“Dial ‘SL65’ if you want a classic aluminum-bodied two-seat roadster with an abundance of luxo-tech and V12 power,” blogs Dan Scanlan.
This SL is the seventh in a series of arguably the best known Benzes, born in 1954 as the 300 SL Gullwing coupe. Tests of uber-SLs are rarities, the last one we had an SL550 three years ago with 429 horsepower. It hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and 100-mph in 9.7 seconds, averaging 20 mpg on premium fuel with auto engine shutoff engaged. Now we had the latest SL65 with five different driving programs - Comfort, Sport, Sport +, RACE and Individual.
Set it in Sport+ and we sprinted to 60-mph in 4 seconds flat with wheelspin in the second and third gear shifts, reaching 100 mph in 8.2 seconds. Passing power was abundant, the engine snarling, the wide rear rubber giving just a wiggle of traction squirm. We averaged 10 mpg on premium. Sport, Sport + and RACE also allowed the exhaust to really roar, with an explosive “pop-pop-SNAP!” from the pipes when you backed off.
The ride in Comfort was composed and smooth, handling potholes with a firmly controlled yet buffered rebound. It just stuck and tracked through any turn at any speed, nice and responsive enough for daily driving. But when curves beckoned, it was in Sport+ for the most responsive chassis feel, controlled ride and decisive steering. The ride was very firm with buffered rebound on the harshest bumps.
Our test car’s optional ceramic compound brakes had really big cross-drilled rotors - 16.5-inch fronts with six-piston fixed calipers, and 14.2-inch in back. They could be touchy, with short travel and immediate response. But they hauled the car down time and time again from high speed with no drama and a high degree of fade-free control. We also had standard Active Brake Assist, which starts tapping the brakes if you are closing too fast on someone in front. It worked.
As for looks, there’s similarity to that 550SL we tested in 2013. But the face is brand new. A slimmer, wider grille cleaves the air with a longer nose, its three-pointed star supported by polished alloy bars. The headlights are slimmer, more streamlined, with an LED swoosh rising over the projector units. Lower side intakes are more pronounced, trimmed in chrome that continues under the grille.
Inside are very supportive diamond-tufted Nappa leather seats with 12-way power adjustments, heating and ventilation, 3-level massage and active side bolsters. The driver faces a fat-rimmed, flat-bottom three-spoke AMG steering wheel with power tilt/telescope. A classic white-faced 220-mph analog speedometer and 8,000-rpm (6,000 redline) tach with carbon fiber-like inserts live under a stitched leather dashtop. In between, a color LCD display for trip computer, turn-by-turn navigation, engine and stereo information. It displays DISTRONIC PLUS cruise control, which maintains a preset distance, stops if traffic ahead does, and easily handles stop-and-go.
An AMG sculpted alloy and leather electronic shifter works with selective driving modes, plus a Sport suspension and Manual transmission settings. There’s a control to raise the front suspension so the front splitter won’t scrape a driveway, but it takes multiple taps of a button to get there. The dash-mounted analog clock comes from IWC Schaffhausen.
That power top folds and drops quickly into the trunk, chewing up five of its 13.5 cubic feet. To activate the trunk lid, tap a toe under the rear bumper to open, and tap a button to close. Top down, wind management is good, aided by a wind-blocker.
There are more powerful Benzes, with more sophisticated structure and tech. But for sheer presence with power and control, the SL65 is a classic. For more information about the latest Mercedes-Benz performance and luxury vehicles, please visit https://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/vehicles