of this platform. The Merc makes up for this with its Airscarf heated neck vents, heated and ventilated massaging seats, and a panoramic glass sunroof for when you want light, but not the wind. The roof can even be opted as a tinting glass panel that tints over at the touch of a button.
The SL 63 is afflicted with the stereotype that it is built for middle-aged or retired couples, and with only two seats, it's not hard to see why. That said, it is still a relatively spacious place to sit, with 12-way power-adjustable seats that feature three memory modes, heating and cooling, and a massage function. Another great innovation that is fitted to all current Mercedes drop-tops is the Airscarf feature, which wafts a gentle breath of warm air on the back of your neck - perfect for keeping the top down when ambient temperatures are a little low. The driving position is good, and headroom, legroom, ingress, and egress are all near perfect, meaning that those of all sizes can enjoy driving the vehicle. However, looking out towards the rear quarter panels is a little tricky at times.
Do you want cloth upholstery in your SL? Too bad - only perforated Nappa leather will do here. With ambient lighting, your choice of wood, aluminum, gloss lacquer, or carbon fiber trim inserts, the ambiance is one of serenity and class. Leather colors include black, Ginger Beige with Espresso Brown, Bengal Red with black, Platinum White with black and Classic Red with black. Other colors combos with black accents include Porcelain, Sand, Light Brown, Deep White, Titanium Grey Pearl, and Tuscany Beige Pearl, many of which are only available as expensive designo leather color schemes.
The SL 63 is impressively practical, even with the large folding hardtop stowed in the boot. When the roof is down, a cargo separator keeps your stuff from being compressed to junk. In this configuration, 8.5 cubic feet of space is available, which will be enough for a golf bag. With the roof up, this expands to a commendable 13.5 cubes - more than most sports cars offer and enough to fit a bunch of new outfits from your shopping trip to the designer quarter of New York City.
Inside the cabin, a pair of cupholders, individual center armrests with internal storage bins, a pair of reasonably sized door pockets, and a traditional glovebox, as well as a tray in the center console, all allow you to manage the contents of your pockets without any clutter.
As one would expect from a $150,00 dollar luxury car from Germany, the SL 63 is packed with features, most of which are standard. Among the available niceties are a dashtop analog clock made by the International Watch Company, active LED headlights with high-beam assist, automatic windshield wipers, park sensors, a rearview camera, and automatic park assist. Dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated massaging seats, a hands-free power trunk lid, keyless entry and ignition, and a panoramic glass sunroof are all included too. Forward-collision warning and mitigation, driver drowsiness monitoring, a seatbelt pre-tensioning system, and auto-closing windows are standard. Optional safety equipment includes Pre-Safe Plus that has features like blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, brake assist, and a system that can detect and prepare for a rear collision.
The SL 63's relatively small seven-inch COMAND infotainment display screen and operating system are aging slightly, and its console-mounted central controller dial and menu layout are less intuitive than some others - but it still works well and features numerous amenities for more convenience. Voice controls, navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB ports, a six-disc CD changer, and HD Radio are fitted. Sound output comes courtesy of an excellent 11-speaker Logic 7 Harman Kardon audio system that provides rich bassy notes alongside crystal clear high pitch.
Worryingly, the SL 63 has been subject to two recent recalls for 2019, but none for the three preceding years. The first was for a faulty rear axle carrier bolt, while the latter unearthed a problem with the passenger airbag that may tear, reducing its ability to absorb the impact of your mistress' head when you turn onto Miami's Ocean drive a little too enthusiastically and bin the car against a palm tree. Fortunately, Mercedes offers four years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper, corrosion, and drivetrain coverage. The same period also entitles owners to complimentary roadside assistance.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 has not yet been crash-tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA, and therefore has no safety information or ratings available yet.
The SL 63 features active brake assist, a drowsy driver alert, and Pre-Safe, which closes the windows and pre-tensions the seatbelts in the event that an imminent crash is detected. This system also includes automatic forward-collision mitigation. Dual automatic pop-up roll bars, a rearview camera, active parking assist, and eight airbags, including dual front, dual side, and dual head airbags, as well as a pair of knee airbags, are included as standard. Rear-collision detection and preparation, blind-spot assist with rear-cross traffic assist, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control are all optional.
