One of the most iconic Mercedes-Benz ever is the 300 SL. Derived from the W198 racing car and initially released as a coupe in 1954, this vehicle is instantly recognisable due to its trademark gullwing doors. It is one of the first iconic Mercedes road-going sports cars and the start of the lineage that brings us to the current Mercedes-Benz AMG SL. 

If you want to get your hands on an original coupe, good luck, my research on pricing brought up lots of “price on request” pages, which tells me it’s well out of my abilities. 

Three years later in 1957, this was succeeded by the roadster. Featuring a soft convertible top, this was in production twice as long as the coupe, and you can find prices online if you are in the market. Expect to drop the best part of 2.5 million New Zealand dollars.

The SL line then went through 5 models over the years, all retaining the 2 door Roadster design in hardtop form, although some were available as a coupe until we arrived at the current Mercedes-AMG SL.

AMG is the performance and racing division of Mercedes-Benz. Originally a private tuning house they have since become a wholly owned subsidiary. You will see their name on the performance versions of most Mercedes-Benz models, ranging from an AMG body kit to an AMG model. They take a base Mercedes-Benz vehicle, and do their thing, most noticeably with the engine. AMG has a “one man, one engine” ethos, where the engines are completely hand-built by one person. Over the years they have collaborated with Mercedes-Benz on many SL line vehicles. 

This time they took it further. The current version, which we have the privilege of testing at the moment, was introduced in 2022 and it represents a bit of a shift in the Mercedes-Benz process, for one reason or another, they decided to give the entire R232 project to AMG. So what you get is a full AMG-designed and built vehicle from the ground up. How cool is that? 

It’s designed solely as a roadster; if you want a coupe you need to go for an AMG GT, though with traditional doors, this is a design that has come full circle and pays homage to the original 300 SL roadster with its soft forms and traditional fabric roof. 

Remember how the original 300SL was derived from the W198, well here the similarities again converge, we are back in race car territory.

What We Like and Dislike About The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Stunning looks
Performance is amazing
Handling is great
Specification level is high
Super comfortable interior
Navigation system has great Ai
High price point
Rear seats are cosmetic only
One carry-on piece of luggage per person
Start button hidden away.

What’s In The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 Range?

In overseas markets, you will find an SL43, SL55 and SL63. But like most products brought into New Zealand by Mercedes-Benz, we only get high specifications, and as such the AMG SL63 is the only version offered here.

This generation of the SL is a genuine 2+2 seater roadster as standard, with a soft fabric retractable roof. 

Power is delivered by a 4.0 litre Twin Scroll Turbo V8, producing 430kW between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm. Torque peaks at 800 Nm at 5,200 rpm. This is the M177 line of engine from Mercedes-Benz and you will find it in a long list of vehicles including Aston Martins who have had a supply agreement since 2013. 

The engine is front-mounted but pulled as rearward as feasible to give as close to a 50/50 weight distribution as possible. Power is fed through a 9-speed automatic AMG speedshift unit. It’s a pretty trick piece of kit being a multi-clutch planetary system capable of 100 millisecond shifts in the manual and Sport+ modes. The AMG drive unit, essentially the brains behind the whole vehicle dynamics, allows this unit to automatically double-declutch on downshifts enabling non-sequential downshifts. For a road car that’s pretty cool.   

Power is then fed to all four wheels via an AMG 4MATIC+ four-wheel drive system. This is a first for the SL range and dynamically alters torque distribution to give the ideal solution for the driving situation. Combined with this is another new feature, four-wheel steering. Below 100 km/h the rear wheels will steer in the opposite direction to the front, up to 2.5 degrees, which will effectively dynamically shorten the 2,700 mm wheelbase aiding manoeuvrability. Above 100km/h they will steer in the same direction as the front, again up to 2.5 degrees to enhance high speed cornering stability. 

AMG ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL suspension comes as standard. This hydraulic system adapts the dampers for differing drive conditions, but also actively controls the roll bars to minimise body roll. 

Mercedes-Benz is known for having a plethora of upgrade packages available for its vehicles, and in the past, I have found it confusing to work out what a particular vehicle actually contains. Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz has added a lot as standard for the SL63 and there are only a few available as options. 

2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 Standard Equipment Highlights


  • AMG-specific Radiator Grille
  • AMG Front apron, side air intakes in black, AMG rear apron and lower part diffuser
  • AMG-specific side skirts
  • 21-inch AMG 10-twin-spoke forged wheels in Himalaya grey with high-sheen finish 
  • DIGITAL LIGHT, Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus.
  • AMG light display
  • Active aerodynamics with AIRPANEL and electrically extending rear wing
  • Driving Assistance package Plus, includes:
    • Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC
    • Active Lane Keeping Assist
    • Traffic Sign Assist
    •  Route-based speed adaptation
    •  Active traffic-assist
  • Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist
  • AMG DYNAMIC PLUS Package, including:
    • “RACE” drive program incl. Drift mode
    • AMG electronic rear-axle limited-slip differential
  • AMG Performance 4MATIC+
  • AMG Rear-axle steering
  • AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9G transmission with RACE START function
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system
  • GUARD 360 ° Vehicle Protection Plus, including:
    • Anti-theft alarm system
    •  Interior monitoring system
  • Pedestrian protection
  • Active Parking Assist with PARKTRONIC
  • 360° camera


