The Mercedes SL takes everything that’s great about an AMG roadster and amplifies it to a place that’s beyond your wildest expectations

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The new Mercedes SL is an AMG special that comes to bring new life to the SL name with impressive performance, stylish looks, and a very cool soft top that’s not only fast but sheds some major weight. Thanks to its unique design, it’s even the first SL since the 1980s to feature those barely usable jump seats in the rear. That’s right, the new Mercedes SL is actually a 2+2 roadster. So, with all of this said, we have some questions to answer. Is the new Mercedes SL doing justice to the AMG lineup? Is the new Mercedes SL really designed for everyday use? Will it be worth the high price tag?

Mercedes-AMG SL Powertrain and Performance

As of the time of this writing, the AMG SL-Class is available in two different trim levels: AMG SL53 and AMG SL63. Both trim levels feature AMG’s hand-built 4.0-liter, twin-turbo, V-8. In SL53 from, the 2023 SL will put down 469 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, while the range-topper (for now) SL63 pushes those figures up to 577 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Both trims come standard with a nine-speed AMG Speedshift MCT automatic transmission, but do include Race Start launch control for impressive launches when you drop the hammer. According to Mercedes, the SL53 will launch from 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds while the SL63 will make the same sprint in 3.5 seconds. Top speed is said to be 183 mph, however, nobody has had the chance to find out yet, so do with that what you will.

If this kind of power and performance isn’t enough for you, and you’re willing to wait, word has it that the new SL will eventually be offered with AMG’s E Performance plug-in hybrid system. This system will pair the aforementioned 4.0-liter V-8 with an electric motor on the rear axle. The resulting output will reach as much as 804 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. As for how fast this model will be, your guess is as good as ours, but a near-3-second sprint to 60 mph or even a sub-3-second sprint isn’t necessarily out of the question. Don’t expect Mercedes to offer a top speed above 200 mph, though. On that note, we learned a while back that the E-Performance hybrid system will actually let you charge the batteries while drifting. It might be a bit of a marketing gimmick, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

So what about the driveline? You’re probably expecting the SL to be a RWD roadster, right? Well, it can be, for sure, but for the first time in seven decades, the Mercedes SL is actually offered with an AWD system. When equipped, the AMG Performance 4MATIC+ AWD system can actively distribute drive force between the front and rear wheels as needed. As for has handling goes, the SL55 can be optioned with adaptive dampers with hydraulic roll stabilization. This system, as crazy as it sounds, can control body roll without the need for anti-roll bars in the front or rear. If you buy the AMG SL63, you’ll get this system as standard. You’ll still have to go for the optional front-axle lift system, though, which wouldn’t be a bad idea if you live in an area with steeply inclined driveways or rough roads. It can lift the front end by as much as 1.2 inches and, when programmed, it will continue to do so automatically every time you approach a problematic area that could cause scraping.

Mercedes-AMG SL Interior Design

Prior to launch, the world expected the new AMG SL to feature the same panoramic dual-display setup as most of Mercedes’ other offerings. The SL, on the other hand, takes an approach similar to that of the S-Class. What’s really cool about this design is that it offers far more customization and makes living with a roadster a bit easier. The MBUX infotainment system, for example, can pivot between 12 and 32 degrees to help mitigate glare from the sun when you have the top down. More moving parts to fail? Perhaps, but it’s very cool, nonetheless. Outside of this, the digital instrument cluster can be set to one of eight different color display designs.

So, with the basic tech out of the way, what about the rest of the vehicle? Well, we’ll still argue that the general layout was inspired by Jar Jar Binks, that’s for sure, but it does look downright amazing from every angle. AMG sports seats come standard across the lineup, but you can opt for the AMG Performance seats. The standard seats can be upholstered in single- or two-tone Nappa leather, Nappa leather with Microfiber, or Nappa leather with diamond quilting. You’ll also get your choice of contrasting topstitching in yellow or red. Standard seat equipment includes inflatable air cushions, three different massage programs, and the AIRSCARP neck-level heating system.

As odd as it may seem to speak about rear seats in a Mercedes SL, we’re in the 2020s, and this is what things have come to. For the first time since the R129-gen, 1980s SL, you’ll get a set of jump seats as standard equipment. As hard as it may be to believe, Mercedes claims these rear seats can accommodate people up to 1.5 meters tall. That pretty much means that the seats will only be decent for kids or small adults, but even then it looks like it’ll be a bit cramped. In most cases, these seats will probably just be used for extra cargo room, like you know – a place to stash your gym or golf bag.

