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.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG SL 63 Roadster||
5.5L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
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.
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.
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.
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