Mercedes SL review
The Mercedes-AMG SL offers excellent performance and great styling, but its 2+2 selling point isn’t delivered on at all.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Mercedes SL
If you’re after a stylish convertible that packs a proper performance punch, you should definitely look into a Mercedes-AMG SL. With no standard “Mercedes-Benz” model on offer, this is an exclusive sports car package – a bit like a private booth at a nightclub.
Last seen in 2020, the SL makes a much-awaited return and comes with much of the AMG styling that’s now very familiar. That means a large grille with vertical slats, huge intakes, muscular styling and a quad-exhaust system – all of which adds to its butch character. The soft-top roof mechanism is lighter and quicker to raise and lower than on the previous hard-roofed SL, too.
That athletic character continues inside, with a simple design being complemented by a sophisticated tech offering. The large central portrait screen is similar to the one seen in the new S-Class, while the digital instrument display has a special cover to reduce sun glare when the roof is down.
However smart it looks up front, the SL isn’t quite as smart for rear passengers. The back seats are tiny – even children might struggle to fit. The boot is on the small side, too.
That said, everything is screwed together really well and all the materials used are of the highest quality. Just be mindful that some of the shiny trim pieces inside are vulnerable to scratching and smudging.
As with any AMG model, driving enjoyment is central to the experience, and the SL delivers on that promise. It has excellently-weighted steering when you’re attacking a twistier bit of road, but it still settles down comfortably on the motorway. That said, it still feels like a heavy car. What you might find more annoying is the fiddly roof mechanism: it’s all operated through the touchscreen, and you have to hold your finger down on the screen itself to make it work. That grates when you’re driving.
It’s not the most practical option, but the Mercedes-AMG SL is entertaining and sounds impressive.
Still, the main highlight of an AMG is what’s under the bonnet. With two V8 petrol options available, both give you superb performance and a thrilling soundtrack. The autocmatic transmission is super smooth when cruising around, but when you need to change down and overtake, it’s very responsive.
With a series of cameras, sensors and radars placed around the car, you get a high level of driver assistance. Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and emergency stop are all included with the SL – which helps to take the stress out of long-distance motorway driving.
In terms of additional kit, it really depends on what you need. Mercedes has kept the truly useful Airscarf system that blows hot air on your neck when the roof is down, and which is very handy in winter. The optional sport seats, meanwhile, offer plenty of support but are quite firm too.
This all adds up in the price tag, but the SL does deliver on a lot of its promises. If you’re after an exclusive performance convertible, this is a great option, so check out our deals to see what you could save.
For more in-depth information, read our practicality, interior and driving sections of this Mercedes-AMG SL review.
Although it isn’t expected, the SL is not very practical at all. The rear seats are especially poor. Front seat passengers will be fine, though.
Although the SL technically has four seats, you won’t use all of them often at all. That’s because there’s hardly any space in the second row – particularly if you option the larger, hard-backed sports seats. Even children will have a hard time squeezing in the back.
Rear headroom when the roof is up is non-existent, and legroom is extremely tight too. So you’d likely find you use the SL strictly as a two-seater – and you’ll find there’s plenty of space in the front row for adult passengers.
In the cabin there’s not a huge amount of storage. You get the space under the touchscreen, which comes with a sliding cover and you have cupholders alongside the wireless charging pad.
You get reasonably-sized door bins and an okay-sized compartment in the arm rest where you can also charge your phone up. But if you’re looking at a car like the SL, chances are you’re not overly concerned about practicality in the first place.
With the SL, boot space also isn’t a main draw. Sports cars don’t normally have great practicality and this Mercedes is much the same – with only 240 litres of capacity available. That’s less than you get in a Ford Fiesta supermini.
It’s not the best shape either. There’s a ridge across the boot floor that you can wedge a bag onto, but it’s a very tight fit. The opening for the boot is also quite narrow, but with this being a convertible with a mechanism and compartment for the folded roof, this compromised practicality is understandable.
The SL is a very capable sports convertible, with the V8 engines offering lots of theatre. It does feel its weight, though.
Fitted with a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, the SL comes in two states of tune. The engine is paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission and the Mercedes 4Matic+ four-wheel drive system.
The SL 55 is the ‘slower’ option and that develops 476hp and 700Nm, meaning 0-60mph takes 3.9 seconds. Its top speed is 183mph. Considering the amount of performance on offer, fuel economy of the 55 isn’t too bad. Mercedes claims 23.9mpg at best, while emissions range from 268-288g/km CO2.
For the full AMG experience though, you need to go for the SL 63. That unit develops 585hp and 800Nm, meaning the 0-60mph sprint is done in just 3.6 seconds and the top speed is 195mph. Fuel efficiency and emissions are the same as for the 55 model.
Fitted with AMG’s adaptive suspension system, ride comfort in the SL is actually quite good. It can be sharp over bigger bumps at times, but with its suspension softened off it’s comfy enough for daily town driving, and with the suspension firmed up it’s plenty of fun on a twisty back road.
The transmission is very smooth when cruising, as the nine-speed ‘box can switch between gears really cleanly. When you push on and put it in a sportier drive mode, it does a really good job of putting you in the right gear when you need it too.
It’s quite a large car and pretty hefty at 2,000kg, but it hides the weight well enough when you go fast through a few corners. Still, the likes of a Porsche 911 manages to feel far more agile. The SL’s V8 engine is also very responsive, and it sounds simply fantastic.
The steering is very responsive – especially in sportier modes – while the four-wheel drive system helps sling you out of corners when you put your foot down. This will come in handy in wetter weather conditions, too.
When you have the roof down, there can be a little turbulence at higher speeds. But with the windows up and air break in place behind you, that buffeting is reduced. You can operate the roof at speeds of up to 37mph, and it take 15 seconds to retract or put back in place. The raising and lowering is controlled on the infotainment screen, and it can be pretty fiddly to operate when you’re driving.
When the roof is up, it feels really refined and well-insulated from the outside world. The three-layer setup Mercedes has used helps keep the heat in and reduce noise from the outside.
Combining AMG sportiness with high-end quality, the SL is a premium-feeling convertible under its soft-top roof. Some trim sections will pick up a lot of fingerprints, though.