And, finally, we get to what is arguably the most important part – the folding soft top. Mercedes decided to go with a triple-layer canvas roof as opposed to your traditional hard top, and it’s a good thing it did. The entire roof setup is 46 pounds lighter than the last-gen model’s retractable hard top. Mercedes says this top can be opened or closed in just 15 seconds and at speeds of up to 37 mph (60 km/h). This new roof design, and its compact nature, is what made the 2+2 seating layout possible thanks to the larger cabin that comes with it.

Mercedes SL Exterior Design

These days, automakers will do anything they can to cut costs and save money, so it wouldn’t be surprising if you expected the Mercedes SL to be little more than a facelifted AMG GT Roadster or a revised version of the outgoing SL. That’s not the case at all, though. In fact, AMG created an all-new roadster architecture with a composite aluminum structure. The entire body was created specifically for the SL, with absolutely no part of the body shell being adopter from the outgoing SL or any other model in Mercedes’ or AMG’s lineup. So, yeah, the Mercedes SL really is all-new.

In designing the new Mercedes SL, AMG focused a lot on aerodynamics. The name of the game is low drag and reduced lift, and the new SL does it well. Its drag coefficient of 0.31 is outrageously impressive for a roadster, making for better drivability, high efficiency, and less wind noise. The front fascia, for example, is designed specifically to reduce lift while targeting inflow and outflow to the cooling modules further back. This airflow even improves braking performance. The two-piece AIRPANEL air control system is a new feature that consists of new vertical louvers hidden behind the lower air intake in the front fascia. These louvers are electronically controlled and are opened and closed as needed to control and improve aerodynamic performance. In most cases, these louvers remain closed, even if you’re flying at top speed, but at certain temperatures are reached on certain components, they will open and allow maximum air flow to the heat exchangers.

The aerodynamics in the rear are just as special. The retractable rear spoiler is integrated into the rear in a way that you won’t really know it’s there when it’s not deployed. Its position will change automatically as needed depending on the driving status. Things like road speed, longitudinal and lateral acceleration and even steering speed are all taken into account. There are five different angular positions from 50 mph that are specifically designed to optimize stability or reduce drag. Here’s a full breakdown of each position:

  • Position 0 (retracted), -11-degree angle, 0-50 mph (0-80 km/h): The rear spoiler, fully integrated into the design of the rear lid, enables the clean look when stationary and at low speeds. When parked, the positioning mechanism is protected against dirt and foreign bodies.
  • Position 1, +6-degree angle, 50-87 mph (80-140 km/h): In this position, the new SL has the lowest drag (lower than in position 0), for the best possible efficiency and low consumption.
  • Position 2, +11-degree angle, 87-99 mph (140-160 km/h): optimal balance between low drag and handling stability from the medium road speed range.
  • Position 3, +17-degree angle, 99 mph (160 km/h) - top speed: optimal balance between low drag and handling stability right up to the vehicle’s top speed.
  • Position 4, +22-degree angle, Dynamic Position, 75 mph (120 km/h) - top speed, with high dynamic driving recognized by the vehicle: maximum lateral dynamics with greatest possible downforce providing for the best-possible road-holding. Simultaneously the greatest driving stability. The spoiler can also extend into this position independently of the driving situation when the driver presses the display button on the steering wheel.

If you’re planning to do some serious driving, you might want to consider the optional Aerodynamics package. This package gives the new SL an even more aggressive look with larger flics in the front and rear, a larger rear diffuser, and an all-new aerodynamic profile under the car. This package improves the SL’s aerodynamic characteristics in both drag and downforce, especially at high speeds, during lateral acceleration, and for handling stability, braking stability, and overall efficiency. As for the rear spoiler, it also gets an upgraded algorithm that allows it to extend 6.2 mph sooner in positions 1 and 2 (see the breakdown above) and offers an improved balance with a steering angle of 26.5 degrees when in the Dynamic Position.