  • AMG Performance steering wheel in Nappa leather
  • AMG Sport seats in Exclusive Nappa leather upholstery
  • MANUFAKTUR roof liner in black DINAMICA microfibre
  • AMG aluminium trim
  • Burmester surround sound system, 11 speakers, 650 watts
  • AMG floor mats
  • AMG illuminated door sills with “AMG” lettering
  • Ambient lighting, w/ 64 colours with 10 colour schemes and 2 effects Head-up display
  • THERMOTRONIC, 2-zone automatic climate control
  • ENERGIZING package Plus:
    • Multicontour front seats
    • Climatised front seats
  • Memory Package, including:
    • 8-way Front seat electric adjustments
    • 3 storable memory presets
    • Electrically folding exterior mirrors
    • Interior mirror and driver’s exterior mirror automatically dim
  • MBUX Interior Assistant
  • AMG DYNAMIC SELECT drive programs
  • AMG Track Pace
  • MBUX multimedia system with 11.9-inch central display
  • MBUX augmented reality for navigation
  • MBUX Navigation Premium, includes:
    • Communication module (LTE) for the use of Mercedes me connect services.
    • Hard-disc navigation
    • Multi-year update for COMAND
  • 8 Airbags

2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 Optional Equipment

If you search the Mercedes-Benz website or brochures, you would be forgiven to think that there is a huge range of customisation available for your SL63, but in reality, there is not. On top of the standard specification (which is very high), Mercedes-Benz New Zealand offers just two packages for the external and one for the internal. These being:

Night Package – $6,990

  • AMG Aerodynamics Package
    • Active aerodynamic profile made of carbon-fibre in the front underbody.
    • Front apron with larger flicks on the air inlets and wheel arches.
    • Rear apron with flicks on the side air outlets.
    • Diffuser attachment at the rear in high-gloss black
  • AMG Night Package
    • Front splitter in high-gloss black.
    • Trim strip on the A-Wing in high-gloss black.
    • Trim on the front wings in high-gloss black.
    • Twin tailpipe trim elements in black chrome
  • AMG Night Package II
    • Ex Radiator shell in black chrome.
    • Typography on the front wings and rear in black chrome.
    • Mercedes star at the rear in black chrome.
    • Radiator fins painted black.
    • Model badge on boot lid and wings in high-gloss black.
    • Radiator fins painted black
    • Headlamps and tail lights, darkened
  • MANUFAKTUR Trim Elements in Black Chrome
  • 21-inch AMG 10-twin-spoke forged wheels painted in matt black

AMG Carbon Package – $11,990

  • AMG Ext Carbon Fibre Pkg I
    • Carbon Front Splitter
    • Carbon Flicks on the front apron
    • CarbonTrim strip in the side sill panels
    • Carbon Rear diffuser
    • Twin tailpipe trim elements in black chrome
  • Carbon fibre mirrors
  • AMG Carbon-Fibre Trim
  • AMG Performance steering wheel in carbon fibre design / MICROCUT microfibre
  • 21-inch AMG 10-twin-spoke forged wheels painted in matt black.

Internally you can choose to add the AMG Performance seat package for $2,499.

Additionally, inside the vehicle you have multiple options for your finishing material At no cost you can choose from:

  • Nappa Leather Black
  • Nappa Leather Sienna Brown / Black
  • Nappa Leather Red Pepper / Black

If you would prefer the MANUFAKTUR line of upoulstries, your options are:

  • Nappa Leather Truffle Brown/Black – $2,590
  • Nappa Leather Crystal White/Black – $2,590
  • Nappa Leather Macchiato Beige/Titanium Grey – $2590

The 21-inch AMG 10-Twin-spoke forged wheels can be swapped out for a 21-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheel, both in Himalaya grey, for no extra fee.

The black soft top can be changed to red, again at no fee, but only on certain body colors, namely the lighter options that will contrast it nicely. Likewise, the roof liner can be swapped out from the standard black to macchiato beige, but it forces the interior lining to be the same.

Whilst I like that Mercedes-Benz has simplified the ordering process by only offering two packages and a couple of other independent options (baring colour), I do find their advertising very confusing. 

Both their online and print media show multiple more customisation options (trim, wheels), and configuring online allows you to accept them. It is however misleading, as upon acceptance it will trigger a complete package, either the Night or AMG carbon package to be added and you cannot actually order these items individually.

2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 Colour Range

Mercedes is well known for Its extensive colour options, and the SL63 is no exception, being offered in a wide variety of colours. The standard spec colour for the New Zealand range is Sun Yellow, but there are many options.

In the metallics, at no extra cost you have options for:

  • Selenite Grey
  • Spectral Blue
  • High-Tech Silver
  • Hyper Blue
  • Obsidian Black

Moving into the MANUFAKTUR range of colours, the SL63 is offered in:

  • Alpine Grey solid – $6989
  • Red Bright – $2189
  • White Bright – $2189
  • White MAGNO – $10,190
  • Blue Mango – $10,190
  • AMG Monza Grey MAGNO – $10,190

Our Review Vehicle’s Optional Equipment

Our review vehicle was Spectral Blue and included the Night package at an additional cost of $6990.

Including the optional equipment our review car’s retail price is $368,890.

For a full list of specs and options available for the Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+ head on over to the Mercedes-Benz New Zealand’s website.

How Does The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+ Compare To Its Competition?

If you’re considering an AMG SL63, you’re in the market for a distinctive vehicle that is going to provide you with an emotive driving experience. This is not an everyday runaround or family car, but when researching there are surprisingly a lot of options in this use case and price point.

Many factors will come into how the SL63 compares to the competition, and honestly, in this market the factors that play a part are more emotive and personal. Price is a less important factor, as when you are considering over a quarter of a million dollars on a car, you are in a different world to most people. Have you always dreamt of owning a Ferrari, Porsche, or Aston Martin since childhood? When driving through the countryside on a Sunday afternoon, would you prefer the scream of a V10, or the deep rumble more associated with a V8? Maintenance, all of these will be costly to run, but the SL63 does come with 3 years’ worth of servicing (not including consumables).