When it comes to purchasing sports cars, the choice is made more with one's heart than with one's head. It doesn't make sense to buy an impractical, over-powered two-seater that is likely to accelerate the onset of osteoporosis due to its Nurburgring-tuned bone-hard suspension. However, the SL 63 is different. It allows you all the thrills of a massive engine with too much power, returns respectable gas mileage, and is reasonably practical. The suspension is firm but not excessively so, and with a folding hard-top and a panoramic glass roof, it facilitates more compromise of the good sort. At the end of the day, it comes down to what one wants from their sports car. If you want a blisteringly fast and obnoxiously loud racecar that happens to be road legal, consider the Jaguar F-Type R. If you want a comfortable top-down cruiser, a non-AMG SL may be for you. But, if you want a car you can live with every day without infuriating your neighbors or forcing a premature chiropractor's appointment, a car that can do cross-country road-trips with grace and speed while still taking on the occasional muscle car at the lights, the SL 63 is perfect.
The SL 63 is available in only one trim level. This standalone model is sold in the U.S.A. at a starting MSRP of $154,450, before the standard delivery and destination charge of $995 that Mercedes imposes. Fully loaded with options like the Driver Assistance Package, the AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber package, and some special metallic paint, that price will crack $160,000 with ease.
The 63 is a standalone model in the Mercedes-AMG SL range and comes stock equipped with many of the features that Mercedes-Benz offers in their SL range as options. The SL 63 is fitted with an AMG limited-slip differential to manage the power from its 577-hp 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8. The sole gearbox option is a seven-speed automatic, and on the inside, Nappa leather is standard too. Dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated massaging seats, adaptive LED headlights, and a quad-tipped exhaust are standard. AMG-specific 19-inch wheels are included too, along with the option of 20-inch rear wheels. Other standard inclusions are auto high beams and automatic heated wipers, heated side mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, navigation with voice control, and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon sound system connected to a seven-inch infotainment system. This features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and HD Radio. Other conveniences can be found in the automatic parking assist system, forward-collision warning and mitigation, and optional lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring systems. A power-operated hands-free trunk lid, keyless entry and ignition, and a novel analog dash clock are standard.
|AMG SL63 Roadster||
5.5-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
The SL 63 can be equipped with a $2,250 Driver Assistance package, which increases safety. This suite of aids can prepare the vehicle for a rear collision, but also adds adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic assist, blind-spot detection, and lane-keep assist, all of which make it a better long-distance cruiser. In terms of appearance, there are two packages to choose from which cannot be ordered together. The AMG Exterior Night Styling package adds numerous gloss black accents to the exterior of the car, while the $3,570 AMG Exterior Carbon Package adds carbon fiber to the front splitter, side sills, rear diffuser insert, and mirror covers.
With only one model on offer, the choice comes down to options. We'd spec our SL 63 with the Driver Assistance package for greater peace of mind and security. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic assist, lane-keep assist, and rear collision mitigation certainly help make the cabriolet easier to live with. We'd be quite content with one of the standard exterior colors, Brilliant Blue Metallic being especially notable, but at over $150k at this point, spending a little extra on exterior carbon fiber trims to complement the interior would be a small price to pay.
Fast roadsters that don't fall into the supercar category don't get much more visceral than the Jaguar F-Type R. A raging soundtrack that to some might be considered a cacophony, characterizes the brutish British bruiser. With 550 hp and a curb weight of 3,847 lbs, the Jag is almost as powerful as - and considerably lighter than - the Merc SL 63. Thanks to these factors, it's an agile and blisteringly quick convertible that is certainly more performance-focused than the comfort-oriented AMG. However, by nature of the fact that these cars do without a hardtop roof, their performance focus is automatically compromised from the start, so why not have a more luxurious and smooth experience, if possible? The Merc is certainly far less stiff and offers more noise insulation, as well as a greater array of available safety and convenience features, like the automatic parking system. For these reasons, we'd look past the $50,000 price premium that the Mercedes commands over the Jag and make the most of a big-booted, comfortable, and rapid SL 63.
Perhaps you want something a little more exotic - something more symbolic of the success that shopping for a $150,000 roadster implies. The Maserati's inherent Italian flair and style is incomparable to almost anything out there, making every drive feel like an experience and something to be savored. One of the few naturally-aspirated cars still on our roads only adds to the sense of occasion - especially when the engine is a Ferreri-sourced V8. Slightly more practical in the cabin than most roadsters, the Maserati can fit four adults, something that very few can boast. However, the climate control and infotainment systems are a little outdated and despite its Maranello motor, it's not as fast as the AMG. Yet, despite the Merc's bigger trunk, better comfort, and longer list of standard features, the GranTurismo is simply special in a way that a German car could never be. We'd have one in a heartbeat, and it's a purely emotional decision.