After one model year away, the Mercedes-Benz SL has returned.
Actually, that's not strictly true. The Mercedes-Benz SL left after 2020. What has returned in its place is the Mercedes-AMG SL.
The thing is, Mercedes' arguably most famous model has had somewhat of a schizophrenic history. The SL meant "Super Leicht", which unlike most phrases in German, sounds almost like what it means in English---Super Light. Anyway, it began in 1954, with a street-legal vehicle based on Mercedes-Benz' racing car--- the 300 SL "Gullwing" coupe. In 1957, the Gullwing gave way to the 300 SL Roadster, and from that point on, every SL had a fold-down, retractable or removable roof.
True ferocity began to leak out of the SL line with the arrival of the 190 SL, a less-powerful version of the 300 SL Roadster. From that point on, until the 1990s, the SLs that followed--the W 113 "Pagoda" in 1963, and the W107 with its 18-year run from 1971 to 1989---while all built to singularly high standards, were more about style and status than raw performance.
"Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson had at least two W107s, and Stephanie Powers' character, Jennifer Hart, drove one in the TV detective series "Hart to Hart". It's telling that the producers had her character's husband, Johnathon, drive a Ferrari. The SL was developing a reputation as a car for wealthy women (no offense to Patrick Duffy, whose character, Bobby Ewing, drove one on "Dallas"). By the 80s, the SL was expensive and comfy but not especially fast or sporty. That began to change beginning in 1999 with limited AMG versions of the SL, but with this new generation---a clean sheet sharing not a single component with the preceding SL or the AMG GT I reviewed in February---on the drawing board, Mercedes looked to the roots of the SL---the roadster based on the racecar---and decided that to be an SL, it needs to be an AMG.
And so, the new SL is a Mercedes-AMG, not a Mercedes-Benz. There are two models, the SL 55 (469 horsepower, 516 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 in 3.8 seconds) and the SL 63 (577 horsepower, 590 lb-ft of torque and 0-60 in 3.5 seconds).
Not only are the performance figures between SL 55 and SL 63 close, the EPA gives them both the same fuel economy estimate---14 city/21 highway. Both are all-wheel drive, have torque vectoring and rear-wheel steering. So what's the difference, you're asking? It's in the other components of the car. A series of improvements that make use of that extra 108 horsepower and justify the extra $40,700 the SL 63 commands above the starting price of the SL 55.
Choosing the AMG 63 over the AMG 55 also brings AMG Dynamic Select Race mode, AMG Active Ride Control suspension (lowered by ten millimeters), electronically controlled rear-axle limited-slip differential, dynamic engine mounts, yellow brake calipers, and the AMG Track Pace app for the MBUX in-cabin infotainment system.
One more break from the past---the SL is now a four-seater. Technically. If the driver and front passenger are both 5'4", kids could probably sit comfortably back there. Otherwise, that's where luggage would go, because...
...the trunk is seven and a half cubic feet. Two roller bags won't go, so one goes in the back seat. None of this, by the way, is a black mark or an impediment to purchase. SL and other high-end roadster buyers don't base their purchase on cargo capacity. And now, the rear seat area gives a little extra space.
With all the things we've discussed so far as standard, the base price of the 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 Roadster is $178,100. But our test vehicle had extra-cost options. The MANUFAKTUR Monza Grey Magno paint is $3,250. The Carbon Fiber trim? $2,850. Add another $2,850 for the AMG aerodynamics package, $750 for the AMG Night package, $750 for the AMG Extended Night package, $550 for the AMG Dark Light Package (I know you think I'm kidding about at least one of those last three, but I'm not), $3,300 for the 21-inch AMG forged black cross-spoke wheels, $50 for Guard 360 vehicle protection (an anti-theft system), and $1,600 for a black microfiber headliner.
Not done. The Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound system is $4,550. A load compartment package is $485. The Driver Assistance Package (active cruise control, active steering assist, active lane change assist, active emergency stop assist, active speed limit assist, active brake assist with cross-traffic function, evasive steering assist, active lane-keeping assist, active blind spot assist and route-based speed adoption) is $1,950.
Then there's the Performance Line package (front axle lift system, illuminated door sills, hands-free access, heated steering wheel, AMG light display, AMG drive unit steering wheel buttons, active LED headlights, and surround view camera) is another $1,800.
Add $1,300 for the gas guzzler tax, $1,050 for destination and delivery and the as-tested price of the 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 Roadster is $205,135.
To discuss the idea of "worth it" is kind of silly. The pertinent questions are "do you have the means to own one?" and "is it desirable?"
The answer to the second question is absolutely yes.