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The Top Gear First Drive:First Drive: Mercedes-Benz SL Class SL 65 2dr Tip Auto

£172,205

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Car specifications

Budget
£172,205
Brake horsepower
630bhp
Fuel consumption
24.4mpg
0–62 mph
4.00s
CO2
270g/km
Max speed
155Mph
Insurance Group
50A

So you’re
wafting around in this soft cruiser. The exhaust’s a distant burble. The engine
hums near-silently. The transmission slurs between ratios, needing no input
from you. The seats and ride are cushy.
 
And then… And then. goodness gracious. How did that happen? You’re punted into
a parallel universe. This car isn’t just rapid, it’s violently powerful.
Provided (and it’s a big if) the rear wheels can get traction, it hurls you
forward with disdainful venom.

See more pictures of the Mercedes SL65 AMG 

By this point you must be thinking I’m an idiot. After all, what did I think a
630bhp, 737lb ft twin-turbo V12 sports car was going to be? A bit of a slug?
Course not. It was always going to be searing. Sure enough, when you floor the
throttle, it’ll turn your world upside-down. I had the traction-control light
spinning repeatedly. At 80mph. In a straight line. In the dry.

 
By the time it’s really able to stretch its legs, you’re probably into Autobahn
numbers on the speedo. Can’t quite imagine how brief an interval it would take
to get from say 100-150mph.
 
But here’s why its brutal speed is so surprising. It lulls you into a false
sense of its gentility because most of the time it is so gentle and quiet. I
mean, a new Pagani also has a twin-turbo AMG V12, and it never lets you forget
its animalism. But the SL65 stays mute. It doesn’t howl like the Pagani, or
rumble and roar like AMG’s turbo V8 roadsters the SL63 and SLS.
 
The gearchanges aren’t snappy, because it uses a normal fluid automatic, not
the SL63’s clutched automatic or the SLS’s DCT (dual-clutch) automatic. The
ride is relatively forgiving, because of the trick active body control
 suspension.

See more pictures of the Mercedes SL65 AMG  

That suspension also means it never rolls, and it manages to be both plausibly
agile in slow corners and stable at speed. But honestly you don’t drive it like
that, because the steering and suspension never reward you with any kind of
feedback. Trying to drive it fast through a series of varying bends is a jerky,
soul-less experience.
 
Instead, wind it back and cruise. Enjoy the soft breeze, the swaddling comfort,
the full panoply of Mercedes electronic amenities.
 
And then, just once in a while, spot a clear open path to an SL-sized hole in
the far horizon. And brace yourself. Floor it, and arrive at that horizon
sooner than you ever imagined possible. Is that ever-so-brief event worth
£168,250? To a very small but very loyal band, without question it is.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
SL 65 2dr Tip Auto
4.0s 270g/km 24.4 630 £172,205
The cheapest
SL 400 AMG Sport 2dr Auto
5.2s 179g/km 36.7 333 £73,170
The greenest
SL 400 AMG Sport 2dr Auto
5.2s 179g/km 36.7 333 £73,170

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