what if Mercedes had its anti-Porsche 911?
Getting into a roadster often requires flexibility. But not in the new SL, which displays an XXL format, 4.71 m long (+ 9 cm) and 1.92 m wide (+ 4 cm). You get comfortable there in two steps, three movements, and if the very inclined windshield is a little cumbersome for my taste to feel completely “outside”, in compensation, a huge hood with two bosses spreads out before your eyes, reminiscent of the 300 SL of 1954.
As long as a ray of sunlight makes its appearance, removing the top only takes fifteen seconds … well, as soon as we have identified what to do. To switch to the tactile universe specific to the latest Mercedes, the SL skips a “physical” command to store the roof and you have to go through the central screen. Later pressure on the 11.9-inch slab – tiltable 12 to 32 ° please, even if the interest is limited – and the canvas that replaces the hardtop of the previous generation is erased. Windows and antiremous mesh raised (condemning the two rear folding seats in passing), conventional heating and neck heating activated, I set off behind the wheel of this 63 4Matic + variant. The only one imported into France for the moment, Mercedes ignoring the “small” 55 4Matic + (476 hp).
The SL does not deny itself any technology
To be gentrified over the generations, the SL moves away from the original concept Sport und Leicht – Sporty and Light in French. With an announced weight of 1,970 kg, the lightness is gone. On the other hand, sportiness is making a comeback with the help of AMG. Announced less sporty than the AMG GT coupe which is coming to the end of its career, this SL 63 is nevertheless immediately more convincing when driving. Like a Bentley Continental GT Convertible, the German makes you forget its weight by combining technologies. Thus, for the first time, the roadster with the star is offered four-wheel drive and steering, combined with a controlled rear differential and a 100% active suspension, called AMG Active Ride Control. Put simply, this hydraulic system without an anti-roll bar compensates for transverse movements by changing, in fractions of a second, the pressures in the interconnected adaptive dampers.
More convincing than an AMG GT
The result of this debauchery of means, we discovered in California, in a mountainous area little frequented. As much as the SL is at ease cruising at low speed along the Pacific coast, it impresses with its roadworthiness when you request the 585 hp of the 4 l V8 biturbo. On these small roads that would remind Corsica if they were not marked with the two local yellow lines, the German impresses with its rigorous damping – the AMG GT can take the seed – and its high grip, provided by its enormous Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (275 mm at the front, 305 mm at the rear with the optional 21 inch fitment). The agility is worthy of a GTI and it’s only in the worst hairpins that this 2-ton roadster is starting to suffer. Even the brakes surprise with their endurance.
As standard, the SL has 390 mm composite discs, but our variant is equipped with a top, this time in composite ceramic and even larger (402 mm), that a lower neck does not frighten. Not sure the Mercedes is so imperious on a wet road. In the meantime, its mass is felt all the less as the 800 Nm of torque available from 2,500 to 5,000 rpm drives this rocket with virulence.
Musical and comfortable
The few native people caught up in it couldn’t believe it, all of them having the courtesy to let me pass quickly. Well served by a fairly responsive transmission in the most virile modes (Sport + and Race), the biturbo V8 also reveals the pretty bit of voice expected in such a setting. Its borborygmes flatter the ears without ever attacking them, the SL remaining faithful to the “Grand Tourism” vocation that it has forged since 1954. Behind its efficiency, this roadster delivers, in fact, an astonishing ride comfort on secondary network roads which are not always well paved. The good wind protection and the excellent rigidity add to the driving serenity, the triple thickness soft top ensuring, for its part, a very suitable soundproofing once in place. Suffice to say that this new SL is one of the cars for which it is very difficult to return the key. The first deliveries are planned in France from April. Its price is not yet known, but it should hardly be less than 180,000 € … before the many options from which our test model benefited.