11 March 2008

The more things change...

Merc wedges bigger V8 into SL roadster. Performance stays mysteriously identical

Mercedes-Benz SL63

As we predicted a few weeks back, Mercedes has given its revised SL the '63' treatment, transplanting the 6.2-litre V8 from the C63 AMG into the big roadster to replace the weedy old SL AMG's 5.4-litre V8.

That's a bigger engine... so more power and more speed, right? Not quite. See, the SL63 AMG develops 517bhp and will hit 62mph in 4.6 seconds before topping out at an electronically-limited 155mph. Quick, yes, but curiously identical to the old SL55, which developed 517bhp and would hit 62mph in 4.6 seconds before topping out at an electronically-limited 155mph.

You couldn't make it up.

But stats aren't everything, and the big V8 is a stunning engine - one of our very favourites in C63 AMG guise, but with an extra 60bhp thrown in for good measure here. The SL also gets a seriously trick new seven-speed sports transmission, a brand-new flappy paddle effort that, says Merc, will change gears in just 100 milliseconds in full manual mode.

Even on one of the three less aggressive settings, the MCT (short for Multi-Clutch Technology) 'box will let you drop three gears - from fifth to second, say - thanks to some clever automatic double-declutching. We can't wait to give it a drive.

Though Merc says that the new gearbox can take massive torque loads, the engineers couldn't quite work it into the range-topping SL65 AMG, which keeps its six-litre V12 biturbo engine and five-speed auto 'box but gets a few cosmetic tweaks to bring it in line with the rest of the SL range.

We'll be fiddling wildly with the SL63's new flappy paddles at the Geneva show early next month.

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