PERFECTION IN MOTION
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Published on Wed, Jul 21, 2010
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Harvey Schwartz The new 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL 6.3 AMG is indeed virtual perfection in motion. The SL 6.3 AMG is the most technologically advanced of all SL class models and is the perfect fit for high-performance driving with the finest in luxury and convenience features. The SL is alone in its segment. Only the Lexus SC430 provides some competition, but it hasn’t been significantly updated since its introduction in March of 2001. Four-season comfort makes the SL 6.3 AMG driving experience truly unique. Just one touch of the console-mounted aluminum toggle and the top is up or down in a quick 16-seconds, transforming the car from a quiet, weather-tight coupe to a open-air roadster with the sun in your face and the wind in your hair, the epitome of driving sensations. My test SL 6.3 AMG came with the optional sunroof feature. Instead of a metal roof, you get tinted glass enabling you to still watch the sky with the top up. Under the hood lies one of the most powerful naturally aspirated production V8s ever built, boasting a long list of exciting features derived from AMG’s highly successful racing efforts. Built almost completely by hand from a high-strength silicon-aluminum alloy, the engine features four-valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, bucket-type cam followers (rather than rocker arms), and variable intake manifold.
Designed exclusively by AMG, the engine shares no parts with other Mercedes-Benz V8 engines. The cylinder bores feature a twin-wire arc-sprayed (TWAS) coating, a new process that results in impressively low friction and running surfaces that are twice as hard as conventional cast-iron cylinders. Each engine is signed with its engine builder for all to see. Output ratings equate to 518 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 465 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. That’s plenty of power and torque to launch the SL 6.3 AMG to 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.5 seconds. When you push the start button on top of the aluminum and leather wrapped stick, the engine lights up with a might roar, similar to when you start a Ford Mustang GT. It then settles down to a muffled roar as you take off. I was surprised at the level of exhaust noise as you go up the gears—music to any enthusiast’s ears, and consider the sound more like a hot rod dressed in velvet and fur. All of the power and torque is transferred to the rear wheels through another AMG exclusive, the MCT with AMG Speedshift seven-speed automatic/sequential shifting transmission. This new transmission is the best of both worlds, and provides direct feedback of a manual transmission with the total convenience of an automatic. The new seven-speed MCT with AMG Speedshift is an all-new design available only in the new SL 6.3 AMG.
Featuring an innovative start-up clutch that replaces a conventional torque converter, the seven-speed MCT (multi-clutch technology), transmission combines the direct connection of a manual gearbox with the lightning-quick automatic gear shifts of a Formula 1 race car where the technology was transferred. With four shift modes and a double-clutching function, the MCT transmission gives you very impressive versatility and even faster shift times. It was perfect quickly downshifting into tight curves at high speed, then quickly upshifting coming out and wagging the tail when the ESP/Traction Control buttons were disabled. At the heart of the new AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed transmission is a new start-up clutch, which runs in an oil bath and replaces a conventional torque converter. Thanks to its low rotational mass, the start-up clutch helps the transmission respond instantaneously and dynamically with no slip. Using the Speedshift function is fun and exciting, with ultra-fast, spontaneous, multiple downshifts, another plus of the MCT sports transmission. In the ‘S’ (Sport), ‘S+’ (Sport Plus), and ‘M’ (Manual) modes, an automatic double-clutching function is active. Every manual for automatic downshift is accompanied by precisely metered double-clutching-from ‘S’ through ‘S+’, to ‘M’ incrementally. Not only does double-clutching make the drive more fun and exciting, but it provides virtually load-free downshifting, minimizing any jerking—a special benefit when braking into a steep curve. I said that this new SL AMG 6.3 is a hot rod in disguise, and this SL comes with a Race Start feature similar to other ultra-high-performing sports cars in the higher price bracket. The new Race Start feature helps you maintain full-throttle acceleration and optimal traction during motorsports competition if you so choose, or when looking forward to your back being pinned to the seatback of the SL 6.3 AMG as you reach higher speed.
