We rarely see massive changes applied to established nameplates. A new generation might have updated styling, the latest tech, and even more power under the hood. But seldom do we see significant character shifts. Yet that’s precisely what the 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 does. Based on the outgoing AMG GT Convertible, the R232 SL is no longer just a high-speed cruiser. It has sports car bones, an affinity for curvy roads, and muscle car power, all wrapped in a gorgeous package.
A sportier SL is nothing new. After all, the 300 SL that kicked it off in 1954 was essentially a road-going race car. However, recent SLs have trended towards being more executive-friendly GTs. Sure, they’ve combined AMG-sourced V8s and V12s for added punch, but their seriousness has failed to warm enthusiasts’ hearts. Slowing sales figures confirm this. After all, when was the last time you saw an SL and whipped your head around in excitement to take a look?
If it’s the R232, you’ll feel compelled to, as will everyone else. With a $212,585 as-tested price, the SL finally has a supercar presence to match its supercar price tag. Whether you’re driving or just looking at it, it’s clear that Affalterbach has Stuttgart in its sights.
|0-60 MPH||3.5 Seconds|
|Base Price||$178,100 + $1,050|
All About Proportions
Citing Affalterbach is no mistake. The SL now falls under the Mercedes-AMG umbrella, which makes sense, given that it’s essentially an AMG GT Convertible underneath. The big difference, however, is its addition of two rear seats, making it a proper 2+2. While they’re only large enough to accommodate small children, they give the SL added practicality and a roomier cabin, just like a particular sports car with a three-digit name.
Aesthetically, the lack of a non-AMG SL means there’s no longer a “toned down” version. The SL 55 and the 63 feature a massive Panamericana-style grille, a wide and low stance, and plenty of clever but subtle aero. Telling the pair apart is challenging, as their most significant differences lie beneath the bodywork. Thus, whether you’re spending big or really big bucks, the SL’s stunningly good looks come standard.
Proportionally, the SL is now nearly identical to the outgoing AMG GT. Its long hood dominates its wheel base while its cabin sits further back, just ahead of the rear axle. It’s a roadster formula the SL has successfully employed since the 1950s. Affalterbach hid all of the SL’s active aero to retain its elegance. Behind its dominating grille and lower air intakes sit louvers that open and close to reduce drag while directing air under the car.
Out back, an active rear wing deploys to five different positions depending on the drive mode or above 50 mph but retracts nearly into the bodywork when not in use. AMG could’ve gone mad with this car, fitting it with immediately visible wings and splitters like on the GT R Convertible. Yet, they chose to retain the SL’s classiness by integrating these components so well you can’t tell they’re there. 20-inch wheels with aero disks are available if you want to make a statement.
There is no excuse to drive a boring SL. From Sun Yellow to Starling Blue Metallic and Patagonia Red Metallic, the R232 looks best wearing bold colors. My tester sports a personal favorite, Hyper Blue Metallic, with contrasting 21-inch satin black multi-spoke wheels. AMG offers two soft top options, black or red, with my tester showcasing the former. It folds in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 37 mph. It’s 46 lb lighter than its predecessor’s metal folding roof, lowering the SL’s center of gravity.
More Than Just A GT
Under the SL 63’s lengthy hood, and the SL 55’s for that matter, sits Mercedes-AMG’s ubiquitous 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8. In 55 form, it delivers 469 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, while the 63 bumps power up to 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. A nine-speed transmission routes it to all four wheels, an SL first, resulting in a 3.5-second dash to 60 mph. The 55 completes the same run in 3.8 seconds. Despite the significant horsepower delta, they’re both properly quick off the line.
That stellar acceleration comes thanks to the SL’s new all-wheel drive system, allowing it to put all its power down. There’s little drama or wheelspin from a launch as the SL is just eager to get up and go. However, the system can deliver full engine power to the rear wheels when necessary. Its nine-speed transmission shifts quickly in automatic mode but occasionally lags during manual gear selection. It may not be as responsive as Porsche’s PDK, but it’s fast enough for a back road blast and becomes imperceptively smooth around town.
The SL’s 4.0-liter V8 is AMG’s bread-and-butter engine. They use it in everything, from SUVs to sedans and sports cars, delivering power with the same character regardless of what it’s driving. You get a burst of low-end torque, a nasty burble out back, and consistent power to redline with an occasional whiff of turbo lag. If this engine weren’t so potent and responsive, this would almost be a drawback. I just wish I could hear it.
While the SL is eager to reward onlookers with a proper growl as it passes by, it delivers a much calmer song inside. Like others in this segment, the SL’s sound isolation is so good, and its exhaust is so quiet that you can’t hear much behind the wheel. When the roof is up, you’ll have to contend with some piped-in exhaust noise. It’s a shame because the SL has the bite to back up a good bark.
