2011 Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG
Base price: $139,050
As tested: $147,675
MPG: 12 city/19 highway
- Living the life if only for a week
- Outrageous performance
- Killer good looks and people know it's expensive
- If you really had money, you'd be driving the SL65
- Did we even mention the pitiful gas mileage?
- Even used, it's well out of my price range
By Jim Prueter
Ahhhhhhh It’s Good to Be King
A couple of test cars showed up in my driveway this week and I fully intended on spending equal time driving both. The first vehicle was a very nice, affordable sedan, not bad looking and sure to please the family-oriented sedan buyer. But when the red hot, low-to-the-ground, shapely and pricey 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG arrived a short time later, it had a magnetic pull I couldn’t resist.
The fact that it also has a retractable hardtop and temperatures were in the balmy mid-70s just added to its attractiveness. And besides, it has a hand-built 6.3-liter naturally aspirated 518-horsepower under the hood, is shamelessly fast and luxurious, and even has decent trunk space, making it quite practical, right?
Well, perhaps not quite practical, but certainly laden with excess and evoking of a sense of lust and envy, spinning rubbernecked heads quicker than Linda Blair’s in the 1973 American horror film The Exorcist.
But beauty, in this case, has no fear of demons within. Hop into this car, push a button and in 16 seconds the glass sunroof top gyrates into the trunk and you’re off for an afternoon of pure joy riding. And despite the chilly sunset hour, you’re snug and comfy warm, thanks to the optional Premium Package ($3,150) that includes heated and active ventilated seats and what Mercedes calls AIRSCARF, a vent feature built into the headrests that floods your neck with warm air.
The Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG is one of those fantasy cars that’s usually included in performance-driving adventures advertised in car magazines. So certainly I can be forgiven if I didn’t log as much windshield time in my family sedan tester during the week.
Spending time behind the wheel of the SL63 is akin to spending time in Las Vegas, where money seems to loose its sense of value. The same “feel-good” euphoria takes over the senses in the SL63.
And so it was with me, I confess, sitting in the driver’s seat of a Mars red high performance roadster, top down, allowing people to believe I actually owned this $147,675 toy.
It’s not just that the roadster is over-the-top gorgeous; it is also loaded, from the melodic burbling of a 518-horsepower, eight-cylinder engine to a seven-speed automatic transmission delivering a powerful 465 pound-feet of torque to the oversized19-inch rear wheels. The automatic transmission with AMG Speedshift Plus gives instantaneous shifts through the aluminum paddle shift levers behind the steering wheel or the slapstick function of the gearshift.
Upshifting through the Sport, Sport Plus, or manual modes, the engine emits the most beautifully satisfying musical notes, along with subtle backpressure “pops” while pounding through the gears.
On the downshift side of the equation, there is a kickdown function that shifts directly from seventh to fourth gear, or from fifth to seventh. All the while, computerized rev matching is occurring to create, in the words of Mercedes-Benz, virtually “load-free” (no jerking) downshifting.
The massive amount of power will launch you from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and cover the standing quarter mile in about 13 seconds; a top speed is electronically capped at 155 mph.
Ride control is handled by automatic four-wheel level, with driver-selected height adjustment. The suspension at both ends is handled by multi-link hardware with gas shocks, and coil springs in a series with hydraulic cylinders.
All this results in a machine that rides the asphalt like it’s glued to the surface and seems to grip harder the faster you drive.
Even though Mercedes has used the basic exterior for several years, it looks just as sharp and contemporary today with its massive front end, black grille and oversized Mercedes tri-star in the middle. Oversized air intakes below the bumper add to the SL’s performance look and side chrome “gills” on the front bumpers are more than decorative, they extract hot air from the engine compartment.
Inside, the cabin is kitted in AMG premium leather upholstery. In fact, the AMG insignia seems to be affixed everywhere: logoed on the headrests, instrument cluster, doorsill plates and floor mats. A bit of overkill here, but why not? If you’ve got it why not flaunt it?
For the price, Mercedes throws in a 10-speaker harmon/kardon LOGIC7 surround-sound system with Dolby digital 5.1 HD radio, in-dash six-disc DVD/CD changer, in-dash SD memory card and SIRIUS satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, enhanced voice control for audio, telephone and navigation, iPod/MP3 interface and a 40-gigabyte hard-drive GPS navigation system.
Standard safety gear includes every known and available airbag, automatic pop-up rollover bar, electronic braking system with anti-lock brakes, brake assist and tire-pressure monitoring. The SL has not been rated by the government or Insurance Institute for frontal crash, side crash or rollover risk.
Overall the SL63 is a near perfect combination of looks, technology, luxury and high performance. The only way to impress the ex and your neighbors even more would be to move up to the higher performance 604-horsepower V-12 SL65 AMG for a meager $60 grand more.
Ahhhhh it’s good to be king, if only for a week.