A truly unique, AMG tuned fully independent suspension system glues you to the road. Feedback is super quick, just like a Formula One race car. Every time I turned the wheel, the car instaneously turned. The SL chassis uses a double-control-arm front suspension and a patented Mercedes-Benz five-link rear suspension. All SL models come with Active Body Control (ABC), the Mercedes-Benz active suspension that virtually eliminates body roll when cornering, squat under acceleration and dive during braking. The Active suspension solves the tradeoff between ride comfort and handling prowess, so SL roadsters offer excellent comfort and segment leading handling. The SL 6.3 AMG rides with special struts with firmer damping and fully reworked systems such as the ABS, BA, Traction Control, and ESP stability control turn this SL into a fully-fledged sports car. When driving the extra weight of the convertible was hardly noticed. The car is built that well. With the top up, the handling was even more dynamic. Driving around slower moving street traffic the feel of the suspension working seemed nimble, easily getting around traffic. On the straight-aways at triple-digit speeds, all was controlled and peaceful, the front and rear spoilers increasing downforce and enhancing stability. The AMG tuned front suspension features a four-link double control arm setup with gas-charged shocks, coil springs in a series with the hydraulic cylinders. The rear AMG turned suspension features a five-link setup also with gas-charged shocks, coil springs in a series with hydraulic cylinders. These systems give you automatic level control, selectable ride height, with automatic lowering during high-speed driving.
Add to the mix an AMG tuned speed-sensitive rack and pinion with hydraulic power assist and you are sitting inside a true race car. I could believe how well balanced the new car felt, and how fast it reacted to my inputs. It is so responsive that I even warmed up the tires on less traveled road, first by pulling left and right, it reacted just like a racecar, then onto curving road outside of the city. It’s 2.6 turns, lock-to-lock, gives superb quickness. For high-speed driving I would recommend that the top be up to decrease the wind inside the car and increase the rigidity. The car handles with cat-like agility. Excellent stopping power when you have to slow down and stop, are provided by large, power assisted, electro-hydraulic, ventilated, punched and slotted, steel disc brakes. Up front are 14.2in. discs clamped with AMG six-piston calipers, and 13in. discs clamped with AMG four-piston calipers, in the rear. The brakes were great, with a very linear feel whether braking hard or not, the system is perfect for taming the powerful AMG 6.3 and making the drive so enjoyable. Fantastic!
The unique AMG styled body further sets this roadster apart from the crowd. The car comes with special AMG body kit and exclusive AMG alloy wheels. The new hood features twin power-domes, ending with a wider, single-bar grille that emphasizes the width of the body. The muscular front bumper has larger air intakes that also house the round fog lamps that are ringed in chrome, and ‘6.3 AMG’ fender badges. Also from the side are the flared fenders stuffed with the 19-inch wheels and tires, larger sideview mirrors that feature built-in arrow-shaped turn signals. Steeply raked windshield pillars, and contoured side skirts carry the aggressive lines of the front bumper to the rear. The rear gets a boost also with a new air diffuser in the bumper that adds a motorsports touch, as well as the trapezoidal exhaust tips that also emphasize the width and suggest all the power at your disposal. As far as power and performance goes, the new SL 6.3 AMG is up with the best luxury sports cars on the market. It only gets better on the inside. Center stage in the cockpit is a new-design, flat-bottomed, three-spoke, leather-wrapped, power tilt/telescoping, AMG steering wheel that just feels perfect in your hands and features large, aluminum paddle shifters. Upshift on the right, downshift on the left. The AMG designed instrument cluster is also new and features a 200 mph speedometer, 8,000 rpm tachometer, with eye-catching red tachometer and speedometer needles that swing to the max position and back to zero whenever the ignition is turned on. The AMG designed, heated/ventilated, 12-way, power-adjustable, multi-contour, heated/ventilated, leather sports seats are amazing to sit in, and are finished in a special cross piping. Besides the perfect seated fit, the lower seat buttons feature adjustable side bolstering, (tightening/loosening), and a massage function to help keep you alert during those longer drives.