We managed to find quite a few options for comparison, and the table below shows these as well as a couple that will give you a close but not the same driving experience, allow you to take more than one adult friend and luggage, as well as save a substantial amount of cash.

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
(excl CCP)
Aston Martin DB 124.0-litre Twin-turbo V8500/8003.612.2262TBC
Ferrari Roma3.8-litre V8456/7603.4511.3292TBC
Audi R8 V10 Performance Quattro5.2-litre V10449/5803.115112$370,500
Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+4.0-litre Twin-turbo V8430/8003.613.9213$361,900
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Cabriolet3.0L Twin-turbo flat-6353/5703.610.8295$349,500
BMW M5 Competition4.4-litre Twin-turbo V8460/7503.311.2530$242,500
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio2.9-litre Twin-turbo V6375/6003.810.2480$159,990

Please note DriveLife does its best to ensure the information below is correct at the time of publication, however, prices, specifications, and models can change over time. Please bear that in mind when comparing models in the comparison table.

First Impressions Of The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+

Mid-November, Christmas came early for me. I watched our review team group chat as my DriveLife colleagues all painfully came up with a reason why they couldn’t review this vehicle for ten days. My calendar was empty and I couldn’t say yes quickly enough, although let’s be honest, if it was full I would have cleared it straight away.

I arrived pretty early at the dealership the day of pick up, so much so that it was half an hour until they opened. But sitting out in the yard was one of the best-looking vehicles I had seen in a long time, and I had a lot of time to take it all in before getting the keys.

The whole aesthetic is one of beauty but with a hint that this is something special. It’s low and wide, sleek but with a slightly aggressive front and the telltale pan-americana grill gives a clue on what you can expect.

AMG have done a nice job of this, although softer in design than a lot of its competition, the proportions, lines, and details work well. There is no discontinuity from front to rear, even though the language goes from slightly aggressive to more soft and classic. Everything looked correct and well thought out, including the 21-inch wheels which complemented it well. They are big, but not overbearing and sit perfectly within the arches. 

The dealer had two vehicles in stock, one in Sun Yellow, which was taking pride and place in the centre of the showroom with its top down, and the one I would be picking up in Spectral Blue sporting the cloth roof in the closed position. Both looked great, but of everyone I spoke to I was the odd one out and preferred the yellow.

I was left in no doubt that this was a sleeper vehicle. At first glance, you see just another roadster, but start to look closer, take in the details and you start to realise just what you are in for. And that was something I could not wait to experience.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+?

You will have guessed by now that I am quite impressed by the exterior of the Mercedes-AMG SL 63, and it will be no surprise that this feeling continues when we get to the interior.

On first impression of opening the doors and looking in, you get the feeling of a simple and clean cabin with a well-integrated design that oozes quality and luxury, The same as evident in the exterior. There’s nothing outlandish, and nothing jumps in your face, except for maybe the aero air vents but more on them later. It all just works as a design and integrates seamlessly.

Like all car interiors, to get in the SL your first interaction is with the doors. Being a 2 + 2, the doors are longer than your standard car, as they have to also allow someone to squeeze in the back, but despite this, they are weighted well and easy to open and close. The interior trim is nice, being primarily a dark grey Nappa leather. It looks and feels very high quality and the exposed stitching was also well done and contrasted nicely. The door card also features various seat and window controls, a speaker, and a convenient storage bin.

In true sportscar style, the SL63 is low. It’s a bit of a drop to get in, but once in, wow, is it comfortable. Those of you who have read my previous reviews will know that to me, the seating and driving position is really important. I like to be comfortable, not crowded especially in the legs and get quite specific, much to the amusement of my wife. To this, the SL63 was a dream.

Our test vehicle had the AMG Sport seats. Unlike the optional AMG Performance seats, which are a bucket design, these are a traditional separate upper and lower, but the headrest, while also independent, is integrated into the design so from a glance appears as one. The seats are 8-way electronically adjustable and superbly comfortable. The material is again a dark grey Nappa leather with contrasting stitching. The leather itself is perforated on the back and leg areas to allow for the ventilation feature, and my one criticism of them is that it does look like the leather is not tight on the seat, sometimes looking a little loose and baggy in certain views. These are massage seats, so this could be a result of having to allow a little room for this functionality.

The seat position is all controlled from the door panel which has the traditional Mercedes controls that look like a seat These are a bit more intricate than previous vehicles as they are touch-sensitive. For adjustment, it is pretty standard with fore and aft, height and tilt of the base, the tilt of the back, lumbar support, and pneumatic side bolsters. Just a slight bit of pressure on the buttons will make the seat move quite easily. The headrest position is manually controlled via a small button on the side.

Seat belts are a little hard to reach, and this was noted by a couple of passengers.

You have three memory positions that are set and controlled by buttons on the same panel as the position on the inner door card. These work well although occasionally they require a second reminder for the seat to move into the desired position. Within the main car settings, you have the option of the easy access seat feature, where it moves back (and the steering wheel forward) to allow ease of ingress and egress. It was whilst using this that I noticed the seat did not always return to the last used position, and I had to remind it where to go via the memory function.

Whilst on the seat controls, you also have a few more on the same panel. These control the seat ventilation, heating, and also the air skirt. This is a really neat feature that blows warm air around your neck, primarily for when you have the top down. It might sound gimmicky, but it actually was useful.

Once you’ve got the seat in a position that you like, it’s time for the steering wheel, another thing really important to me and again the SL63 did not disappoint. This is the updated AMG wheel. I remember when it came out a few years ago, and at the time I was not a fan of the dual horizontal blade spokes, mainly as I thought they were a backward step aesthetically from the previous. I thought it just didn’t look as good as the previous one but after a few miles in the car it changed my opinion, it’s also functional as once you know what button is where you can find them easily tactilely with your thumbs.

