Mercedes SL Review & Prices
The Mercedes-AMG SL offers excellent performance and great styling, but its 2+2 selling point isn’t delivered on at all
Find out more about the Mercedes SL
If you’re after a stylish high-end convertible that packs a proper performance punch, the Mercedes SL should be right up there alongside the Porsche 911 on your shortlist. Think of it as a bit like a Gucci tracksuit because it's sporty, stylish and very exclusive. You can't get a regular SL any more - every car wears Mercedes' high-performance AMG branding.
Last seen in 2020, the SL made a highly-awaited return in 2022 after a couple of years away and comes with much of the AMG styling that’s now very familiar from other cars in the range. 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, but controlling it through the touchscreen is a bit fiddly on the move.
The upmarket ethos 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.
Twin test: Mercedes-AMG SL v Porsche 911
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 superbly weighted steering when you’re attacking a twistier bit of road, but it still settles down comfortably on the motorway. It still feels like a heavy car, though.
Anyway, the main highlight of an AMG is what’s under the bonnet. The entry-level engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol with 381hp. But what you really want is either of the two V8 petrol options available - the 476hp SL55 or the 585hp SL63. Both give you superb performance and a thrilling soundtrack, as well as four-wheel drive rather than the SL43's rear-drive. The automatic transmission is super smooth when cruising around, but when you need to change down and overtake, it’s very responsive.
It’s not the most practical option, but the Mercedes-AMG SL is entertaining and sounds impressive
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 Mercedes SL deals to see what you could save. You can also browse through used SL models and our range of other used Mercedes. And when you’re ready to change your car, you can also use carwow to sell your current car.
The Mercedes SL has a RRP range of £108,165 to £179,465. Prices start at £108,165 if paying cash. The price of a used Mercedes SL on carwow starts at £86,237.
Our most popular versions of the Mercedes SL are:
|Model version||carwow price from|
|SL 43 Premium 2dr Auto||£108,165||Compare offers|
|SL 63 4Matic+ Performance 2dr Auto||£179,465||Compare offers|
|SL 43 Touring 2dr Auto||£108,165||Compare offers|
There’s a very big jump in price from the four-cylinder to the V8 models. Even if you stick with the least powerful of the three engines, the 381hp SL 43, you’ll still be paying more for your SL than you would for the most affordable Porsche 911 Convertible. On the other hand, the Merc isn’t as pricey as the Bentley Continental GTC.
The V8 models - the 476hp SL55 and the 585hp range-topping SL63 - are comparable in cost to a Porsche 911 Turbo Convertible, but let’s be realistic – if you are spending deep into six figures then a few grand more or less isn’t going to put you off choosing the car you want.
Hugely exciting to drive, but also relaxing over long distances, but rear visibility is pretty poor with the fabric roof up
There are different suspension set ups depending on whether you are driving the SL 43 (basic sports suspension), SL 55 (adaptive dampers that give you three different driving modes) or the SL 63 (clever hydraulically linked adaptive dampers).
Even the non-adjustable suspension of the SL 43 is comfy enough around town, but being able to switch between settings of Comfort, Sport and Sport+ in the V8 cars adds to the serene driving experience. The suspension is still firm in the most comfortable mode, but it’s forgiving enough to cope with potholed urban streets. You'll jiggle about a bit, but even in its sportiest settings, it never gets annoying.
Every model comes with a nine-speed automatic gearbox that changes gear so smoothly you almost don’t notice. You can take control with paddles behind the steering wheel, but for urban driving you might as well leave the gearbox to do its thing.
Roof down, you get a good view out and it’s reasonably easy to judge the car’s extremities when parking. Roof up, the view over your shoulder is pretty awful. Every model comes with a 360-degree camera, which is just as well. Mind you, the cameras don’t do anything about the ponderous turning circle. Even the V8 cars with rear-wheel steering are a bit cumbersome to park.
On the motorway
With this generation of SL, Mercedes has switched from a metal hard-top to a fabric soft-top. Don’t think that means the SL has taken a backwards step in terms of long-distance comfort. The roof keeps you well insulated, both in terms of noise and temperature. There is some buffeting and whistling around the windscreen pillars, though.
Lower the roof and windows, and there’s noticeable wind noise and buffeting. Keeping the roof down but the windows up is a sensible compromise if you want to enjoy the sunshine on a long journey. Put the wind diffuser behind the front seats and it's better still.
All three engines deliver more than enough performance for easy overtaking, without sounding intrusive at a steady cruise. With lots of clever driver aids included in the price, the car will pretty much drive itself on the motorway, although you’ll need to stay alert to be safe.
On a twisty road
SL stands for ‘sport’ and ‘light’. Well, turn off the motorway onto a deserted B-road and you’ll find one of those two words applies.
This is a very sporty car, with flat cornering, colossal reserves of grip, and sharp steering. Four-wheel-drive for the V8 models means you can put the SL’s power to the road to slingshot out of corners without the back of the car beginning to squirm or slide.
The SL 43 is the most agile model thanks to the small, lighter engine under the bonnet, but it lacks the savage whack of performance you get with the other two, and the engine has a more synthetic sound that’s not quite as pleasing on the ear.
Step up to the SL 55 and you get more aural drama, but it’s the SL 63 where things are turned up to 11. With the burbling soundtrack and the way it leans back under hard acceleration, it feels more like a muscle car than a sports car.
Despite the direct and responsive steering this does make it a little less confidence-inspiring on a tight country road, but the trade off is an engine with the sound and performance to put a smile on your face every time you press the throttle.
It’s perhaps not surprising that it feels like a muscle car when you consider that the SL weighs nearly two tonnes, so it’s certainly not light, as the name tries to suggest. Although it disguises that bulk to some extent it’s not as agile or rewarding as a Porsche 911. As a luxury sports car, though, the SL does a fantastic job of combining comfort and excitement.
