There's a reason this car isn't called the “Mercedes-Benz” SL. Like many of the other excellent vehicles in Stuttgart's performance portfolio, the 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL bears that distinct branding because of its abilities. This convertible is fast, agile, and extremely fun to fling around.
Mercedes-AMG threw the kitchen sink at the new SL in terms of performance technology, giving it a standard twin-turbo V8, an advanced adaptive suspension, and features like rear-wheel steering and Active Ride Control – both new additions to the SL lineup. The result is one of the most well-rounded convertibles of the competitive set, and while there are some minor complaints, the SL-Class ticks all the right boxes otherwise.
Gallery: 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL55: Pros And Cons
The Mercedes-AMG SL55 is unbelievably pretty. It has those iconic sports car proportions of a long hood, a short rear deck, and a sleek roofline that starts with the aggressively raked windshield. The triangular headlights and the vertical 14-slat grille – a nod to the 1952 300SL – are classic Mercedes-Benz design cues, while the back end borrows most of its sleek elements from the outgoing AMG GT Coupe (a good template to use).
The interior feels and looks very much like most modern Mercedes-Benz cabins with swathes of Alcantara, carbon fiber, ambient lighting, and aluminum. It's still excellent, even if it is relatively similar to the S-Class and other high-end Benz models. The SL also adds a unique 11.9-inch MBUX touchscreen that moves fore and aft to help eliminate glare.
Even the “base” SL55 boasts a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that gives it 469 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. The SL63 has 577 hp and 590 lb-ft by comparison, but the SL55 is powerful enough. This roadster rips off the line with just a whisper of turbo lag, launching it to 60 miles per hour in as little as 3.8 seconds.
Even on the highway the SL55 never comes close to running out of steam. Power is still plentiful higher up in the rev range; Mercedes says torque peaks at 5,000 RPM, but even at 7,000, there's still ample shove to give. You'll have to take this car to the Autobahn to test its limits.
Not only did Mercedes really nail the powertrain, but engineers in Stuttgart have once again demonstrated their mastery of suspension tuning. The SL55 has a five-link setup standard with adaptive dampers adjustable to either end of the spectrum (more on that in the next section). And the now-standard Active Ride Control system helps the SL minimize body roll and keep tidy in tighter turns.
Tick it over to Sport+ or Race mode if you're feeling spicy and the SL55 is quick, precise, and completely flat. There's no chassis flex or body roll; the Active Ride Control and newly standard rear-axle steering help the SL maintain that pinpoint accuracy while the Michelin Pilot Sport tires provide ample grip.
Unlike some other pricey convertibles that go too far in the “sporty” direction, the SL – while still extremely dynamic – does exactly what a good convertible should. It is an excellent cruiser when you adjust the adaptive dampers down to the softest setting.
In the Comfort drive mode, the ride is comfortable, floaty, and relaxing. The steering is lightweight and the throttle input is quick but not too jarring. The powertrain is easygoing at low speeds, too, which means that you're able to putter around without the V8 feeling too overbearing in the city.
Too Many Touchscreen Controls
This isn’t totally a Mercedes problem as much as it’s an issue plaguing the industry. But burying basic functionality controls into the touchscreen is annoying – especially here when you simply want to put the fabric roof up or down. The touchscreen-based slider for the roof control is finicky and rarely does exactly what you want it to. You have to hold your finger in place on the screen for the whole 15 seconds that it takes the roof to retract. Move a millimeter in the wrong direction and it interrupts the entire process; it happened multiple times in my week with the SL.
Tiny Second Row
The fact that the SL has a second row at all is pretty remarkable for how small a car it is, and considering the Lexus LC and the Porsche 911 Cabriolet are the only other two. But like most convertibles in this class, the back seat is barely usable – unless you’re a small child. Access to the back seat is tough due to the bulky front chairs, and once seated, the seats are barely wide enough to accommodate the average adult, the backrest is extremely upright, and of course, legroom is tight. You wouldn’t want to sit back there for more than a few minutes.
2023 Mercedes-AMG SL55