The wheel itself is a nice diameter, and also the grips for your hand positions at 3 and 9 o’clock are a good size. They are fat, but not too fat, and perfect for my hands. I think I’m a normal-sized person so hopefully if it works for me, it should work for most people. The wheel itself is nice leather, the same as the seats with perforated grip areas for your hands. As is fashionable these days the wheel has a flat bottom. The steering wheel itself is fully adjustable, up, down, in, and out, so again no problems getting a position that works.

I spent a little bit of time setting up the seat and steering wheel position and was able to get myself a nice position that once set I never changed. In a lot of cars I find the seats are too high and you are too close to the pedals. With the SL63 being a more sport-orientated vehicle this wasn’t a problem, the seat you could get really low, and an almost straight leg position was easily obtainable without finding myself sitting in the back miles from the steering wheels.

If you are interested, the best driving positions I have experienced come from two other German vehicles, a BMW M3 and a Porsche 911. To me, these are pure driver’s cars, and the SL63 easily rivals these, it is that good ergonomically.  

Behind the steering wheel, and spanning the width of the vehicle you have the dashboard. It’s again a nice simple and elegant design. The entire dash is the same leather and stitching as the seats, doors, and steering wheel, and at the top features a nice curved edge that wraps around and seamlessly blends into the top of the doors. It’s a small feature, but to me shows off the thought and care that has gone into the overall design. While I like this, the feature I absolutely love in the dash is the air vents. These are an aero turbofan design and look stunning. They remind me so much of the original 300SL and work perfectly, not to mention they were an instant conversation starter with anyone who was in the vehicle.

Integrated into the dashboard is the instrument panel. Unlike most vehicles these days that have a big flat panel that in some cases looks like an afterthought, this is recessed and surrounded by a shroud. It might not be contemporary or avant-garde, but to me gives a more classic and elegant luxurious feel.

The instrument cluster itself is super clear, being one of the crispest and clearest I’ve seen. I had no problems at all with visibility reflection or glare whilst driving even with the top down. You have multiple display modes, covering a plethora of information which I’ll cover in depth in the Drive section.

In between the driver and passenger is a large centre console. It is dominated up front by the large 11.9” LED touch screen which, powered by Mercedes’ MBUX system is the nerve centre of the whole vehicle, containing your entire infotainment and vehicle settings information. It’s a great size and appears well-positioned. Design-wise, whilst it is obvious, it doesn’t stand out nor look like it shouldn’t be there.

Behind the screen in the centre console, we deviate from the standard leather. Here, you have both polished black plastic in the centre and brushed rustic chrome that curves down from behind the screen to the centre console. Directly behind the screen, you have a storage bin with a pop-up lid. Inside this is your wireless charging, USB ports and ample storage for miscellaneous items.

Behind this, we are back to leather and a cool little clam-shell opening storage bin. Controlled by a small silver button, a light press pops the doors open, to the left and right, revealing a deep storage bin below.

Looking at this, and the dash in general, one thing becomes apparent and that is craftsmanship. The fit and finish of all the interior is really high. Everything – all the gaps between upholstery and moving objects are as tight as could be without interfering with movement. Shut lines are consistent, stitching is perfectly parallel. It’s evident that a lot of thought has gone into producing a high-quality product.

Above the centre console, you have the rearview mirror and reading lights. One thing worth mentioning, which I thought was a great thing and another example of the attention paid was that at night, the passenger reading light turned on and off automatically depending on if it sensed someone in the seat. Nice touch.

The passenger is in no way forgotten, having the same seat and functionality as the driver. The lower half of the dashboard on their side features a large glove box, spanning their entire side. It’s nice to see this and was quite surprising. Storage space is at a premium and a lot of manufacturers are doing a half-width glove box with fake front these days. It’s nice to see Mercedes-AMG not following the trend.

The SL63 is advertised as a 2+2 seater, and to give Mercedes-AMG credit, the rear is larger than the previous model, but the plus 2 is made for small people. Mercedes-AMG does say it’s for up to 150 cm in promotional material.

I tested out the back and it wasn’t fun. Even with the driver’s seat in a position so far forward that driving would be impractical, my knees were in my face, which was hunched over to not hit my head on the soft top. I’m not considered tall for a New Zealand male at 177cm, so not the target market for rear-seat passengers, but my little experiment did confirm that there is not a lot of room there; you should not even think about taking 4 adults.

For smaller people however the seats did look a nice shape, and the quality and attention to detail is the same as the front, including trim, finish, and leather.

While on the subject of space, let’s talk about the boot. There is 240 litres of space, though in reality, this is only 212 as 28 litres are taken up but the soft top when it’s down.

During my travels, I had only an aircraft carry-on bag and my camera bag with me, and these combined resulted in two-thirds of the boot full. You’re not going to be taking large suitcases with you, it’s kind of one carry-on bag only per occupant. The rear seat doesn’t really lend itself to being used as storage space either unless it’s all enclosed in a bag and not loose, as hopefully when you’re out cruising you’re going to have the top down enjoying the weather. As mentioned earlier, I don’t believe this will be an issue for potential buyers, but it is something to note.

You might be thinking there is nothing wrong with the interior, and you would almost be correct. While it performs the functions required for this type of vehicle perfectly, there were a couple of niggles. The seat memory function didn’t always work as expected, the seat belts were a bit hard to get hold of, the bonnet release lever was hard to find and the headlight control dial is almost hidden in the lower right of the dash, obscured by the steering wheel.

The worst thing for me however was the start button. A vehicle that looks, sounds, and performs like this needs a noticeable start button, front and centre, boarding on obnoxious. Think the bright red button of the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Unfortunately, the SL63 has it hidden away almost behind the central screen, and it’s hard to reach. To me, this was such a disappointment.

