Sitting atop Mercedes' prestigious SL-Class lineup, the redesigned SL65 AMG is an exercise in glorious, wretched excess. With a 621-horsepower V12, a hedonistic interior and more technology than the space shuttle, this hardtop convertible is far more than anyone strictly needs. Therein, of course, lies its appeal.
Hiding under a new carbon fiber and aluminum engine cover is a revised version of the absurdly powerful 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 used in the outgoing model. Changes to the mill include new turbochargers with an enlarged spiral cross-section, new manifolds and wastegate channels optimized for increased airflow. Horsepower is up by 17 ponies while torque stands pat at 738 lb-ft (!), which should be enough for even the most insatiable of power junkies.
Gone is the V12′s former partner in crime, Mercedes's sturdy but outdated five-speed gearbox (which was previously the automaker's only gearbox capable of withstanding the massive torque generated by the big motor). In its place is a strengthened seven-speed automatic that provides increased fuel economy and quicker sprint times. Four shift modes are available - Controlled Efficiency (will any owner ever use this mileage-enhancing setting?), Sport, Sport plus and Manual.
Compared with its predecessor, which employed steel construction, the aluminum-bodied SL65 AMG sheds 254 lbs. for a curb weight of 4,299 lbs. An active sports suspension system helps keep the mass in check during cornering maneuvers and features a Sport setting for reduced body roll and tighter damping. Electro-mechanical power steering is specially tuned for a faster ratio than the standard SL.
Bringing the action to a halt are 15.4-inch rotors with six-piston fixed calipers up front and 14.2-inch rotors clamped by single-piston floating calipers at the rear. Carbon ceramic brakes cribbed from the SLS AMG supercar are available as a stand-alone option.
The somewhat controversial exterior of the latest SL is upgraded to top-spec AMG form with the requisite aggressive body kit but also with the new AMG "face" first seen on the SL63 AMG. The mug is highlighted by a minimalist two-bar grille that helps to accentuate the roadster's width, along with a horizontal bar on the front skirt rendered in high-gloss chrome.
The side fins, LED daytime running light bezels and hood fins are also finished is high-gloss chrome, while other visual changes include 19-inch AMG alloy wheels (matte black units are also available), a lip spoiler and an imitation rear diffuser.
Inside, unique leather upholstery with diamond stitching adorns the car's new sport seats, door panels and headliner. Carbon fiber and chrome trim elements provide a bit of contrast, while the Magic Sky Control panoramic glass roof that's optional in the normal SL is standard; at the press of a button, the glass roof's tinting can be changed from light to dark.
Design-wise, the cabin features an elegant, flowing dashboard design punctuated by circular air vents that originated on the SLS AMG Gullwing. Material quality is consistently top notch, from the French-stitched leather to the generous sweep of fine wood trim extends from the center console across the dashboard into the doors.
Befitting the car's top-rung status within the SL model hierarchy, the list of standard kit is extensive. Highlights including a Bang & Olufsen surround sound system, an AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, DISTRONIC PLUS radar-based cruise control, a GPS navigation system with a 40 GB hard-drive, a power trunk closer and a smart key.
Standard safety equipment on the SL65 AMG includes dual front, knee, side curtain airbags and thorax airbags. An automatic pop-up rollover protection system deploys roll bars to protect occupants in the event of a crash.
The standard PRESAFE brake system warns the driver in the event of an impending collision and can initiate autonomous braking if the driver fails to react, thus either preventing the accident or at least mitigating its severity. PRESAFE is also capable of activating occupant protection measures.
Additional standard safety equipment comes in the form of an "ATTENTION ASSIST" system that can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a factor that causes more than 100,000 accidents a year in the U.S.A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster.
A Lane Keeping Assist system alerts the driver by simulating a rumble strip vibration in the steering wheel if the car drifts from its lane without the turn signals on. It operates at speeds above 37 mph via a system that recognizes lane markings, thanks to a small camera in the windshield and a computer that analyzes the video images.
Finally, Blind Spot Assist monitors both blind spots behind and to the side of the vehicle. Whenever a turn signal is activated with a vehicle in the blind spot, the driver receives visual and audible warnings.
Those looking to add a powerful and exotic convertible like the SL65 AMG to their collection should also consider the Bentley Continental GTC, the Aston Martin DBS Volante and the Ferrari California.