Comfortable for front-seat passengers, but a cramped 2+2
You sit low to the floor in the SL, as you’d expect in a sporty convertible. Shorter drivers should find there’s still enough height adjustment to lift the seat base up for a decent view out.
Even with the roof up, front headroom is generous, so even really tall drivers won’t find their hair touching the ceiling. There’s plenty of legroom too. Seat adjustments are made using the seat-shaped buttons on the doors, which is really quick and intuitive – you wonder why more manufacturers don’t do the same.
We’d stick with the standard seats, which are supportive enough while cornering without feeling tight or restrictive on a long drive. You can upgrade the seats to have a massage function but the cushions are quite firm and the side bolsters can feel rather narrow.
Storage isn’t especially generous. The door bins will take small bottles but not larger containers, and the glovebox is small. There’s some more storage under the driver’s armrest with USB inputs. You’ll find concealed twin cupholders at the base of the centre console along with a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones, with a couple of USB-C ports next to it.
So, not an overwhelming amount of storage space, but there’s enough given this car’s sporty remit.
Space in the back seats
Mercedes describes the SL as a 2+2, which is motor industry-speak for ‘there’s hardly any space in the back’.
So yes, in theory the SL can carry four, but even kids will need to fold themselves up like a deckchair. You can say much the same of the tiny back seats in a Porsche 911, although a Bentley Continental isn’t quite so cramped.
Adults can be squeezed in at a pinch for a lift home from the pub, but longer journeys won’t be pleasant.
Still, the seats can be used as shelves to take a few extra bags, supplementing the small boot.
The SL’s boot capacity is 240 litres, which isn’t all that much. What’s more, there’s a ledge running across the space rather than an entirely flat floor.
Even so, there’s enough room for some carry-on suitcases or several bags of shopping. It’s a roomier boot than the 163 litres you’ll find in the Porsche 911 Convertible, though, and so long as you’re not carrying passengers in the back seats you can always squeeze in a bit more luggage there.
Beautiful interior and impressive touchscreen, but some of the gloss black trim will be susceptible to grubby finger marks
The inside of the SL is almost as dramatic as the outside. Top billing goes to the huge portrait-shaped infotainment system. Borrowed from the latest S-Class, it measures 11.9 inches across. It’s stunning to look at, and you can angle the screen to cut down on glare and make it easier to read.
Almost as good to use as it is to look at, the screen is super-responsive. To avoid getting grubby finger marks all over it, you can use voice commands instead of pressing the screen.
Opening and closing the roof is done through the touchscreen, and takes just 15 seconds. You do need to find the right menu and keep your hand on the screen, though, which is fiddlier than simply pressing a button. The screen could also be angled towards the driver a bit more, but now we're being picky.
Another digital display straight in front of the driver takes the place of regular dials, and Mercedes has cleverly shaped the dash around it to limit glare and reflections when driving with the roof down. The screen can be configured with different looks and to prioritise different information. Again, the resolution and graphics are stunning, although some of the designs are a bit gimmicky.
You may well come to the same conclusion about the AMG Track Pace feature, which provides live telemetry and driving tips for whizzing around cordoned-off circuits. It’s handy if you have access to the world’s greatest race tracks and fancy pretending to be an F1 pace car, but not very useful as you make a walking-pace circuit of Woking’s one-way system.
Driving slowly gives you the chance to appreciate the SL’s build quality. For the most part it’s superb, although the top of the steering column and the gear lever could be better finished. Just take care with the gloss black trim, which is easy to scratch and does show up grubby fingermarks.
A two-tonne, V8 powered sports car is never going to be the most environmentally conscious choice. So, if you are at all concerned about economy and emissions, stick with the entry-level four-cylinder SL 43, which returns up to 31mpg and between 206-212g/km of CO2, according to the official figures. That’s still quite a thirst, but not quite the appetite for unleaded shown by the V8s.
The real-world range for the four-cylinder SL should be around half as far again as for the V8s, which is worth keeping in mind if the SL is going to be your daily drive and you cover a lot of miles. Reckon on up to 460 miles on a tank from the SL 43, and more like 320 miles from the SL 55 and 63.
It makes almost no difference which V8 engine you choose. Both return an official 21.4mpg and emit 298-299g/km of CO2.
Still, the SL is by no means the highest emitting performance convertible. A Bentley Continental GTC W12 is even thirstier, for example.
For a company car driver, any of the SL models sits in the top 37% tax bracket, but that’s to be expected from a car of this power and performance.
Every SL is well over the threshold for the £40k+ Vehicle Excise Duty surcharge, so the annual cost will be higher for the first five years.
The SL hasn’t been tested by the safety experts at Euro NCAP, but Mercedes deserves its reputation for building safe cars.
Whether you go for the entry-level model or the range-topper, every SL comes with a thorough list of safety kit and driver aids. Autonomous emergency braking (Merc calls its system Active Brake Assist) is standard on every spec level, along with Active Lane Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Assist, an emergency call system, and a whole lot more.
If you are worried about security, given that Merc has switched the SL from a metal to a fabric roof, it’s reassuring to know that the car has the Guard 360˚ Plus vehicle protection system. This includes an anti-theft alarm, tow-away protection, and vehicle tracking.
At the time of writing the SL is too new for any significant faults or problems to have emerged.
Despite the premium badge, Mercedes doesn’t always perform well in reliability surveys. It varies from model to model, but don’t necessarily expect zero problems with the SL. For a strong chance of a trouble-free ownership experience, it’s worth considering the Lexus LC Convertible as an alternative.
The standard Mercedes warranty covers the car for the first three years. It won’t matter how far you drive in these 36 months, as there’s no mileage limit.