From £116,625
Brutal looks and performance, but difficult to justify the price

Our Verdict

Mercedes-AMG SL 63

The Mercedes-AMG SL 63 packs a heroic engine, terrific refinement and dynamic polish. But it lacks in crucial areas

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8 November 2008

What is it?

This is the third of the Black Series cars from Mercedes’ in-house tuning department, AMG. The first was the less-than-wonderful SLK 55 of 2006, and the second was the entirely delightful CLK of 2007 – so the SL 65 AMG Black Series could go either way.

Black Series models are intended to be even more focused versions of existing AMG products, and unless they have two seats and a fixed roof they don’t comply with the template.

Hence the reason the Black Series ditches the regular SL 65’s folding metal roof for a fixed carbon fibre item, which, together with a whole range of weight saving measures, has removed 250kg from the kerbweight. In total there will be just 350 made.

But that’s merely the beginning when it comes to the differences between a regular SL65 and the Black Series – not least the fact it carries a quarter-million pricetag.

The 6.0-litre V12 engine is identical internally to the regular 65’s, but thanks to bigger turbos, a redesigned exhaust and various tweaks to the ECU, it now produces 670bhp and a whopping 737lb ft of torque between 2200-4200rpm.

The reason why the torque peak is as flat as a table is because neither the gearbox nor the diff can take what the twin turbo V12 is fully capable of producing (around 900lb ft of torque).

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Even so, you still have to make do with a somewhat ancient five-speed automatic gearbox in the SL Black, whereas the far cheaper SL 63 has an infinitely more sophisticated seven-speed semi-auto, for the same reason: the newer box just can’t handle it.

Chassis-wise the Black is very different from the regular SL 65 AMG. Not only is the steering faster, featuring just 1.7 turns across the locks despite an almost identical turning circle, but the suspension has been completely redesigned to deliver optimum control as well.

There are proper track-spec coil-over dampers at the front and the entire multi-link rear suspension is now adjustable, so if a customer wants to change the way their car handles, AMG will duly oblige.

What’s it like?

As you’d expect the SL 65 AMG Black Series in an absolute monster on the road – it’ll do 0-60mph in 3.8sec and is limited to 199mph – although it’s not without its problems on the track, which is where AMG expects it to spend at least 50 per cent of its life.

In its standard tune it does understeer – either a little or a lot, depending how much speed you try to carry into a corner. And all you can do to prevent it from doing so is slow down, or fall off the circuit.

In a straight line, however, the Black really is a bit special. The way it reduces long straight to short bursts of full-throttle acceleration is quite extraordinary, and although it understeers, the body control is excellent, ditto the steering, and the steel brakes are more than up to the job.

Of all the 200mph hyper cars that there are on sale at the moment, this is probably the most user friendly to drive quickly, if not the most exciting per se. And in the raw it looks nothing less than sensational.

So what are the issues with the SL 65 Black? The interior, for one. While perfectly decent in layout and look, the cabin doesn’t sit comfortably with the price tag, not when you compare it to the achingly gorgeous cabin of the cheaper Ferrari 599.

Second, the soundtrack from the engine also doesn’t sit comfortably with the car’s price. Third, the Ferrari 599 in general. In logical terms the Ferrari is cheaper, just as fast and has a hugely more appealing interior, and if you then dial in the 599’s intangible (but undeniable) extra charm, the gap grows wider still.

Should I buy one?

If you are committed and very wealthy AMG fan then the answer will, of course, be a yes.

And if you want a car that stops the traffic dead in its tracks with sheer road presence then it’s hard to imagine a motor with more impact than the brutal-looking SL 65 Black.

But overall this is not as brilliant a product as the CLK Black, even though it’s a much better one than the SLK 55. It gets eight out of 10 overall, and at this dizzying price-point that’s maybe not quite enough.

Join the debate


10 November 2008

Why oh why do they have to fit these cars with an auto box, five speed or not!

Surely Mercedes could out source a manual box for such a limited run. Or is it an unwritten rule that the more you spend on a car the less able you are to change gear?!?!

Because of this, I fail to see the point of purchasing this car (not that I have the required money to do so) over the regular SL65. If it's too much effort to change gear, then surely its too much effort to drive quickly!

Still, I suppose some people have more money than sense!



It's all about the twisties........

