ANYONE WHO HAS ever played Top Trumps (or our own topCar cards App – see page 117) knows the biggest star in the Mercedes-Benz range (and one of the largest in the pack) is the mighty bi-turbo V12 SL65 AMG producing 1000Nm of torque. This year sees the arrival of the new SL range but fear not, those 1000Nm have not been reduced by enviro warriors or economic pressures, they are still available in the sixth generation. At the local introduction, Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Eckhart Meyer, announced that over 27500 of the previous generation SL had been sold worldwide since 2001. Considering the world’s economic woes in recent years, these figures are impressive for sports cars costing upwards of R1.2 million (SL500) when they were first launched.
Although depreciation on the fifth-generation SL was rumoured to be fairly high, I suspect a fair amount of the loyal SL customers will be upgrading to its successor as the newcomer turns up the performance ante, offers lower kerb weights across the range, features improved steering and suspension kinematics as well as a new array of gargantuan powertrains.
While all three SL variants (SL500, SL63 AMG and SL65 AMG) impressed on the launch route around the Cape Peninsula, the entry-level R1.6 million SL500 offers the most Newtons for your money. Due to its impressive power-to-weight ratio of 179,2kW/tonne, the new SL500 has a more focussed and agile dynamic edge, weighing-in 140kgs less than its predecessor, thanks in part to the bodyshell that is now made entirely (not partially as before) of aluminium. The weight reduction and consequent improved power-to-weight ratio have also resulted in greater steering response on turn-in, improved roll characteristics and enhanced ride comfort.
Like the previous SL, the latest generation has a classy yet sporty demeanour and still plays the consummate cruiser on the everyday commute. On track was where the previous SL needed to be sharper though, as it was always more ball-peen hammer than blade. The previous 5.0-litre V8produced 225kW and 460Nm when it was launched over 10 years ago, offering a 0-100kph acceleration time of 6.3 seconds. Mercedes-Benz has now fitted twin turbochargers to the big eight-pot mill that benefits by a 95kW increase in power and 240Nm more torque over the naturally-aspirated V8 engine in the outgoing SL500. Yet at the same time, the new force-fed V8 is 22% more economical.
Everyday practicality has also improved on the new derivative, thanks to its 364 litre boot space (previously 228 litres) that expands to 504 litres when the electro-mechanical folding roof is closed. AMG variants feature a Frontbass audio system featuring 900 Watts of Bang and Olufsen concert hall clarity, while a Harman Kardon system is preferred for the SL500. There is also a 160-nozzle adaptive windscreen wiper system that Mercedes terms Magic Vision Control (got to love the marketing jargon), which supplies water from the wiper blade to the windscreen depending on the direction of wipe. The German engineers have also updated the Comand on-board entertainment system, which now has full social interconnectivity to Twitter, Facebook and the Internet. A neat AMG performance media system is fitted to the high end models, with data recording for track use from which drivers can extract and download lap times and G-force data via USB.
Further up the Top Trump range lies the SL63 AMG that, thanks to the SL’s new aluminium shell, drops 125 kilograms to a new kerb weight of 1845 kilograms, offering a power-to-weight ratio of 214kW/tonne. The new model boasts an enhanced AMG sports suspension based on Active Body Control (ABC), new AMG speed-sensitive sports steering, the AMG high-performance composite braking system and the AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed sports transmission. The easiest way to visually differentiate the AMG variants from the SL500 is by their new, twin-blade radiator grilles.
Under the hood, engineers have tuned the SL63’s 5.5-litre V8 bi-turbo to deliver 395kW and 800Nm of torque, and if the AMG Performance Pack is specified (R100000 option), drivers will have 415kW and 900Nm at their disposal. Against the clock, Mercedes claims 0-100kph acceleration times of 4.3secs (standard) or 4.2 with the Performance Pack fitted. Further on, 200kph is reached in 12.9 seconds while top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. With the Performance Pack, the SL63 AMG reaches 200kph in 12.6 seconds and goes on to an electronically-limited max speed of 300kph. In standard guise, combined fuel consumption is pegged at 9.9ℓ/100kph, which is almost 30% less than the outgoing model’s figure.
The big daddy in the range is, of course, the SL65 AMG Roadster with its twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12 delivering a gargantuan 463 kW and a limited peak torque of 1000Nm. With a sticker price of R2.6 million it’s as impressive as its price tag suggests and is sure to trump many a rival on track or mountain pass. Look out for our full comparison test in next month’s issue