- New SL continues a historic nameplate in Mercedes’ lineup
- 2022 SL will also replace S-Class Cabriolet, which is not expected to receive a second generation
- Folding hardtop out, traditional soft top in
- New four-seat layout
- Launches the seventh-generation SL for 2022
The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class grand-touring roadster has been a key part of the Mercedes story for nearly 70 years. But its place in the lineup has been a little murky as of late since Mercedes also sold the similarly intentioned S-Class Cabriolet and performance-focused AMG GT roadster. With the S-Class Cabrio sent out to pasture and Mercedes hitting the pause button on the AMG GT line of sport coupes, the all-new 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL fills the space between them like a missing puzzle piece.
The new SL adopts the look of the AMG GT’s long hood, vertically straked grille and stubby tail. At the same time, it draws upon the S-Class Cabriolet’s more spacious and refined interior and adds two tiny seats in the back. Instead of the folding hardtop found on the previous SL, the new one goes with a more space-efficient folding fabric top.
With all of these influencing the 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL, it becomes clear that Mercedes intends the car to serve as a replacement for the previous SL, the S-Class Cabriolet and the AMG GT, at least for the time being. In many ways, it succeeds, though drivers of a certain age may bemoan the absence of a non-AMG SL — one that dials back the performance and dials up the luxury. As it is, the AMG SL may be a bit too brash for the traditional client.
How does the Mercedes-AMG SL drive?
Shoppers can choose between two models when the Mercedes-AMG SL goes on sale this spring: the SL 55 or SL 63. Both come with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The SL 55 produces 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque while the SL 63 is good for 577 hp and 590 lb-ft.
Unfortunately, adverse weather conditions kept us from fully exploring the SL’s performance potential, but we should have those impressions once we’re able to perform the usual battery of Edmunds evaluations. In the few instances where we were able to drive with more confidence and aggression, the SL split the difference between the S-Class Cabriolet and AMG GT, with a bit more bias toward the GT.
Acceleration is immediate and inspiring, with a healthy V8 growl and plenty of tire grip even on wet pavement. Mercedes estimates the SL 55 will reach 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and the SL 63 in 3.5 seconds. That’s not a significant difference on paper nor is it from behind the wheel.
In the curves, the SL feels solidly planted and very trustworthy, though it does feel rather heavy to be tossing it into tight hairpins. Then again, it’s not as frantic as the smaller and lighter AMG GT, which seems appropriate for an AMG-branded SL. Driven conservatively, the SL is supremely easy to drive, and in the softest suspension setting, it’s as comfortable as most other grand tourers. Selecting the Sport or Sport+ setting stiffens up the ride, but not so stiff that it becomes obvious or harsh.
At least on our foul weather drive, we didn’t notice a big enough difference between the SL models to justify paying more for the SL 63 as the SL 55 feels just as potent. That may change if we get to drive them back-to-back in dry conditions, but our initial impressions point to the SL 63 more for bragging rights than anything else.
How comfortable is the SL?
The AMG SL is spacious enough for taller drivers and noticeably roomier than the AMG GT, but it’s not as generous as the S-Class Cabriolet. The seats feature moderate side bolstering to keep you in place when cornering but aren’t so aggressive that they constrict or require special contortions to get in. The shape and cushioning are excellent for long-distance drives and also offer a massage function should you want it. The rear seats are significantly smaller and are as accommodating as a straitjacket for adults. It’s possible smaller children may fit back there, but we’d be more inclined to use it as a cargo shelf instead.
Ride quality is consistent with every other comparison we’ve made so far. It again splits the difference between luxurious and sporty, which is appropriate for an AMG SL. You’ll hear the bumps and ruts in the pavement more than feel them, but it’s not the glassy smooth ride you’d get from the S-Class Cabriolet. It’s a good compromise between comfort and performance, allowing you to have fun but not get beaten up for it.
Even with its new fabric top, the SL is pleasantly quiet. Its tight fit ensures no wind leaks at highway speeds. And even in driving rain, raindrops tapping on the roof are barely noticeable. Road noise is also barely there, giving the guttural engine and exhaust noises a chance to inspire. In Sport modes, it gets louder and bolder with very subtle pops when you lift off the gas.
How’s the SL’s interior?
The SL’s interior is thoroughly modern in design and execution, with a large 11.9-inch touchscreen dominating the midline of the organically curved dashboard, flanked by two turbine-like air vents. As expected, materials quality is excellent, but we could do with less glossy piano black and carbon-fiber trim that seems obligatory on all AMG vehicles. In the same vein, the steering wheel is rather busy, with four horizontal spokes that are each packed with capacitive touch controls.
In many ways, the interior mimics that of the new S-Class sedan, though its performance pedigree manages to give the SL its own distinct personality. It’s a lovely place to spend some time as long as you’re up front.
How’s the SL’s tech?
We’ve been fans of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system since it debuted in the 2019 A-Class. It has loads of features plus a very helpful voice command system that you start up by saying “Hey, Mercedes.” Unfortunately the control interface in the new SL has gotten a bit complicated. The touchscreen is easy to use thanks to large on-screen buttons, but the strip of capacitive touch shortcut buttons underneath the screen (including one for volume control) will likely require drivers to take their eyes off the road momentarily.
After a while, familiarity makes operation easier, especially when it comes to learning the deep menus of the car’s many systems. The new SL’s system is certainly not difficult to use, but we know it can be better.
As far as driver assistants and advanced safety features go, the new SL doesn’t introduce anything revolutionary. Instead, it refines the existing features for more unobtrusive operation. You get the sense that they’re all working behind the scenes, patiently waiting for when they may be needed.
How’s the SL’s storage?
Even when keeping in mind that this is a convertible with two-plus seats, storage and cargo space comes up short of what we expected. The cupholders, center bin and door pockets are all on the small side. Taller beverages in the cupholders will also impede access to the large touchscreen.
Trunk capacity is listed at 8.5 cubic feet with the top up. Dropping the top reduces capacity to 7.5 cubic feet, but we’re convinced Mercedes used every nook and cranny to get to those numbers. The usable space seems quite a bit smaller, but it should still be large enough for a couple’s weekend getaway to a warm climate. You get more space in the rear seats, though access is difficult with the top up.
More seasoned shoppers may long for a non-AMG version of the SL. But otherwise the 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL expertly fills the large chasm left by its predecessor, the S-Class Cabriolet, and entry-level AMG GTs. Despite a few minor missteps, it’s a front-runner among the few luxury convertibles available.