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Mercedes SL review (R231, 2011-2020) – performance and 0-60 time

Surprisingly good fun, particularly in AMG trim, the SL is a roadster of broad talents

Evo rating
Price
from £73,810
  • Luxurious and relaxing but still fun to drive
  • Weight takes its toll on the brakes

There’s no such thing as a slow Mercedes-Benz SL, and only nine tenths separate the quickest off the line (the SL 65, at four seconds flat to 62mph) from the slowest (the SL 400). That’s a factor of traction more than anything, as all models are rear-wheel drive and deploy massive turbocharged torque through those two contact patches alone.

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It’s in-gear where the biggest differences will be felt, though both AMG models also offer the option of extending the electronic limiter to 186mph from the usual 155mph, and with over 600bhp at its disposal it’s not hard to imagine the SL 65 passing the double-ton if unleashed entirely.

The interim models - the SL 500 and SL 63 - pass the 62mph mark in 4.3 and 4.1 seconds respectively. Where the AMG models really score is theatre: the V8 63 in particular maintains the old NASCAR-soundtrack reputation of older AMGs and acceleration is positively savage whichever gear you pick, with pops and crackles when you back off the throttle.

The SL 500 tones this down a little, but never lets you forget that there’s a V8 sitting in front of you - it’s a cultured note, but a burble all the same, and still indecently rapid. Of the three gearboxes across the range - seven- and nine-speed torque converter autos and the SL 63’s multi-plate wet clutch automatic - it’s the SL 63 with the fastest shifts, but it still doesn’t quite match the latest generation of twin-clutch autos for snappy changes.

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