As part of the GTspirit Tour 2015 we were lucky enough to have not one, but two Mercedes-Benz SL63 World Championship Edition cars at our disposal. What’s the big deal and why such a long name we hear you ask. Well, it is rather significant as the World Championship Edition SL63 AMG is a rather rare beast. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, winners of the 2014 Formula 1 Constructors Championship, were given the chance to create their own specifications of the SL63 AMG. Nineteen of each were built so having one of each to play with for a few days was rather special.
The Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG is getting rather long in the tooth as it first debuted at the Geneva Motor Show 2014 meaning it is expected to soon be refreshed. A lot has changed in the past three years but the SL63 AMG remains a fantastic GT car that does not shy away from being pushed from time-to-time. It features the hand crafted AMG 5.5-litre V8 that has been in action for a number of years in various AMG models including the E63, G63, S63 and more. As a result, the SL63 is armed with 537 horsepower so the car packs some serious punch. 100 km/h is done and dusted in just 4.3 seconds and 200 km/h flies by in 12.9 seconds. It is the forceful acceleration that had us gobsmacked as all 537 of the German horses can be felt launching you down the road with and unrelenting surge making the mind question just how fast the SL63 AMG could go if it was not held back by the speed limiter that intervenes at the usual 250 km/h.
The fun continues when you approach twists and turn in the tarmac, which you inevitably will having eaten up the endless miles of autobahn given the superb grand touring capabilities of the Mercedes SL63 AMG. Firm up the suspension and shift the gearbox into manual and the car remains surprisingly composed given its two tonne curb weight. The brakes are resilient and coped well, even when progressing at a swift pace back down mountain passes. The steering had a nice weight to it yet lacked feel. The one component that failed to make the grade was the gearbox. This is not the first AMG car we have driven where the transmission has lacked but it may well be one of the last. The AMG GT and more modern AMG products such as the GLE63 AMG S Coupe that we recently tested feature a 7-speed transmission that is able to deliver swift and smooth downshifts upon request. That is something the SL63 AMG was unable to provide. We cannot wait to drive the next iteration of the SL that will inevitably feature the latest generation of the AMG built gearbox.
When driving the car on long stretches on a variety of roads, it quickly became apparent that there was one dominating aspect to the SL63 driving experience, something that is common with the majority of AMG cars. The engine. The sheer power, noise and character of the powerplant just makes you want to drive the car until you run out of asphalt. When accelerating, even gently, the engine flutters and pops, sounds that were compulsive and corrupted the mind to want to tease the throttle pedal in even the most inappropriate of circumstances.
This compulsion was further heightened when the roof was retracted such to the extent that even when the rain began to fall we were reluctant to pull over to protect ourselves and the cars interior from the precipitation. Yearning to hear the V8s exhaust notes when possible does not mean to say that the car is one that does not command respect. With great power comes great responsibility and traction is easily broken if one is to eager. In the dry, the rear tyres will comfortably overcome their boundaries in second gear and in the rain is was something we were particularity weary of.
The interior of the Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG is beginning to show signs of its generation old design, a feeling that it exaggerated when looking into the cabin of even the most basic of the current C-Class. That being said, the fit, finish and ergonomics are still of the highest quality. The special edition cars we were piloting did their best to off-set their signs of ageing with their extravagant trimmings. The Lewis Hamilton car featured some particularly unusual design elements all finished in black and gold to match the attention grabbing exterior. In comparison the Nico Rosberg car was much more understated but still looked great in white adorned with a special autograph motif embedded in the dash.
Both cars carpets had been embroidered with their respective drivers home Formula 1 circuits, Silverstone and Hockenheim, again matching the colour schemes of the cars. The SL63 AMG is also surprisingly practical. The interior is festooned with small spaces and pockets to store drinks, snacks and other everyday essentials. There is also a surprising amount of space behind the two seats for jackets and other malleable items. Boot space is another pleasant treat with the the roof up or down. We managed to stow two small luggage trolleys and a pair of back-packs and jackets with relative ease, given that you are well rehearsed in the skillful art of boot Tetris.
The price for all this speed and luxury? Initially Mercedes-Benz offered the cars in pairs for a staggering $785,247 dollars, more than €700k. The price of a single unit is almost double the price of a standard SL 63 AMG that seems a bargain at €190k, that being said, the chance of seeing another World Championship Edition car on the rare occasion that you saunter down to St. Tropez or cruise the boulevards of LA are highly unlikely. Exclusivity comes at a price and these cars feel markedly more special than the, in comparison, common SL 63 AMG.
The SL63 AMG is reaching the end of its life-cycle but that is not to say that it is still not able to impress in a number of capacities. It was comfortable and quite on long highway journeys and still managed to thrill and come alive when pushed to perform in more athletically challenging roads and passes. As with most AMG cars we have been fortunate to test, it never failed to draw grins on the sternest of faces and left us yearning for the keys again and again. The sensationally rare editions we drove made the entire experience that little bit more exciting, but even in an ordinary SL63 AMG we would have smiled mile after mile.