The new SL 6.3 AMG is available with the AIRSCARF system that is an innovative feature that can extend open-top driving into the cooler months. Another technological first from Mercedes-Benz, AIRSCARF is an extra heating system built into the driver and passenger seats. At the touch of a door-mounted button, warm air flows from vents in the head restraints, acting as an invisible scarf around you head and neck. Testing revealed that warming just a relatively small area around the neck dramatically improves comfort in cooler weather. AIRSCARF uses a heating element made primarily of barium titanate, which heats up in a matter of seconds when electrical current is applied. Its electrical resistance jumps once it’s heated, reducing power use-engineers call this balance ‘Positive Temperature Coefficient’ or PTC. The PTC heater is only a few inches in size, allowing it to hide inside the SL seatback. Aluminum fins on the heater help transfer the heat to the air, and a small fan pushes the heated air through the vents in the head restraints. Incredible. Coming standard in the SL 6.3 AMG not mentioned above include aluminum AMG door entrance plates, a 6.5-inch full color COMMAND screen with 40GB hard drive, Mercedes-Benz GPS navigation, HD Digital AM-FM-Weather Band, SIRIUS satellite radio with a 10-speaker Harman-Kardon LOGIC7 Surround-Sound system with Dolby Digital 5.1, in-dash 6-disc DVD/CD changer, and an in-dash SK Memory Card reader, Bluetooth interface with hands-free calling, enhanced voice control for audio, telephone and navigation systems, iPod/MP3 media interface in the center armrest, dual-zone automatic climate control, and aluminum-faced foot pedals.
Widely acclaimed as one of the world’s safest convertibles, the SL 6.3 AMG provides sports car performance with all the built-in safety that’s expected from Mercedes-Benz. Since an open car can leave it occupants vulnerable in a rollover, Mercedes engineers met the challenge with the industry’s first automatic roll bar. The padded, leather-covered bar pops-up, licking in place in a third of a second if sensors detect an impending rollover, and it can be raised or lowered by a console switch. Shoulder belts are integrated directly into the seats for greater occupant protection especially in rollovers. More safety features include high-strength steel reinforced cabin with front and rear crumple zones, steel beams in each door, driver’s knee airbag, Bi-Xenon headlamps with active curve illumination, headlamp washer system, ABS, BA, EBD, anti-theft alarm with engine immobilizer and a tire pressure warning system. The price of admission is $139,050.00 for the base SL AMG 6.3, and my SL stickered for $147,675.00 and came with the following options-panorama sunroof, Premium Package with heated/ventilated seats, AIRSCARF, an electronic trunk opener/closer, and KEYLESS GO. The destination charge is $875.00 and the GAS Guzzler tax is $2,600.00. If you can afford it, the new 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL 6.3 AMG is the finest four-season, high-performing hardtop convertible roadster on the road. © Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz For more information about Mercedes-Benz products, go to mbusa.com To see more photos by Harvey Schwartz, go to autofotos.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name: 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL 6.3 AMG Price: $139,050.00 base/$147,675.00 as tested EPA fuel economy ratings: 12mpg/city, 19mpg/highway Engine: 90-degree V8, aluminum block/heads, 4-valves per cylinder, DOHC, two-stage resonance intake manifold Horsepower: 518 at 6,800 rpm Torque: 465lb.ft. at 5,200 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear wheel drive Transmission: Seven-speed multi-clutch transmission with AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS Front suspension: Independent, four-link double control arms, gas-shocks, coil springs in series with hydraulic cylinders, ABC active suspension (automatic four wheel level control, driver-selectable ride height and automatic lowering at higher speed) Rear suspension: Independent four-link double control arms, gas shocks, coil springs in series with hydraulic cylinders, ABC active suspension (automatic four wheel level control, driver-selectable ride height and automatic lowering at higher speeds) Wheels/tires: 8.5X19 aluminum alloy front wheels/9.5X19 aluminum alloy rear wheels 255/35ZR19 front/285/30ZR19 rear Michelin Pilot tires Brakes: Front: 14.2-inch vented/slotted steel discs with 6-piston calipers Rear: 13.8-inch vented/slotted steel discs with 4-piston calipers ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Distribution Total length: 180.8 inches Total width: 81.4 inches, with mirrors folded Height: 51.1inches Curb weight: 4,274 pounds