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SL 65: Instant power, just add foot

2012-09-19 10:57

READY TO RACE: One of the three SL 65 AMG units at the launch lines up for a drag race as Fisantekraal airfield in the Western Cape. Image: LES STEPHENSON

Mercedes and AMG. Possibly the best-known partnership in high-performance cars but, with the SL 65 AMG, the luxury of a Merc roadster and the engine-building wizardry at Affalterbach have moved into another automotive universe.

The car, one of three Mercedes SL convertibles just launched in South Africa (September, 2012), is simply stupendous. With 1000Nm of torque – enough to shame a supertruck – and 463kW on tap it’s probably the closest thing to an F1 car a road-going driving enthusiast can buy.


Given enough money, of course... a purchaser would be looking at close to R3-million with a few optional extras thrown in. The base price is R2 261 000.

With all that instant power from the six-litre V12 biturbo, the almost all-aluminium body shaving 170kg off the previous model and improved aero-shaping cutting the Cd to below 0.3, reaching 100km/h takes only four seconds. There are marginally faster cars but the shove from those 1000Nm’s is monstrous.


Eckart Mayer, Mercedes SA’s sales and marketing guru, said: “We’re convinced that we have developed an incomparably exciting high-performance vehicle for its exclusive and loyal fans.

"The combination of exclusive V12 dynamic performance and a refined roadster driving experience was already the defining attribute of the predecessor model.”


After 200km on the Western Cape’s back roads – including the twisting Franschhoek Pass and the serpentine high-grade tar along the east side of False Bay – the press gang at the launch agreed...

Despite its power, Mercedes insists fuel consumption, helped by the almost all-aluminium construction, is well down on that of the previous SL 65 AMG – it's  now 11.6 litres/100km (NEDC combined), a 17% saving of 2.4 litres/100km.

We weren’t (who the hell would?) driving in econo-mode and deconstructed nearly half a tank over that modest trip; Merc ascribes its low figure in part to the efficiency of the AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic transmission and a stop/start engine cut-off and (smugly?) adds that, despite the fuel-saving, power is up from 340 to 463kW.

Zero to TWO HUNDRED km/h takes only 11.8sec.

Here’s some key SL 65 AMG data:
Displacement: 5980cc
Bore x stroke: 82.6x93.0mm
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Output: 463kW from 4800-5400rpm
Max torque: 1000Nm from 2300-4300rpm (electronically limited)
Vehicle weight: 1950kg
Fuel consumption: 11.6 litres/100km
CO2 emissions: 270g/km
Acceleration: 0-100 four seconds, 0-200 11.8sec
Top speed: 250km/h (electronically limited)

The engine has multi-spark ignition with 12 double-ignition coils not only for smoother running but also better combustion and they work with a new engine management system and optimised cylinder heads. There’s also a more effective catalytic converter in the exhaust plumbing.

The AMG Speedshift Plus 7G Tronic has four driving modes: controlled efficiency (C), sport (S), sport plus (S+) and manual (M), each push-button selected from the centre console. The floor shifter is a mere nub to select motion direction or neutral; steering-wheel paddles can over-ride the auto.

Whichever, under hard acceleration and auto double-declutching downshifts, the exhausts fire off muffled shotgun blasts. Like the previous model, the 2012 SL 65 AMG comes with active suspension with two settings (Comfort / Sport): the resulting grip is amazing.


Stopping fast is much more important, however, than going fast and AMG has included 390x36mm compound discs with six-piston fixed callipers at the front and 360x26mm single-piston sliding callipers for the rear discs. The parking brake is automatic and (taking you closer to that R3-million) ceramic high-performance compound brakes are an option.

Apart from the twin-blade bar, the 65 is distinguishable with it spolished chromed headlight housings, AMG daytime lights, bonnet and fender fins – the latter with a V12 BITURBO badge – and bigger air intakes.

The AMG five-spoked 19” alloy rims nest in fat rubber: 255/35 up front and 285/30 at the back. Optionally available are 20” multi-spoke forged alloys from the AMG Performance Studio with 255/35 front and 285/30 rear tyres.

This the  sixth-generation SL retains the electro-hydraulic Magic Sky vario-roof which can be retracted and save space, enabling the SL 65 AMG to transform into a roadster or coupé in less than 20 seconds. Its transparency can be switched to light or dark at the push of a button.

The SL 65 AMG's cabin design and equipment differentiate it from its eight-cylinder sister, among them power AMG sports seats with single or two-tone leather upholstery with a special AMG diamond pattern.


There are also AMG carbon-fibre trim elements, an IWC-design analogue clock, chromed AMG sills illuminated in white and an AMG Performance steering wheel.

A speedometer calibrated to 360km/h in the AMG instrument cluster and the AMG start-up display with an exclusive AMG V12 BITURBO animation hint at the exceptionally dynamic performance of the SL 65 AMG.

The 12-cylinder roadster also has exclusive and comprehensive standard equipment and appointments including Airscarf, parking assistance, lane departure warning, Beosound, Comand, remote-controlled boot release, smart lights, phone, Neck-Pro head restraints, collision anticipation, power doors, roll-over bars and an exterior carbon-fibre package.

Final words from Eckard Mayer: “Our flagship SL 65 AMG is the synthesis of sportiness and technical superiority. Its design and ride comfort present customers with a premium high-quality sports car – a class act in its own right.”

As with all Mercedes-Benz cars, the SL 65 AMG comes standard with the Mercedes-Benz MobiloDrive six years or 120 000km maintenance contract.

SL 65 AMG - R2 621 000
AMG ceramic high-performance composite brakes - R120 000
AMG carbon-fibre trim - R35 000

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