Overall, however, it’s a stunning interior that does everything you want. The colour pallet works well, with dark grey leather, silver metal highlights, and dark bronze chrome features. Design is spot on with high attention to detail and quality, creating an environment in which I could not spend enough time in.

What’s The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+ Like To Drive? 

After picking up the SL63 from the local dealer, I was keen to get on the road and experience what it had to offer. The plan was to go straight up the centre of the North Island to visit Taupo, across to Hawkes Bay for some wine tasting (not on a driving day), then back down SH50 home. This would encompass some of the best driving roads in New Zealand whilst taking in some great destinations and allowing for a good test of the vehicle. My idea of a perfect summer road trip.

So into the car it was and after getting the driver’s position all sorted, it’s time to start up. Like most modern vehicles these days the key is a proximity type and is easily stored in the centre console. Starting is by a simple button press, although it is very awkwardly placed and incidentally when pressing the lower half, the same button turns off the auto stop/start feature.

Heading up the island was a pretty non-eventful trip, except for one thing, and that is the huge smile that I could not get off my face. The 400 km journey took in the smooth, modern roads of transmission gully, narrow open roads that we in New Zealand call a highway, and finished up with the Desert Road, one of the country’s most iconic driving roads.

Despite a lunch break in Bulls and many photo stops, it’s hard to not with such a photogenic car. I made it in good time, relaxed and grinning from ear to ear. Why did I feel like this? Well, the Mercedes-AMG SL63 is one of the most emotive cars I’ve driven and the first thing that contributes to this is the engine and drivetrain.

Recently some AMG engines have received criticism for not sounding as they should according to the purists, lacking the throaty sound that people associate with the brand. In its SL63 configuration, the ML177 V8 has completely nullified these issues and delivers an experience equal to the iconic AMG engines of the mid-2010’s. Starting up at idle, it emits a low rumble that just sounds right, give it a little bit of throttle and it just gets better. The sounds from this engine are just glorious and so addictive.  

If the normal start is not enough for you, try the emotive start function. Start as normal, but immediately pull back both gear shift levers. You’ll get a higher idle speed and the exhaust in race mode.

Mated to the engine is the 9-speed automatic AMG speedshift unit that provides a seamless shifting experience. Upshifts are practically undetectable except for a tiny pop from the engine and a bit of a whistle coming from the turbo/exhaust. Downshifting and any lift on the throttle gives all the pops and crackles you’ve come to love, with more being forthcoming the more spirited you are driving. If you want a purer experience, flick over to manual mode by pulling one of the paddles behind the wheel and the noises get even better.

What is really impressive however is how versatile the drive package is. For a car that has some serious performance, it is equally as happy tootling around town at 50km/h. There is no lurching from the transmission, no rough engine; it’s perfectly content as a daily driver.

On the open road however, you can start to get an idea of what the performance is capable of. Mercedes-AMG advertise a 0-100 time of 3.6 seconds, and well, I did not test this out I can testify that in the 20 – 100km/h sprint it is seriously fast. The problem with testing vehicles like this is that if doing so on a public road they accelerate so fast that when you see 70km/hr on the instrument cluster you have to lift off as a split second later you will be over the speed limit. Mercedes have thought of this and the SL63 has an adjustable electronic speed limiter. I set this to 110 and floored the vehicle to see how it worked, and the answer is very good. It’s not a hard cut, but as you get closer to the set limit you can feel the vehicle being retarded and it will not let you go over.

The throttle response is great, with the throw of the pedal aligning perfectly with my natural foot movement. Like all accelerators should be, it pivots from the floor giving a more natural movement. There is a bit of turbo lag under acceleration, though it’s not that noticeable. This is a twin-scroll unit, so AMG has obviously been working on this.

I could talk about the engine and drivetrain all day, it is that intoxicating but probably should move on.

Pedals aside, the most direct driver input comes from the steering wheel. We’ve already discussed in the interior section how nice this is and how well it fits into the car.

The steering itself is well-weighted; Around town, it is very light and you don’t feel any resistance from the 275/35 R21 front tyres. You’ll recall the car has four-wheel steering so you do get a little bit of assistance from the 305/30 R21 rear tyres steering up to 2.5 degrees opposite to the front.

On the open road, the steering gets even better; it tightens up, gets heavier with speed, and slows down so there is less chance of a darty vehicle. This is a good thing and imperative in a performance vehicle. Again, this will be helped by the rear steering, which will now be operating in tandem with the front.

Dynamically, the SL63 is a delight, and that’s due to the impressive chassis design coupled with the multitude of AMG control systems working in perfect harmony. The Desert Road, an iconic stretch of state highway one between Waiouru and Turangi, was the perfect place to test all these out.

As a reminder, the SL63 has AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive technology providing fully variable torque distribution to the front and rear axles. The AMG DYNAMIC PLUS package includes AMG dynamic engine mounts, an AMG electronic rear-axle locking differential, and the AMG ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL suspension with active, hydraulic anti-roll stabilisation.

All of these are coupled with the AMG Dynamic Select drive programs, ranging from Comfort to Race. Whilst you can select your mode from the infotainment panel in the centre, the quickest and coolest is via the little round rotary switch to the lower right of your steering wheel. And unlike other manufacturers, this is an actual rotary switch with a built-in display that changes to show you the current selected mode. Rotating it will scroll through, Winter, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race modes. Pure race car.

The best thing about these modes is that changing them makes a noticeable difference. Too often these days manufacturers (and this is extremely prevalent in electric vehicles) give you multiple drive modes but changing them makes practically no difference at all and leaves us reviewers scratching our heads. With the SL63 there is no such problem, rotate that dial and you will notice a difference.

