The stock Mercedes-Benz SL isn’t ever going to take a place in the Motor Industry’s Hall of Fame. It’s too heavy, too slow, too boring.
Well, it was until the folk at AMG took one apart and rebuilt it in their own image. The heart of the new beast is a handbuilt, supercharged V8 engine; with a capacity of 5.4-litres stoked by an enormous supercharger, it is a monstrous, thunderous, willfully bonkers piece of silliness that that pushes out 476bhp and 512lb/ft of torque, enough to propel the heavyweight SL55 on to an artificially limited top speed of 155mph (the engineers at Mercedes-Benz claims it would’ve been a genuine 200mph car if they hadn’t been forced to hobble themselves…) via a sub-five second 0-62mph time. Which is ridiculously quick for what used to be a boulevard cruiser.
The hydro-electric suspension, dubbed Active Body Control, might be complex but it gives the SL55 more agility than any car this heavy should have, balancing ride, handling and the need to renegotiate the Laws of Physics by the milli-second when pushing on very effectively indeed.
The folding roof is similarly effective endowing the car with coupe-like civility and rigidity when it’s up, while still offering the full-court convertible experience when it’s down.
Oh, and Jeremy Clarkson bought a new one. Now, no matter what your thoughts about the chap’s personality, political views, or punchiness when he’s hungry, there’s no doubting that he knows his car, so you can be sure he’s speaking from with unparalleled industry experience when he says:
“I’ve swapped the Ferrari for a Mercedes-Benz. The SL AMG is used as a safety car at Formula One grands prix, and if you listen carefully when it’s out on the track you can actually hear it. A rumbling baritone backdrop to the tenor and soprano F1 motors. It is a staggering noise, a bellow, the sound of wanton consumption.
“Looks, as ever, figure just as high, but best of all, of course, is that roof. Push a button and 11 seconds later it’s in the boot.
“So what we have here is a 200mph automatic coupé. A wind-in-the-hair paddle-shift convertible. A full-on, supercharged Tara Palmer Nascar that when you’re not in the mood becomes as quiet and as unobtrusive as Nell McAndrew. And there are so many gadgets the handbook is 539 pages long. Simon Schama got A History of Britain into less than that.”