2024 Mercedes-AMG SL 55 Review: An Open Top V8 Theatre

A million miles of headroom clubbed with a thunderous V8 & AMG precision make the SL 55 Roadster a pure drop-top theatre.

By Shivank Bhatt | Photography Parvesh Swami | on July 2, 2024 Follow us on Autox Google News

Convertibles are the Keanu Reeves of the automotive universe. They may not have Oscar-winning performances under their belt, but they make up for their flaws with their warmth and charisma. And, if there’s one convertible that has drastically evolved and captivated the audiences with its aura over the years – much like Mr Reeves – it’s got to be the Mercedes-Benz SL.

For this story, I found myself behind the wheel of the seventh-generation of the iconic SL roadster. However, before we delve into its driving experience, let’s take a look at its illustrious history and unravel the reason behind the legendary status of the SL nameplate.

Mercedes-AMG SL History: The Racing Heritage

The SL name goes back to the early fifties when Mercedes built the W194 – the company’s first race car after World War II. Right after its inception, the W194 began asserting its dominance in sports car racing, clinching victories in 24h Le Mans, Nürburgring, and Carrera Panamericana (Mexico) races in 1952. Following its racing success, the company heeded the suggestion of Mercedes’ American importer, Max Hoffman, and developed the road-going / production versions of the race car – the iconic 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ and the 190 SL Roadster. While the 300 SL featured a 3.0-litre inline-6 engine, the 190 SL was equipped with a smaller 1.9-litre inline-4 engine. Also, the 190 SL was, technically, the first open-top SL model.

Merccedes AMG SL 55 Side Design Review

Responding to the increasing popularity of roadsters, Mercedes made a pivotal decision in 1957 to transform the 300 SL Coupe into the 300 SL Roadster by ditching the Gullwing doors. This model continued to sell in good numbers until the arrival of the second-gen SL W113, popularly known as the Pagoda due to its unique hard-top roof design. In 1971, Mercedes rolled out the third-gen SL – the R107. It became the best-selling version of the Roadster, which was in production for 18 years!

In 1989, the popular wedge-shaped fourth-gen SL, or the R129, made its debut. The R129 was the first SL to get a V12 powertrain – in fact, it was available with not one but three V12 engine options, including the Pagani Zonda’s 7.3-litre V12. In India, the R129 is, perhaps, most famous for its cameo in the popular Bollywood film Dil Chahta Hai (2001). However, before the movie’s release, Mercedes had already showcased the fifth-gen SL – the R230 – to the world. This model became yet another icon, notable for its peanut-shaped headlamps and sleek bodywork. If you are a Top Gear fan, you might remember Jeremy Clarkson owning one of these – the SL 55 AMG. The car was also featured in one of the episodes of the first season of the OG Top Gear (2002). Reportedly, Clarkson had sold his Ferrari F355 to get the SL, and that should tell you how good the R230 was back in the day.

In 2012, Mercedes introduced the R231 – the sixth-generation SL. Now, I have an honest confession to make. Even though it was mighty powerful and featured a V12 twin-turbo, it never felt special to me for some reason. It was the SL’s The Day the Earth Stood Still kind of moment. This also explains why the seventh-generation version offers more glamour, drama, and brutality – it’s making up for its predecessor.

Also Read: Mercedes-AMG SL 63 Manufaktur Golden Coast Edition Globally Unveiled

Mercedes-AMG SL 55: Seventh Heaven

Dubbed the R232, the latest-gen SL features a few firsts. For instance, it’s the first SL to have been independently developed by AMG, meaning no regular Mercedes-Benz versions are on sale. There’s no hard-top version, either – you can only have it as a soft-top, which, according to Mercedes, saves up to 21kg in comparison to its predecessor. Another new addition is the 2+2 seating configuration – something that’s been a missing feature in SLs after 1989.

Under the hood, the SL 55 Roadster – the one we drove, which is also the sole variant available in India – features a fire-breathing 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, which churns out 469bhp and 700Nm of torque. The drive is sent to all four wheels – another first for an SL. Plus, it also gets rear-axle steering for the first time.

Merccedes AMG SL 55 Ride and Handling Review

What about the interior, features, and creature comforts? Well, it’s sumptuous, cutting-edge, and a special place to be – in short, a typical Mercedes affair. A luxury grand tourer in the true sense!

That’s all good, no doubt. But does it feel special or involving enough to drive? Does it have the brooding excellence of its forefathers? Let’s find out.

