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Mercedes-Benz SL-Class AMG engines, drive and performance

2002 - 2011 (change model)
Performance rating: 5 out of 55.0

Written by Simon Harris Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

Both V8 and V12 versions of the AMG SL are incredibly quick. Originally the V8 SL55 Kompressor used a 500bhp supercharged 5.4-litre engine with a five-speed automatic gearbox, more than adequate for sprinting from rest to 62mph in about four-and-a-half seconds. There’s a perceptible hesitation when downshifting, but with so much torque on offer the need to change down through the gears is rare.

This engine was upgraded in 2006 to 517bhp, making it even quicker. This was eventually replaced by the SL63 AMG which uses a 6.2-litre V8 (but without any turbo or superchardgers) to produce 525bhp and deliver a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds. However, the fastest SL65 AMG uses a twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12 and boasts more than 600bhp. This makes the 0-62mph sprint possible in just 4.2 seconds and it’s as thrilling to drive as it sounds with immense power available at all times plus a wonderful roar that accompanies acceleration.

The AMG versions of the SL have a much more nimble feel than the standard SL, with sports suspension in addition to the computer controlled dampers fitted to the standard models. While the steering doesn’t quite have the sharpness of a Porsche 911 it still points the nose of the car into sweeping bends neatly and accurately. With so much power driving the rear wheels it is very easy to cause them to break traction but the traction control system keeps things in check allowing you to drive quickly with confidence.

Facelifted models from April 2008 have an optional direct-steer system which varies the resistance depending on the speed and road conditions. Meanwhile, the SL 63 AMG comes with a launch control system (called Race Start), which relies on the electronics to provide the optimum speedy getaway from a standing start.