Mercedes SL 65 AMG, Drifting 18 Photos Zoom

Mercedes SL 65 AMG put to the test: V12 steam hammer with restraint

The major flood of innovations from Affalterbach may have almost completely submerged the Mercedes SL 65 AMG. Under the hood rages a V12 biturbo with 630 bhp and 1,000 Nm of torque. That said - to use the word "rages" is not strictly accurate.

Anyone who does not consider the automobile to be the nail in the coffin of humanity, who perhaps even feels at home in a world beyond that of standard consumption and autonomous driving, will be left feeling cold. As soon as a Mercedes AMG model fills his field of vision, a sense of joy builds in anticipation of the roar of the V8 engine, whether it be the departing 6.2 litre naturally aspirated engine or the 5.5 litre biturbo. As soon the first chunky bass note thuds from the trademark square exhaust, fans quickly reach the following conclusion: "This is exactly how an eight-cylinder should sound."

How then can the V12 biturbo of the Mercedes SL 65 AMG be forged within the same company? Now, rather than bubbling magma, the six-litre unit sounds more like foaming milk on the stove, remains surprisingly discreet, rumbles with a quiet whisper, without creating the slightest suspicion of the powerful 630 bhp output and the mind-blowing 1,000 Newton metres of torque - which is available from just 2,300 rpm

Mercedes SL 65 AMG from 0 to 100 in 4.1 seconds

Is the AMG team in Affalterbach playing nice? Certainly not, that would be in stark contrast with the corporate philosophy. Instead the Mercedes SL 65 AMG honours the idea behind its drive concept, its arrangement of the twelve cylinder in a V-shape with a 60-degree bank angle, which has delighted and captivated car fans for decades with its sophistication and restraint.

But be careful - do not get lulled into a false sense of security. Never has a V12 model ever lacked power - and especially not an AMG. A digital system working in conjunction with the accelerator pedal results in the Mercedes SL 65 AMG rather quickly becoming tangled up in the claws of the clever control electronics - and anyone who switches it on will soon become tangled up in the surrounding plant life. But it is precisely these bits and bytes that help the two-seater storm from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds, under the intoxicating hiss of its dual turbochargers, thus falling short of the factory specification by a mere tenth of a second.

And 0 to 200? Please, the mere question is just annoying! For this the Mercedes SL 65 AMG requires just 11.6 seconds. Do this a few times and it will take days before the diamond pattern on the standard Nappa leather seats disappears from your back. From the very first metre you feel this pressure in your stomach, the force of the engine massages you gently yet relentlessly, thus demonstrating its power - no sooner has the needle of the rev counter passed over the 2,000 rpm mark, and just a moment later it is sitting at 6,000 rpm.

The Mercedes SL 65 AMG rushes like a whirlwind

The seven-speed automatic transmission (incidentally without a Race-Start function) transitions to the next gear at 6,200 rpm - or not, for in manual mode it sticks to the gear it is in. The interruption of the ignition and injection when accelerating under full load makes the M279-unit snort briefly upon each gear change: powerful, but not raging. When shifting down, a dose of de-clutching provides a burst of power, however, the V12 nonetheless lacks the power that it delivers in the 1.9 tonne Roadster, in the friendly and casual acoustic muscle of the SL 63 with the V8 engine.

In fact the Mercedes SL 65 AMG rushes like a whirlwind, grumbles like a storm in the distance. But at some point the long straight also comes to an end and then comes the point at which the refined twelve cylinder engine must deal with curves of varying radii. Of course on the road this poses very little problem to the Mercedes, for in order to reach legal road speeds all the driver is generally required to do is twitch his baby toe.

Chassis with anti-roll compensation

And the weight? Well, this is very successfully counteracted by the active chassis with anti-roll compensation. Incidentally: at 1,880 kilograms, the current Mercedes SL 65 AMG now weighs 165 kilograms less than the test car from the previous series. Instead it is the traction that requires attention. So it's no great surprise that the torque builds early on and then immediately takes off. And in this regard, there is no change on the racetrack, where the Mercedes SL 65 AMG performs valiantly.

If you have a little patience when exiting corners this will solve the problem, without having to make any noteworthy compromise on speed. In any case the two-seater offers a reasonable level of grip, including at the front axle, before beginning to understeer slightly upon reaching its limit. And while causing a stir on the short circuit at Hockenheim, a Mercedes is once again attracting attention with its comfortable steering. It foregoes the nonsense of a variable transmission, offers just the right amount of power assistance and doesn't even try to feign directness by means of artificially high steering forces.

It works in a linear fashion, with good response. Full stop. Added to this is the fantastically modulating brake system, which still gives a powerful bite after several laps. Okay, the copper-coloured calliper gives the system away as the 8,270 Euro option with carbon ceramic discs, but with a base price of 238,833 Euro the additional expense will not break the bank for those who are seriously interested.

Together with its inexhaustible power, the agile and predictable handling allows for a lap time of 1:13.3 minutes - just one tenth slower than the somewhat less top-heavy SL 63. And at some point all of the rushing around comes to an end. Then the hard top with its transparent central section folds down into the boot at the touch of a button, while the four windows remain down. Feeling a little cold? Then the Mercedes SL 65 AMG blows warm air over the seat, onto your neck. The two turbo-chargers also blow air, but only with a fraction of the maximum pressure of 1.5 Bar - and it's all good again. Only the driver knows what the SL 65 AMG is capable of. The quiet twelve-cylinder engine with its outrageous performance specifications prefers to keep this a secret from everyone else.



23 February 2015
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