10 November 2008

Autocar talking bollocks again! Is the 'less than wonderful SLK55' that Autocar refer to not the same SLK55 about which Autocar raved 'No doubt about it, the SLK Black Series is a seriously good car and is as much at home on the track as on the road. It’s harder, faster and better to drive than its standard sibling...'. Remember, Autocar? The one which 'You know it’s special the moment you turn the key'??? I know Sutcliffe didn't write the SLK55 review I am quoting from, but still this is Autocar opinion and it sends the usual mixed signals when one week something is great and the next week it is a load of cr@p.

10 November 2008

Whoa! Relax, try some deep breaths - maybe even drop a chill pill.

For a start it's called 'subjective opinion', the backbone of all good consumer journalism (and the reason we're not on the Parkers forum), and for a second, the SL55 AMG Black got a good and proper kicking in Autocar's handling test last year (or whatever it was called then, it seems to change each time) - it came in last place.

So you can hardly say that the SL55 AMG Black has been regarded as being in any way 'good' by Autocar for at least a year...

What's the problem? Have you put your own money in one???

10 November 2008

I am sorry but am i the only one that thinks that a Merc badge is not worth £250,000, i just dont understand the point of making a car like the SL, which is a very pretty car and starts at what, £50,000?? and then make one that costs 5 times that!!!! i can not see the market for it? i would have the 599 over this every day of the week!

Could someone also explain the point of an SL without a removable roof , as well please? (gullwing aside that is)

though as mentioned some people have more money than sense!

10 November 2008

I wish i had one! Take a chill pill yourself, this is my subjective opinion :-) My point is that either there is an Autocar consensus view of a car or there is a collection of individual journalists' view, a different one which can be picked by the mag depending on the nature of the article, the weather, whatever. Yes, I realise that Autocar's view is subjective, but I think there should be a general consensus from the mag as to whether it's good or bad. I know I'm not reading What Car, but when I look up the road test of the SLK55 Black, the review says it is great. So if I was fortunate enough to be thinking about putting money down on one of these, maybe I would take Autocar's road test opinion into account, seeing as they are supposed to have invented the road test and it is perhaps the key feature of the Autocar brand and mag. As you say, it got a kicking in the handling test, which I didn't realise, but if it is that bad then they should re-visit the road test and say - 'actually its cr@p'. Alternatively, there could be a 'track' opinion and a 'road' opinion, so they could subtitle the road test, saying that 'it's great, but cr@p on the track'. Furthermore, Sutcliffe has a reputation for being a fantastic driver and his articles are always very exciting, but his views probably lend themselves more to the extreme minority of drivers who like to deactivate their ESP than anyone else.

10 November 2008

The 599 is actually quicker in a straightline and would run circles around the big Merc on a circuit, not to mention that it is gorgeous compared to the latter. Plus, 250,000 quid for a Benz, be it an AMG Black, White or Pink with Blue Spots Edition is a ridiculous amount of money as it lacks the badge cred. This car is only for Mercedes die-hards.

10 November 2008

I'd take a Lambo or a Scuderia.

10 November 2008

Hi, the 599 is definitely not quicker in straightline. It won't even trouble the 63 AMG if it is derestricted for that matter. Its top speed is 205mph and the SL63 does that without breaking sweat. Yes the Fezza would run rings round the 65 but don't in a straight line. and yes i'm a Merc fan as you can tell from my name.

10 November 2008

The 599 has been clocked quicker than the SLR in fact, hence than faster than the AMG 65. 0-100 mph for trhe Fezza is 7 seconds dead and for the SLR 7.5. So I insist that the Fezza will outrun an AMG 65.


11 November 2008

[quote TegTypeR]

Why oh why do they have to fit these cars with an auto box, five speed or not!

Surely Mercedes could out source a manual box for such a limited run. Or is it an unwritten rule that the more you spend on a car the less able you are to change gear?!?!

Because of this, I fail to see the point of purchasing this car (not that I have the required money to do so) over the regular SL65. If it's too much effort to change gear, then surely its too much effort to drive quickly!

Still, I suppose some people have more money than sense!


Could not agree with you even more. For a long distance GT (aka McMerc SLR), an auto bow would be worthwhile, but in a track focused special! Come on Mercedes. Granted that there are those who would want one, but for someone (such as myself) who would rather have the three pedals, the 911 GT3 RS would be my choice (or a Lambo Superaleggra).

Didn't I also here Clarkson say in this weeks episode that it was a joy to have a car with good handling and power and a proper manual.


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