Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

Mercedes-Benz saves the best for last as it rolls out AMG variants of the new ’09 SL roadster ahead of their formal debuts next month at the Geneva auto show.

Following the recent preview of the standard SL range and headlined by the new SL63, the AMG models will imbue the high-end convertible with significantly more power, style and control when they go on sale later this year.

The SL63 is the last vehicle in Mercedes’ lineup to receive the in-house performance unit’s own 6.2L DOHC V-8. Rated at 518 hp and 465 lb.-ft. (630 Nm), it also is the most powerful of the V-8 AMG vehicles.

Harnessing the power, with the goal of providing a more intimate driving experience, is a revised version of the auto maker’s 7-speed automatic transmission sporting quicker shift times and four driver-selectable shift modes.

A start-up clutch assembly is used in place of a standard torque converter, which Mercedes says eliminates power interruptions during shifts that can take as little as 100 milliseconds in manual mode.

Mercedes calls the new gearbox MCT and says it only will be offered in the SL63.

The range-topping SL65, with its 604-hp twin-turbocharged V-12 and 5-speed automatic, carries over with styling and interior improvements from the SL63.

Both models flaunt more aggressive, performance-oriented bodywork than their lesser brethren, including bigger spoilers and ducts and new tailpipes. Badging and a blacked-out portion of the air dam distinguish the SL65 from the SL63.

A unique steering wheel and sport seats, along with carbon-fiber and nappa-leather trim, differentiate the AMG interiors from the regular SL’s new-for-’09 cockpit.

New 19-in. wheels are standard on both cars, with the SL63’s wrapped around 14.2-in. (36-cm) front and 13.0-in. (33-cm) rear disc brakes. The SL65’s binders measure 1.2 ins. (3 cm) larger, front and rear.

An AMG-tuned version of the auto maker’s Active Body Control suspension aims to improve handling dynamics with firmer tuning on new shocks and struts, as well as recalibrated braking, traction and stability-control systems.

In addition, Mercedes for the first time is offering SL63 buyers an even more radical sport package designed for hard-core enthusiasts and occasional track-day events.

A high-performance AMG suspension setup and new 19-in. wheels and tires are included in the option, as are 15.3-in. (39-cm) carbon-ceramic front brakes, a multi-disc limited-slip differential and a smaller, flat-bottomed AMG steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles.

msutton@wardsauto.com