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Reinvented SL roadster is sharper than before – but still not a sports car

Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster (22 on) - rated 0 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £108,030 - £179,225
Lease from new From £2,168 p/m View lease deals
Used price £91,830 - £141,680
Fuel Economy 21.9 - 31.0 mpg
Road tax cost £520
New

PROS

  • Refined and relaxing drive
  • Impressive MBUX and infotainment
  • Surprisingly practical for two

CONS

  • Less-than perfect steering
  • Uninvolving handling
  • Buy an AMG GT for thrills

Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster rivals

Written by Georg Kacher on

Is the Mercedes-AMG SL any good?

It needs to be, as it has big shoes to fill. The SL line of sports cars has been a Mercedes mainstay since 1954 with the arrival of the legendary 300SL. That car was not only beautiful, but it was also a technical tour de force – a set of qualities that the firm has worked very hard to ensure has carried on throughout each generation. So, this is the latest – and, yes, it’s bristling with technology inside and under the bonnet.

It’s up against some very impressive rivals – from the Porsche 911 Cabriolet to the Aston Martin DB11 Volante to Bentley Continental GT Convertible. As the SL is now an AMG-branded 2+2 Roadster with fabric hood, it means you’ll have more space for luggage and passengers than before – just don’t expect it to be a full four seater.

It’s all-new, based on hardware that will eventually be shared witn the next-generation AMG GT. A variery of engine and transmission configurations, with the potential for electrification in the future – and for the first time, the SL is exclusively four-wheel drive. When it goes on sale in the UK later in 2022, there will be a pair of V8 available, with a plug-in hybrid model to follow.

What’s it like inside?

The nicely crafted cockpit certainly looks as digitally advanced as an expensive smartphone, but unless you have a knack for touching, swiping and zooming through life, the software takes a while to reveal its full potential, which includes a highly sophisticated voice-control system. If you use it at night, the cabin ambience is vaguely reminiscent of a Manhattan cigar lounge, glowing in 15 different shades of blue, red and amber.

At any time of day, though, your view into the dashboard is dominated by the centre stack that could be from a Tesla. But that upright XXL tablet-style main monitor for the infotainment looks generic, rides on an unnecessarily wide and unpadded transmission tunnel, and is crammed with a host of redundant functions most of which can alternatively be accessed via the overloaded ultra-sensitive capacitive four-spoke steering wheel.

The cabin also features supportive massage seats, heated door panels and armrests, standard neck warmers and extensive connectivity. The brilliant MBUX voice activation system is standard with augmented-reality navigation through its head-up display are also available. The 213-litre boot expands to 240 litres when the roof is up, which is enough to carry suitcases for a weekend away.

What’s it like to drive?

There are two engines available – both V8s – and it’s the entry-level SL55 we’ve driven. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo develops 480hp (the 585hp SL63 won’t be available immediately in the UK), and has plenty punch – enough to allow it to complete the 0-62mph sprint in 3.9 seconds. Maximum speed is 183mph. For those who like a little drama, the adaptive sports exhaust plays some impressive bass notes at every blip of the throttle.

There are a number of drive, transmission and suspension modes to choose from. If you want the most exciting time, Race mode gives you the fastest shift speed, the quickest steering response front and rear, the most controlled damper setting and the most responsive throttle action.

With that in mind, when testing on a challenging test route, the transmission can sometimes be a little off-the-pace – third gear covers most twisting roads, but someimes when second is needed, the short gearing can sometimes leave it revving a little too hard. Although there are transmission nine ratios to choose from, the first three feel too low to feel any benefit aside from super-quick launches.

Although the Active Ride Control suspension – steel springs, adaptive dampers and hydraulically adjustable anti-roll bars – handles deepest potholes well and tames the motorway expansion joints, the droning low-profile tyres mar the low- to mid-speed ride.

The steering isn’t perfect either, and is also spoiled by an overly-keen lane-departure system. But overall, it’s impressive especially as speeds increase. Also, the wider the bend, the more interesting it gets, with the rear-wheel steering having a positive effect on overall stability. The overall feedback through the wheel is good, and the weighting and precision are excellent.

Still, in terms of refinement, road noise and suspension thump are the only persistent acoustic intrusions. The soft-top is quiet when closed, the wind noise is tamed by its sleek shape.

What models and trims are available?

Aside from the entry-level SL55 4Matic, you’ll be able to buy the SL63 4Matic, with 585hp and 800Nm of torque available. Performance takes a predicatable lift, with a 0-62mph time of 3.6 seconds and maximum speed of 195mph. Both cars produce 268g/km of CO2 and have a Combined WLTP fuel consumption of 23.9mpg.

AMG-branded Sports seats are standard, and come with individual heaters and coolers for the cushion and backrest, plus the Mercedes Airscarf system.

What else should I know?

The SL will be hitting the showrooms during the spring of 2022, and prices have yet to be confirmed – although we’d expect the SL55 to start at around £90,000.

Should you buy one?

Until we know how much it is going to cost, it’s probably too soon to be able to cal it, despite having driven it extensively. As far as potent luxury cruisers go, a Bentley Continental GT might perhaps be a smarter buy. As an open-top sports car, any Aston Martin, Porsche or Ferrari is the more involving drive.

But somewhere in the middle of that lies the new Mercedes-AMG SL as a highly accomplished new occupant of the middle ground – and as such it’s an easy car to like and recommend if you’re not looking for thrills and spills.

Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster rivals