Mercedes-AMG SL 55 Engine Performance: V8 Power

Mercedes-AMG is known for its big-brute V8 engines, and the one in SL 55 is no different – it’s a monster of an engine, period. With 469 horses and 700Nm on tap, the SL 55 doesn’t just move forward briskly – it thunders along! The sheer noise, incredible acceleration, and visceral clamour emanating from those eight pistons firing on all cylinders can cause a bit of a sensory overload. There’s a deep raspy baritone when the engine reaches its zenith, and the induction noise is a pure joy for petrolheads. Roof-down, foot-down – that’s all it takes to maximise the pleasure of driving the SL 55 AMG.

The SL 55 AMG can sprint from 0 to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds, thanks to its easy-to-use launch control system. Put the car in Sport+ mode using the rotary controller on the steering wheel, turn the traction control off using the other dial on the steering, press the brake with the left foot and the accelerator with the right, build revs to 5,000rpm, and then just release the brake – you will tear a 4.7m hole in air in no time.

Merccedes AMG SL 55 Front View

The SL’s performance is not all perfect, though. The 9-speed gearbox is somewhat of a fly in the ointment at times – it tends to be a bit hesitant and jerky, especially during downshifts. This is not as pronounced in Comfort mode, but it becomes quite evident when you’re in Sport or Sport+ mode. The paddle shifts aren’t exactly telepathic either – while downshifting they don’t drop gears as quickly as you’d want. In manual mode, upshifts can be a bit tricky on the move because that V8 engine revs like a dash of fire and hits the rev limiter in the blink of an eye. This isn’t the car’s problem though – it’s more of a (incompetent) driver issue.

Also Read: Mercedes-AMG E 53 Cabriolet Review: Three-Pointed Stardom

Mercedes-AMG SL 55 Handling: Sharp & Suave

The SL 55 handles corners remarkably well – a testament to the expertise of the folks at AMG. So, despite featuring a mile-long bonnet, a wheelbase of 2,700mm, and weighing nearly two tonnes – which contradicts SL’s Super Leicht (Super Light) abbreviation – the SL kicks physics in the teeth with its body control. With its precise handling and taut body movements, it hugs the road like a force of nature. Sure, the AWD setup helps to put the power down effectively, but you can sense its rear bias when you mash the throttle mid-corner. The rear-axle steering is yet another highlight. It can turn by 2.5 degrees in both, the opposite direction (up to 100km/h) and the same direction (over 100km/h). The latter is particularly apparent when you are cornering at high speed, as you can sense the system tightening your line/trajectory.

The drawbacks? The ride is hard as knuckles, and the ground clearance is appalling. But then, do you care? When it looks this stunning, drives like a true-blue sports car, and offers a million miles of blue sky for headroom, do you really have anything to complain about?

Merccedes AMG SL 55 front seat View from top

Okay, seriously, there are a couple of things to complain about. The roof operation is fidgety. You need to slide and long-press the controls on the touchscreen to move the roof up or down, which can be quite tedious and distracting while driving – you can open or close the roof in 15 seconds at up to 60km/h. And if it’s a hot summer day, the screen heats up quickly. So, there’s a good chance that you might burn your finger – not kidding! The all-black cabin of our test car wasn’t of much help in cooling us down, either.

That said, the S-Class-derived 11.9-inch portrait touchscreen is brilliant and easy to use. It’s also got this feature where it can electrically be inclined from 12 to 32 degrees for better visibility in direct sunlight. In terms of luxury and creature comforts, this stunning beauty has got everything covered, no doubt about it.


At ₹2.44 crore, the SL 55 AMG is not exactly a steal. Not to mention, with that kind of a price, it’s dangerously close to other more serious performance-focused convertibles, such as the Porsche 911 Cabriolet (the new one is on its way to India!). However, the SL has never been a mental performance drop-top with the sole aim of going fast. It’s always been about the alfresco theatrics, allowing you to bask in complete luxury. And if that’s what you want in life and have around ₹3 crores lying around, you can’t possibly do better than the SL 55 AMG.

  • Mercedes-AMG SL 55

Engine: 3,982cc / V8 / Twin-Turbo

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive

Power: 469bhp @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 700Nm @ 2,000rpm

Price: ₹2.44 Crore (Ex-Showroom)

X-Factor: A modern V8 convertible with old-school theatrics.

•  Design

•  Performance

•  Sense of Occasion

• Gearbox

•  Price

Tags: Mercedes-AMG Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-AMG SL 55

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