On a twisty road, AMG’s active ride control works magic. It counts on a new hydraulic suspension system combined with rear-axle steering, another SL first. It replaces traditional anti-roll bars and couples with active shocks to soften or stiffen depending on drive mode while eliminating body roll through the corners. The whole system is hydraulically connected for quicker response. Despite its size, the SL 63 is shockingly planted through the corners while retaining excellent comfort around town.
However, it’s not its stability that impresses most. The SL 63 is a hefty thing, weighing around 4,200 lb. It’s sizable, too, about three inches longer than the already big R231 that it replaces, one inch wider and two inches taller. Its new suspension, however, hides that weight very well. As you throw the SL 63 at a corner, it’s eager to turn in with strong grip and little understeer. You’d have to be close to its limits to induce any misbehavior. It’s no GT3, but it’ll give a Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet a run for its money.
Combine the SL’s power, chassis, and suspension, and you get a car resembling a GT but behaving much like a sports car in the bends. It’s every bit as quick as an equivalent 911. However, it lacks the same level of driver involvement that hooks you into the experience. Its steering is quick and precise but muted. The same goes for the 63’s brakes, which may be carbon ceramics but don’t transmit much feedback through the pedal. It’s a capable car that can be hard to connect to until you’re properly hauling.
Tilt Into View
Although the SL may now appear twisty-road bound, it is still a killer daily driver thanks to its stellar cabin. While its 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster and 11.9-inch infotainment screen draw most of your attention behind the wheel, the SL has plenty of thoughtful details throughout, like its color-shifting ambient lighting and aviation-inspired air vents.
The R232’s interior counts on a few buttons, as most controls exist within its central touch screen. Given its importance, the German carmaker fitted it with a tilting mechanism, allowing it to shift from 12 to 32 degrees to avoid glare. Its “buttons” fall right within reach, exactly where you’d expect them to be, making the loss of physical buttons more bearable. The SL counts on the latest MBUX infotainment system, which allows for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Connectivity.
Its digital instrument cluster is highly configurable and includes multiple layouts from the traditional to the space age. Its graphics are strikingly similar to those of the AMG EQS I drove a few weeks ago and work well to display your shift points and revs. If anything, they’re so elaborate that they sometimes become distracting.
My tester featured a mighty $4,500 Burmester 3D surround sound system. Even with all the noise in the world, it delivered plenty of power and clarity. Usually, this is an area I’d skimp on a car, but its power is more than appreciated when the top is down on a windy day.
The R232 offers only two seating options. My tester came equipped with the standard chairs, which featured more than enough bolstering for a tight road, but remained plush enough for daily driving. The second is a set of AMG sports seats with fixed headrests. Both feature Mercedes’ neck-warming air scarf as standard.
With the roof up, the SL 63 lets little noise disturb its cabin on the highway. The noise isolation that blocks its burbly exhaust note does a great job of muting the rest of the world, making this latest AMG extremely versatile. It’s equally ready for a sporty drive as it is a country-crossing road trip. With this level of refinement, the latest SL sidesteps many drawbacks that typically limit convertibles.
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 Roadster starts at $179,150, including a $1,050 destination charge. Its less powerful sibling, the SL 55, starts at $138,450, including the same destination charge. There are two main differentiators, one being the significant horsepower difference and the second being their suspension setups. While the 63 counts on that new hydraulic system, the 55 rides on steel springs. Both SL’s still get all-wheel drive and rear-axle steering as standard.
With options like my tester’s $8,950 carbon-ceramic brakes, $4,500 Burmeister Surround Sound System, and $3,300 21-in wheels, its as-tested price creeps to $215,585. Regarding competitors, the SL 63 slots neatly in between the $162,700 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet and the $187,100 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, both in terms of price and performance.
The 2022 SL 63 wears its new sporty persona well. Thanks to its AMG GT roots, this stylish two-door isn’t just confined to GT duties or daily driving. While its compliant suspension and stellar cabin are more than up for those tasks, the R232 longs for back road blasts. With its formidable engine, capable chassis, and clever suspension, this latest SL delivers levels of excitement its predecessor couldn’t. It may not be the most engaging drive, but what it lacks in feel, it makes up with accessible speed.
Driving dynamics aside, the latest SL is a winner on looks alone. Its styling and proportions are spot on, making this long-hooded coupe easily one of the best-looking cars in the carmaker’s portfolio. The SL is no longer just a businessperson’s express. The SL has gone from a car you won’t notice as it passes by to one you’ll definitely whip around to stare at.