The same dial visually exists on the left of the steering wheel but in a completely different function. In this configuration it is not a rotary dial, but AMG steering wheel buttons. The circular part has two buttons, top and lower, while two tabs protrude out and are also buttons. These are fully customisable and you can assign two vehicle functions of your choice to the control tabs, by pressing the corresponding buttons on the rotary section. The standard is to control the exhaust valves and shift mode. I left it as is, because why wouldn’t you want to have the ability to open the valves in all drive modes at the tip of your fingers?

So, what happens when you change these settings? Essentially as you go up in fun modes, the drive train, suspension, exhaust, and dynamics are getting progressively more performance-orientated, although not in a linear manner. For example, there are 5 drive options but only 3 suspension ones, so sometimes changing from one setting (Sport+) to another (Race) will only change one variable, in this case the drive mode.

The good news is that individual mode lets you fully customise your settings.

So how did the SL63 go on the Desert Road? Unsurprisingly, it was stunning. We have already established the engine and drivetrain are amazing, the steering great, but over this road the chassis dynamics and entire package really came together. No matter what mode was selected the base qualities were the same – a vehicle that is extremely well planted to the road, has zero body roll, is super responsive to driver input, gives precise driver feedback and despite a reasonable size is extremely nimble.

Through the twisty sections I was able to maintain a respectable pace and with minor inputs to the throttle and steering place the vehicle wherever I wanted. The 4-MATIC system did a great job of transferring torque to the required corner and kept a very well-balanced vehicle with just the slightest hint of understeer the more you asked from it. Anyone who’s driven a race car will realise just how important the throttle is to control a vehicle and it was so refreshing to drive one that responded so well as so many have a dead spot as soon as you touch them.

While the base characteristics were the same, moving through the modes resulted in the vehicle evolving more and more. Steering got more precise and quicker, throttle response sharper, the exhaust and the amazing sound even better and the whole body tightened up. The difference in modes is noticeable but not once however did it get to a stage where it went too far and the suspension was too stiff and transmitted harsh bumps. On the other extreme, I also would have been perfectly happy staying in Comfort mode the entire time as despite the name it still has a decent amount of performance. And therein lies just how good the dynamic select system is.

There are only two downsides to the dynamics. The first is under heavy acceleration from a slow speed. Here you get a very noticeable pitching up of the front of the car, which is present in all drive modes. As speed increases it goes away and the vehicle levels but it was a bit unexpected with all the control systems present.

Secondly, on very slow tight manoeuvring (think parking buildings) there was noticeable wheel scrub from the inside rear wheel. This reminded me of my days of go-karting, where you had a solid axle so the slower the corner the more you wanted to lift the inner rear wheel. The SL63 has an electronically limited slip diff, so I’m surprised this is an issue, as in theory they should be able to completely open the differential up. Maybe it’s not the case, but either way, it’s something to be mindful of.

The SL63 is a low car, but Mercedes has thought of the impracticalities involved with parking and it comes with a front axle lift system as standard. At the push of a button (or via programmed GPS position), the front will lift 30mm. Great idea and sure to be a lifesaver for some owners.

After 5ish hours of driving, taking photos and concentrating on the vehicle feedback you might think I’d arrive in Taupo pretty tired, but this was not the case. Comfort-wise again the SL63 again comes up tops.

Mercedes-AMG have spent a lot of time on their NVH testing with the SL63 being a relatively quiet vehicle (engine aside). The Michelin Pilot Sport 4’s are a known quantity, being a good performance and quiet tyre, I’ve used them on my personal vehicle and on the SL63 they again proved their qualities. The grip was great and I did get to try it in the rain for one day where this was also the case. Wind noise is also relatively minor, though a bit more is present when the top is down mainly noticeable around the top of the seat belts. A little deflector on top of the front screen stops air coming down into the cockpit and if you turn the seat air fences on, your neck will stay nice and warm. Driving over the wide variety of roads showed no circumstances that gave a harsh ride or transmitted any form of vibration, though over time a small rattle did develop in the forward passenger area. It was minor and hopefully an easy fix at the next service.

If you do decide to go topless, it’s a pretty simple process. The roof is operated by either a slider on the infotainment screen; this is not the best as you have to manually hold it, or the fastest way is to double tap the soft top icon on the lower area of the screen and hold till it starts moving. At speeds up to 60 km/hr, you can open or close the top in 15 seconds.

The gorgeous throwback to the original 300SL air turbine vents provides the outlet for a very efficient climate control system. Mercedes-AMG advertises it as a dual zone system, and I’m sceptical on these but suffice to say this system worked well. I could set the temperature required and it was really fast to respond. It does so also without blasting air into my face or any other part of the body that is annoying. Hands come to mind, but I also know others quite like a bit of air on the hands, so it’s a personal thing.

One of the reasons I arrived in Taupo feeling so fresh was due to the Energising package, one of many standard tech solutions. This monitors your journey and suggests various massage programs for the seat and accompanying relaxing or attentive music as appropriate. For me, it decided the “Joy” program was required and upon acceptance, I was subjected to 10 minutes of massage, music and lights designed to improve my enjoyment. Honestly, I was pretty much at the peak of my joy levels so not sure this was required. Either way, the massage function was great and for the remainder of the time with the vehicle, it was put to good use.

The instrument cluster is inset into the dashboard, surrounded by a cowl. It is nice and crisp, easy to read and fully customisable to show whatever information you would like. There are 8 standard menus to choose from, these being Understated, Sport, Classic, Navigation, Assistance, Service, Supersport and Track Pace. Scrolling through these is controlled via the steering wheel haptic touch buttons on the right side upper horizontal blade.