As for the underbody aerodynamics, you won’t really be able to see what’s been added as Mercedes has gone out of its way to make it “almost invisibly hidden” It’s basically a carbon element that weighs just 4.4 pounds and is attached to the underbody in front of the engine. It reacts to the position of the AMG Dynamics and extends downward by around 1.6 inches at speeds above 62 mph in Basic or Advance driving modes or at speeds above 50 mph when you’re in Pro or Master driving mode. This is said to change the airflow under the vehicle and creates the Venturi effect – essentially sucking the car to the road. Mercedes says this will reduce front axle lift by around 110 pounds at 155 mph, and you’ll be able to feel it in the steering even at lower speeds. In short, the SL will be more dynamic, more agile, and will react better during hard cornering.

Finally, this optional aerodynamic package will also enhance the effect of the AIRPANEL active control system in the front fascia. If the shutters are closed, the lift at the front axle is reduced even more. To make aerodynamics even better, you can go with the Aero wheels. They are available in 20- or 21-inches and will reduce drag through less turbulence. The 20-inch wheels even include plastic aero rings to save weight.

2023 Mercedes SL Pricing

As of the time of this writing, no pricing has been revealed for the new Mercedes SL. A good estimate for what you should expect is somewhere just under $100,000 for the AMG SL55 and probably 20-percent more – or about $120,000 – for the SL63. The new SL should hit showrooms in the first half of 2022, so we’ll likely see pricing information as well as more in-depth information about packages sometime toward the end of the first quarter of 2022.

Mercedes SL Competitors

With the SL’s transition to a 2+2 roadster, it doesn’t exact compete with models like the BMW Z4 and the BMW 8 Series is just a bit too big. So, what will the SL compete with? Well, it was seemingly designed to do battle with none other than the Porsche 911 and the Aston Martin DB11. Yeah, AMG pulled out all the stops on the SL for good reason.

Porsche 911 Cabriolet

The Porsche 911 is, quite literally, the epitome of sports cars and driving pleasure. In cabriolet form, that’s all amplified with the pleasure of an open top experience. Sure, it’s a bit out of the box since it’s a rear-engine car, but it is about the same size as the new SL, offers similar sized jump seats, and certainly offers some serious performance. Pricing for the 911 Cabriolet starts from $114,000 and climbs to as high as $156,800 for the range topping Carrera 4 GTS. In base form, you’ll get to enjoy 379 horsepower, a 4.2-second sprint to 60 mph, and a top speed of 180 mph. If you go all the way up to the Carrera 4 GTS, you’re looking at 473 horsepower, a 3.3-second sprint to 60 mph, and a top speed of 190 mph.

This is great an all, however, with a price tag of $156,800, the 4 GTS Cabriolet is a bit too heavily priced to compete with the SL63, even if it’s priced above our prediction of roughly $120,000. From a pricing standpoint, you’ll have to look to the 911 Carrera S. It starts out at $129,900, so it’s not far off if we’re right, and you still get to enjoy 443 horsepower. 0-60 mph will come in 3.7 seconds, and you’ll max out at 190 mph. That might be just a bit slower, and there’s even a deficit of power compared to the SL63, but it’s really hard to find a better driving experience.

Aston Martin DB11 Volante

If you thought going for a Porsche 911 was going to be a bit expensive compared to the Mercedes SL, then just wait until you find out that the Aston Martin DB11 starts out at $208,425, and that’s not for the convertible, mind you. What you do get, though, is some pretty impressive performance, and an amazing sound. The base V-8 engine delivers a cool 528 horsepower, but because of its heavy nature, it’s a bit slower than the SL, taking some 4.1 seconds to hit 62 mph.

So, the DB11 is nearly double the price of the new SL, and it’s not quite as fast (it does top out at 192 mph, though, so it has that going for it), but it might be a little more comfortable, and it’ll be hard to find any part of the cabin that doesn’t compete with the quality, comfort, and luxury that you’ll get from the AMG SL. Of course, at this point, one has to argue why you wouldn’t just buy two Mercedes SLs and forget that Aston Martin even exists, but don’t forget that the Aston Martin DB11 Volante isn’t exactly all that easy to spot on the road, so you’ll probably feel a bit more exclusive rolling in the DB11 Volante.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, we’d be wrong if we didn’t tell you that the outgoing Mercedes SL wasn’t exactly benefitting from Mercedes’ best efforts. The new SL, built exclusively by AMG, aims to fix everything that was wrong with the last-gen SL, and bring the name back to the top of the food chain. It has the performance, it has the luxury, and it has the technology. As long as it has the right price, the new Mercedes-AMG SL should be a very easy car to say yes to – you know, as long as you have a budget (and spouse) that will forgive you for sinking six figures into a car.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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