by Liz Turner
Good looks are always more alluring if there’s a hint of beast under the smooth exterior.
The Mercedes SL 63 AMG’s aluminum body is certainly gorgeous – and powerful, but not a brute. It has perfect manners.
Those three letters are all important: AMG is Mercedes’ tuning arm. Its team of brilliant engineers take cars that are already mighty fast, work on the engines to make them blistering, and tweak the suspension and brakes to make sure the rest of the car can keep up. They then add tasteful visual tweaks so everyone can see you’re driving a £100k-plus supercar even if you can’t see the badge.
The usually elegant Mercedes has Batmobile touches. Its huge spoked wheels show off its orange brake calipers in the automotive equivalent of the flash of a lacy thong. It has a spoiler on the rear, and its distinctive AMG grille has twin louvres either side of the Mercedes star.
As I clamber into the seat, I appreciate the soft textures in such a mean machine. The seats are fine soft leather, the steering wheel feels like kid, and if you touch a button, the sides enfold around you more tightly to support your back through tight corners. Ahead of me, the metal crosses on the air vents are bright and polished smooth. A clock like a Swiss watch sits in a tasteful fitting on top of the dash.
100mph on the test track
On a fine day out on the road, I would have hit the open-roof button in a flash, and watched the trick worthy of Bruce Wayne’s toy as it lifts and folds into the roomy boot. Today, though, I’m at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders test day, an annual event where we journalists can enjoy the equivalent of a kid being let loose in a candy store. The powerful SL is only allowed on the two-mile banked circuit, and you have to keep the hood firmly up.
The twin-turbo V8 engine fires up with a deep, rich rumble, as if I’d tripped over a sleeping bear, and we ease away smoothly, the power being transmitted to the wheel via a seven-speed automatic ‘box.
On the roads and roundabouts inside the enormous proving ground, the car is quiet and civilized, ready for a Sunday drive to the country. Then we head down the slip road and hit the gas, easing up the banked lanes as the concrete blurs. The Merc is electronically limited to 155mph – it could do close to 190mph if it were let off the lease. Today, though, we’re limited to a mere 100mph.
Now the bear is roaring for his dinner. The acceleration is immediate and thrilling, the automatic gearbox shifting up in split seconds.
You can play with the car’s settings to make the gearchange and suspension sportier, and you can change gear manually using metal paddles on the wheel. Or you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. I played for a bit, then did the latter. Hurtling round at 100mph, I was still able to chat to the man from Merc at normal speaking voice and it’s clear the SL is merely cantering.
We eased our way back down and I very reluctantly handed back the keys. The best thing about this car is that you could use it according to your mood. It will go fast with very little effort, or your could cruise up and down hairpin Alpine roads as an easy pace, with the roof down, simply enjoying the view.
Mercedes AMG SL63
Engine 5.5-litre V8, 585hp