Once in a particular setup, an area of the screen (normally the centre) can then be scrolled through to show differing information. You can get the standard stuff like fuel consumption, temperatures, navigation, odometer to g-force, and a representation of the traffic around you. There seems to be an endless amount that is available, and even after 10 days with the vehicle, I still feel I didn’t explore everything available. I found myself spending the majority of my time on the Classic screen, which features two analogue (but digital) dials, speed and fuel on the left, and then rpm and oil temp on the right. In the centre is the selectable data area. Above this in the centre is some safety information such as the current speed zone you are in, if you have a speed limit set, and reminders for the status of various driver assistance functions.

Coupled with the instrument cluster is also a very clear heads-up display. I would say of the vehicles I’ve tested it’s the clearest yet, though like them all suffer from the issue of not being visible with polarised sunglasses. Like the cluster, it has multiple contexts to choose from, which are Minimal, Sport, Standard, Supersport, Eco, Settings, and Display on/off, depending on the look you require and the information you would like to see. This is independent of what you have the instrument cluster set as, so you can have a Race cluster, but Eco heads-up display, and it is also controlled by the same buttons as the instrument cluster, you just flick up the menu button to change which screen you are controlling. The position of this worked well for me as initially set up, though you can adjust the height and brightness should you so desire. It’s a bit confusing that Mercedes-AMG calls the selectable presets “menus” for the instrument cluster and “contexts” for the heads-up display, but I guess only really an issue if you are reading the owner’s manual.

On the lower right blade of the steering wheel, you have the controls you might most commonly use while driving. These are your cruise control and following distance control, or Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC in AMG speak. Whilst the haptic touch buttons worked fine, the process of setting the distance control did take a bit of working out. Once you get the combination sorted it works well.

I found the cruise control to be extremely accurate, what was the most impressive however was the adaptive part of it. It detected road signs advising speed limits with ease, including temporary ones at road works, and changed the cruise control in an amazingly short space of time. I was so impressed that I started paying particular attention to it, and am convinced that even on a temporary road works sign, it is setting the new speed when the vehicle is within metres of passing the sign.

As well these two you have plenty of other safety tech and driver assistance features within the vehicle. These include Active Lane Keeping Assist, Traffic Sign Assist, route-based speed adaptation, Active Traffic Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, and Active Parking Assist with PARKTRONIC. Although I am not a fan of anything that takes control away from the driver, I did try these out and they all worked well. The active steering assist in particular was very effective but not overbearing like some can be. I also was not able to find a situation where it did not pick up the edge of the road; again, an issue I have come across in other cars.

The majority of these are feeding off Mercedes-AMG’s artificial intelligence/environment monitoring technology, and I must say based on how all these systems are functioning, they must be at the top of the game in this area.

On long drives you have the attention assist system, which depending on the driving conditions is monitoring your attention levels. It often suggested a coffee stop or more interestingly one of the preset massage and light functions. I’m on the fence about these systems, thinking they are gimmicky, but I guess if they are there, and save at least one accident, then it’s a good thing to have.

On the left blades of the steering when you have more haptic controls for the entertainment. The lower blade has controls for the phone, volume, and information button and a programmable favourites button. While above you have the same controls as the right, although this time you control the centre MBAUX screen. The DriveLife team, myself included, has been pretty critical of this functionality in other vehicle reviews due to them being inconsistent and hard to use. The SL63 setup bucks this trend and I found them pretty easy and results consistent.

Directly behind the steering wheel, you have two paddles for manually changing gear. On the left, you pull to go down and on the right, you pull to go up. They’re quite small, but I had no problems at all functioning with them. They rotate with the steering wheel, so you always know where they are.

Your Direct Select lever (gear stick) is right behind the wheel on the right-hand side. When I first tried this gear stick in an A-Class many years ago, I was not a fan of it. It seemed like it was more suited to a farm ute, but I must say that after a week of using it, it has come naturally to me and I didn’t have a problem with it. It’s pretty simple to use, flick it up for reverse and down for Drive, with Neutral in the middle. It also has a Park button on the end.

The only other control you have is a stalk on the left of the steering column enclosure. This controls your indicators, window wipers, and high-beam lights. Lights in general are controlled by a rotary dial on the lower right of the dashboard. Again this is awkward to reach, but unless you are trying a fancy setting, just leave it in Auto.

Speaking of lights, the SL63 has a digital light system from the S-Class. It’s pretty impressive, giving great vision ahead at night, and the way they adapt for corners and oncoming traffic is nice. I did notice however a strange black square area that sometimes did not get illuminated on the road ahead. I was not able to pinpoint the situations that caused this to appear, and it was erratic.

The infotainment system in the SL63 is a slick piece of work. It’s an 11.9” LCD screen, pivoted at the bottom. The bottom of the screen features permanent haptic touch buttons that can be used for controlling it, these include an on-off button, a volume slider that also can mute the sound system, a fingerprint sensor that you can use to log into your profile, and a really handy button for setting the angle of the screen. This is primarily to allow you to reduce glare when the soft top is down, a problem I did not experience.

Once you have the system turned on, navigation can be via the touch screen, or whilst driving the controls on the upper left steering wheel blade.

If you decide to use the system to create a profile you can give it your height and there is then an option to set the optimal driving position. You can choose if you would like just the seat or the seat and steering wheel set. I did this, and although it wasn’t perfect for me it gave a great starting point.

Once you have the system up and running, you have the choice of either Mercedes’ new “zero layer” or classic home screen. Zero layer provides you with dynamic content from the MBUX multimedia system and is used to quickly access and control the applications you use. It has a digital map with the applications appearing in the lower display area and compared to the classic home screen involves fewer steps to get to applications. If you prefer a more familiar look, you can easily switch between the zero layer and the home screen with a classic menu.

