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Mercedes-Benz SL 55 AMG Review: It's The Most Dynamic SL We've Ever Driven

We also got a R231 SL 63 AMG to join the party.
James Wong
James Wong
19 Jun 2023
... the new SL 55 is not just fast in a straight line, but wonderfully balanced and taut around corners too.
What we like:
Exceptional feel-good factor
Brilliant engine and gearbox combination
Taut chassis translates to superb handling, despite being a soft-top convertible
What we dislike:
Is this really an SL?
Parts of the interior doesn't feel like it's from a $1m car

With the new SL, you can’t buy a non-AMG version any more.

It’s now fully developed from the ground-up by AMG, a firm departure from any of its forebears which came as Mercedes models first and foremost, followed by hot versions fettled in Affalterbach.

There will be a four-cylinder SL 43, but we have the V8-powered version on test, the SL 55. There is an even more powerful version, the SL 63.

Honestly, we don’t know how one can want any more power over the SL 55. It’s hold-on-tight quick, offering all of the power you could ever wish for in an SL.

But unlike previous SLs that were more long-legged grand tourers, the new SL 55 is not just fast in a straight line, but wonderfully balanced and taut around corners too.

In fact, how they achieved this torsional rigidity in a convertible is nigh on amazing. Roof up or down, you don’t really feel much scuttle shake, if at all. It’s built on an aluminium space frame, and it feels like a bona fide sports car.

But this is no bone-jarring, low slung car designed with a singular mindset. The SL 55 is easy to get in and out of, has sophisticated suspension that irons out all harshness of the road and feels terribly good to spend lots of miles in. It would help though if there was a wind deflector to reduce interior wind turbulence with the top down.

But never mind, all you want to do when you have the sun above you is to listen to that 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 bellow. It’s a very AMG tone, low and muscular, and feels as good as it gets in 2023 with all sorts of noise regulations in place. The car feels special and makes a great thunderous bark to announce an arrival.

Another pleasant surprise is the AMG 9-speed MCT gearbox. It seems all but perfected now in the SL 55, being snappy to upshift and downshift, while responding to paddle shifter inputs telepathically. It’s a perfect partner to the V8.

The interior would be familiar to anyone who’s been in a Mercedes with an iPad-like tablet. It works pretty well, and I for one can appreciate the work that’s been put into the UX, despite the many references by others to Tesla. I think Mercedes has done it better.

The luxury within is good, too. I like the soft leather-lined dash, seats and the chunky steering wheel. There are some parts that feel a little out of place in a $1 million dollar car, though. But I think this can be looked past.

I really like that the SL now has rear seats, and I think parents would understand that it makes all the difference to be able to bring the kids along on a ride with the roof down. The fact that the soft top saves 21 kg and harks back to heritage SLs also works for me.

But what I am not sure about is the looks of the car, especially when it comes to the rear. Somehow, this SL doesn’t really look like the SLs that we know. The rear should extend out longer and have a more prominent boot line. Right now, people could mistake the car as an AMG GT Roadster.

But looks aside, I cannot fault how the car drives at all. It makes everyone in the car feel special, and I want one.

We also drove the last generation SL 63 AMG (R231)

A familiar R231 SL 63 AMG showed up at our shoot with its factory matte white paint, blacked out wheels and tasty carbon fibre bits. It’s a good friend’s car, and it also happens to be my wedding car.

My enduring memory of the car is its engine. Overall, the 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8 definitely feels more effortless than the new 4.0, perhaps getting along with less boost and relying more on its large displacement. It’s easier to modulate, more relaxed and suited to a GT remit.

Its sound is also throatier and has more definition. But given it’s 2023, the new V8 also does a decent job at it.

The biggest change with the new SL 55 is in how it handles and how its chassis is built. While the older SL 63 would struggle to put down traction to its rear wheels, the SL 55 can exploit it fully.

The SL 63’s chassis also feels a little underspecified for its firepower, for there is noticeable scuttle shake and flexing when pushed. It feels more game for a big, laugh-inducing drift, though. The SL 55 is a lot more serious and composed.

It’s impressive to see how Mercedes AMG has progressed. The SL 55 is an iteration that should be respected, and enjoyed while it lasts.

Photos by New Gen Marketing


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