Mercedes AMG SL65 2017
While it’s one thing to read that our track test of the 2017 Mercedes AMG SL65 recorded a zero to 60 mph blast in 3.7 seconds, it’s another thing entirely to see it happen on the street. One vigilant defender of public safety secreted behind a building saw this one light up 74 mph on his radar gun, which wouldn’t be remarkable if he hadn’t first seen it standing still just on the other side of a broad exurban intersection. Our test driver who admits yielding to temptation when the light turned green only after confirming that there were no pedestrians or other traffic in sight agreed with the wide eyed police officer that this would be a one time experience for them both. But think on it while you count off five seconds: More than two tons of static sculpture converted itself into a left lane on the freeway projectile in less time than it takes to think, “Is that a cop?” Our guy says he actually lifted before the radar got a reading on this matte gray missile.
Or, here’s another context: In the same 12.8 seconds it takes a Mitsubishi Mirage G4 to achieve 60 mph, the SL65 can be doing 130 mph.
We’ve tested cars that were quicker off the line, perhaps most relevantly in this context of stupid-expensive machinery, the Tesla Model S P90D. In its Ludicrous mode, it can hit 60 mph in less than three seconds in eerie near-silence. So, where the raison d’être for the SL65 once may have been the sheer grunt of 738 lb-ft of torque flowing seamlessly from the hand-built, twin-turbocharged V-12 under its hood, the world now offers other means to the same ends. Mercedes AMG SL65 is the one that does it all the old-school way. One commonality between the two: A few seconds of stomping on the accelerator erases a lot of driving range.
Not Actually a Car
Meredes AMG SL65 is not so much a car as it is a statement of what its maker’s engineers, designers, and craftspeople can produce when freed from the ordinary constraints of building a transportation tool. You can commute in it—quite comfortably, in fact—but doing so is akin to crop-dusting with an F-16 or shooting your Facebook profile pic with a Hasselblad; you’re using way more tool than the task demands.
Even by ordinary sports-car measures, this Mercedes AMG SL65 could be dismissed for being almost triple the price of a Corvette Z06 convertible but less adept at track work, thanks to its nose-heavy weight distribution and a greater commitment to sunny-afternoon cruising than to lap times. But to summarize it that way ignores the SL’s heritage as the aspirational Benz roadster and the V-12 as the ultimate in AMG propulsion, not to mention the gorgeous materials, the taut fit and finish, and the sheer carved-from-granite solidity of the thing.
Mercedes used to offer an SL600, a V-12 roadster that hadn’t been through the AMG-izing process, but in this segment, buyers tend to say, “Give me everything.” It didn’t make sense to stock the lesser model when daily sales of all SL versions can be counted on your fingers. That said, if it’s just the roadster form and styling that appeal, a twin-turbo V6 Mercedes-Benz SL450 using the same aluminum-intensive chassis and body can be had for less than $90,000, and even the V-8 SL550 costs half of the AMG V-12’s $220,775 starting price.
Like its stablemates in the SL range, this tippy-top model got a minor facelift for 2017, banishing its decidedly unpretty eyes in favor of a new set of LED headlamps (with Adaptive Highbeam Assist), along with a general design cleanup that returns the model to its traditional place near the top of the elegance scale. It also shares upgraded infotainment and safety features with the latest S-class sedan, including the entertaining “Curve” function in the Active Body Control suspension, which forces the car to lean into a corner like a motorcycle. This is intended to minimize passenger discomfort in a vehicle capable of pulling 0.97 g on our skidpad.
This new V-12 edition actually outran the 2015 SL63 model with the twin-turbo V-8 in nearly every track test, an inversion of what we found with the V-12 two years ago and in most of the other 65-versus-63 matchups of other Benz models (we’ve not yet tested a 2017 SL63). This SL65 weighed 4151 pounds, 50 pounds heavier than the 2015 example. The carbon-ceramic brakes on our test car (an $8950 upgrade) were able to haul that mass to a stop from 70 mph in a tidy 150 feet. The fancier stoppers did not impose any squealing noises or gritty pedal feel, but they did work better after a little warming.
Feature Laden, and Then Some
Aside from its propulsion by means of internal combustion, the Mercedes AMG SL65 surrenders nothing in terms of innovation and technology to anything coming out of Silicon Valley. It’s packed with nearly every feat of Magic (a registered trademark) that Stuttgart and Affalterbach can conjure. Magic Sky Control glass in the folding roof converts from transparent to almost opaque and vice versa at the touch of a button—it uses electricity to effect the transformation, so when you turn off the car the roof looks glossy black. (Yes, you can have the glass roof in lesser SLs, for $2500.) All SLs include the Magic Vision Control windshield wipers that spray heated washer fluid through the wiper blades so that the driver’s vision is never obscured for even a split second. A bonus side-effect of this washer system: If you’ve lowered the retracting hardtop (a bit of engineering legerdemain that can happen with the car moving at up to 25 mph), occupants need never feel the fluid sprinkle, no matter how fast you’re traveling. Try doing that in your Miata.
The Mercedes AMG SL65 self-driving capabilities don’t quite rise to the level of those on the latest E-class, although we expect that to change in a year or so; as it is, there’s still Parking Pilot and lane-keeping assist and Night View Assist Plus to dazzle your passenger. The Bang & Olufsen audio system even employs cavities in the chassis structure to enhance bass response so that your tunes don’t sound wimpy with the top lowered.
Including the aforementioned carbon-ceramic brakes, options on this example totaled almost $15,000. These included $5400 worth of custom appearance items from Mercedes-Benz’s Designo line ($1300 for Selenite Grey Magno matte-finish paint, $2600 for Titanium Grey Pearl leather, and $1500 for piano-black-lacquer interior trim) plus $500 for the cross-spoke forged wheels (19 inches in front, 20 at the rear). None of the options seem strictly necessary, but when you start with a buy-in well beyond $200,000, shouldn’t every detail align with your personal tastes?
Mercedes AMG SL65 Video:
It’s in the context. Considered as a car, the Mercedes AMG SL65 is clearly an absurdity, a 15-foot-long, two-ton bauble devoted to the task of carrying two people and a bit of luggage hither and yon in minimum time at maximum comfort. But it’s a bauble that won’t bobble, no matter what ridiculous feats the driver attempts. What’s that worth?