If using the classic home screen, you will be greeted with a familiar infotainment screen. The top ¾ screen contains icons to link you to various areas, these include Navigation, Apps, Store, Settings, Comfort, Phone, Radio, Media, and Performance. The lower quarter of the screen has a consistent view the whole time, no matter what section you have navigated to, and is your climate control. You have a power button to turn the AC off and on, settings for the temperature and fan which are independent for both passenger and driver, screen demister buttons front and rear, a shortcut to your climate menu, a button to turn recirculation air on and off, and a button to turn on auto mode.

This provided a convenient area to control 90% of the climate requirements. If you require more, you can go into the climate menu, interestingly accessed from this bar and not the main icon area, where you get more control of the air.

The infotainment system has so many modes and options, that it’s hard to talk about them all. When in use however like all the screens in the vehicle it is super crisp with a clear display. But what impressed me was the speed of it. Moving from screen to screen was quick and there was no lag waiting for things to change or update. The touch screen reacted to the slightest touch and always in a predictable way.

Some of the menus you are probably going to never use, such as Store, Apps, and Radio only sporadically. Others are quite interesting, such as Comfort and Performance. The Comfort menu provides controls for seat massage function, seat kinetics, lumbar heating and bolsters, ambient light (64 different options), and the Energising Comfort controls where you can select one of many pre-coordinated lighting, massage, and music programs. Again, in my mind a bit gimmicky, but my passengers enjoyed it.

Performance has all the AMG goodies, want to watch a graph of your fuel consumption history? See real-time power and torque numbers or time something on the digital IWC chronograph that is identical to the real watch, then this is the menu for you.

Setting up my phone was simple, and as such I never needed to use the Media section, as wireless Apple CarPlay was all my needs covered. Normally I would also say I used CarPlay for my navigation as well, but here was a nice surprise. A lot of vehicles these days are doing away with sat-nav, but not Mercedes-AMG and their implementation is absolutely amazing. Here is my justification.

Once back in Wellington, Dad and I decided to go visit Cars Inc., a new motoring museum that had opened approximately one week earlier in Upper Hutt (side note, go visit, the collection of cars they have there is good and they have done a nice job with the setup). We didn’t know where it was, and as it turned out neither did Google or Apple Maps, with neither being able to locate it despite typing numerous prompts into the address bar. Type “Cars Inc” into the SL63 navigation though, and the address and direction came up. This blew me away as I don’t know what is powering the Mercedes system behind the scenes, but I never thought it would beat Apple and Google in updating business addresses. Granted if I searched the street address in either of the others there would have been no problem, but I didn’t know that.

Once on our way, we got the usual “turn left in 100 metres”, but then it was time for surprise number 2. As you get closer to the intersection, the centre display changes to show the front camera, and a graphical arrow is superimposed over it showing you where to turn. It gets better though, as the heads-up display also shows an augmented reality arrow, projected in front of you and pointing to the street you want to go down. That was seriously impressive and makes this the best navigation system I’ve driven so far.

The settings menu is where you will spend the majority of your time if you are searching through to see what you can adjust, and believe me, it’s a lot. Here you have all your vehicle settings such as the various safety and drive assist features, digital owners manual, raising the front axle, and many more.

Below the screen and to the left of the fingerprint sensor, you have more quick access haptic buttons for hazard warning lights, active parking assist, quick vehicle access, and opening / closing the soft top. The soft top is a good one, as a lot of people don’t realise it is there, and using that is way more convenient than going to the settings menu, sliding the grey bar across, and holding it till the top is open or closed. Whoever decided to put this extra button here made a good call.

Overall I was impressed with the infotainment. There is a huge amount of information available in it, and I’ve barely scratched the surface, however, it’s easy to use, fast to react, and well thought out so is a winner in my book.

Visibility out the front is pretty good. You have a reasonably sized A-pillar, but never did it get in the way or cause an issue. On the rear however, it’s a different story with visibility practically non-existent. You have a tiny window in the back of the soft top, but the camera is really good, and works perfectly.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have driven Ferraris, Porsches, and BMW M3s, undoubtedly some of the world’s finest driver vehicles, but I can honestly say I don’t recall feeling as happy as I did in the SL.

For a total of 1,500 km spent in the Mercedes-AMG SL63, we averaged 14.2 L/100km, over a mix of city and open road driving. This compares favourably with the advertised figure of 13.9 L/100km.

2023 Mercedes-AMG SL63 4MATIC+ – Specifications

Vehicle TypeSportscar 
Starting Price$361,900
Price as Tested$368,890
Engine3,892cc twin turbo V8
Power, Torque
Spare WheelNone
Kerb Weight, Kg1,932
Length x Width x Height
4,705 x 1,915 x 1,355
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
(roof up/roof down)
Fuel tank capacity,
Fuel Economy,
Advertised Spec – Combined – 13.9
Real-World Test – Combined – 14.2
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
Turning circle
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5-Year unlimited KM Warranty
3-Year complimentary servicing 
Safety informationANCAP Rating – untested – 5 Stars – MBNZ1

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2023-mercedes-amg-sl63-4matic-car-reviewI had a photographer tell me once that I need to smile more. Well, thanks to Mercedes Benz New Zealand, I have found the solution. The Mercedes-AMG SL63 is phenomenal and everything you could ask for from a roadster. <br><br> The performance is stunning, handling precise and direct, and the aesthetics are beautiful. Inside it’s luxurious and has every bell and whistle you could want for comfort. <br><br> It might cost the price of a small apartment, drink petrol like its water, and be completely impractical for more than a couple. But it is so much fun and honestly, those in the market for a vehicle like this are not going to care about those issues. <br><br> If I were one of these people it would take a lot to make me look for an alternative. In bringing the SL line full circle, and close to its roots, AMG has made a winner.


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