Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG [R231] (2016-2020)

Models Covered

2dr Cabriolet (4.0, 6.0 petrol]


The ultimate Mercedes SL ‘R231’-series model wasn’t the most powerful V12 one. It was this model, the SL 63 AMG, later re-named the Mercedes-AMG SL 63. More than just a very powerful sporting luxury convertible, it aimed to snare supercar buyers too and seemed at launch to have the engine, the looks and the technology to do it. How does it fare as a used buy?

The History

Can a machine designed first and foremost to be a luxury sports car, if appropriately powered and fettled, really take itself to the next level and transform itself into a fully-fledged six-figure supercar? Back in 2012, the evidence of recent years suggested not. With the arguable exception of Porsche’s 911, we found in that period that a more powerful, stiffer, tauter version of a luxury sports car remained exactly that. Desirable, yes, but you wouldn’t seriously consider one as a credible alternative to an Aston Martin, a Ferrari or even a Maserati. Even though models from these famous brands wouldn’t reel in the horizon any faster than powerful luxury sports car contenders of the period like BMW’s M6, Jaguar’s XKR-S or indeed, the model we’re going to look at here, Mercedes’ SL 63 AMG.

With this ‘R231’-series SL 63 though, Mercedes assured us that things were changing. Prior to its launch in 2012, the success of the SLS AMG gullwing model had proved the Stuttgart brand’s supercar credentials beyond doubt and many of the same engineers who created it reckoned that this car was every bit as good, virtually as fast, 35% cheaper to buy and far less expensive to run. The sixth generation version of this iconic model line featured a more dynamic set of underpinnings than any we’d seen in an SL since the Fifties. Matched here to a new twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 engine that not only delivered more power but sounded just as good as anything from Maranello.

In 2016, this model got a far-reaching update, at which point it was re-named the Mercedes-AMG SL 63, in line with new Mercedes policy. Production finally finished in 2019, with the last examples sold in early 2020. This car was ultimately replaced by a Mercedes-AMG ‘R232’-series model in late 2021.

What You Get

This ‘R231’-series SL 63 AMG model's more athletic stance is undeniably purposeful. The central feature is a twin-blade grille in high-sheen chrome, with the three-pointed star mounted on two blade-like louvres profiled like an aircraft wing. At the rear, you'll spy an AMG spoiler lip, four chromed tailpipes for the sports exhaust system and a diffuser-style rear apron with a body-coloured insert. Under the skin, new aluminium underpinnings saved 170kg of weight, compensating for the heavy Vario metal folding roof that raises or lowers its elaborate metal panels in a respectably rapid 20 seconds.

Inside, this R231’-series model brought customers a more spacious cabin, to which most added the neat AIRSCARF neck-level heating system that’ll make you more tempted to travel alfresco on chilly mornings. Buyers of this top sporting model get AMG sports seats in single tone or two-tone Nappa leather, AMG carbonfibre trim, AMG illuminated door sill panels, an AMG performance steering wheel with logo in the lower metal insert, AMG instruments with a TFT colour monitor and an AMG start-up display with RACETIMER mode. To your left, the dash is dominated by the huge COMMAND infotainment display screen the controller for which is down near the small but exquisitely-styled DIRECT SELECT gearshift lever.

What To Look For

Overall, it turns out that this ‘R231’-series MK6 SL is one of the more reliable sports cars out there. The issues that do arise tend to be more related to electronic gremlins than the engine. Obviously buy with care – there are a lot of electrical features that could go wrong and you need to make sure that all the powered seat systems work properly and infotainment screen and instrument displays function as they should. Obviously, check the powered roof for water leaks – maybe with a trip to the local car wash. And insist on a fully stamped-up dealer history.

There were a number of recalls for this model that you should be aware of. For the rear suspension mounting (models built in April 2019), the passenger door lock (for models built between October 2017 to April 2018) and the passenger airbag (models made between March and November 2018).

On The Road

What would sell this car to you? The sound possibly, a mixture of NASCAR V8, Vulcan bomber and American muscle car all rolled into one glorious burbling roar. This ‘R231’-seres SL AMG got a more efficient twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 that offered 544bhp in standard form. Or more than that with cars featuring the extra cost AMG Performance Package that teased peak power up to 572bhp and pushed torque up from 800 to 900Nm. This extra cost feature also dealt with the pesky 155mph speed limit put in by Mercedes to satisfy the green lobby, so with that Package fitted, if you’ve a handy runway or autobahn nearby, you’ll be able to take this car up to 186mph flat out. A limited-slip differential and red brake calipers were also part of this rather serious Package. The facelift post-2016-era Mercedes-AMG SL 63 model got a power hike to 585bhp in standard form.

All those braked horses get translated onto the tarmac here via a more effective transmission too. The rather slothful 7G-Tronic auto gearbox used in the previous generation ‘R230’ version of this car was replaced by a quicker-thinking ‘Speedshift’ MCT 7-speed set-up that had been breathed on by AMG engineers for rifle shot-quick changes that nevertheless still don’t feel quite as sharp as those in rival supercars, however quick you try to be with these wheel-mounted gearshift paddles.


So, is this really a supercar? Or merely a sporting luxury convertible with a very powerful engine? What’s not up for debate is the fact that this SL 63 brought Mercedes’ SL line closer to supercar status than any model before it. Not only does it have the right kind of raw power but it can also handle it too, thanks to lithe aluminium underpinnings, Active Body Control and sharper responses than many will expect from a car of this kind – and especially from something with an AMG badge.