From £116,6258
There's more financial sense in an entry-level Mercedes SL, but few with the necessary funds will be able to resist this 63's brutal charms

What is it?

Few cars possess the sort grace exuded by the Mercedes SL. The 1950s W189 is the stuff of bedroom wall posters, the 1960s W113 'Pagoda' is stop-in-the-street gorgeous, the 1970s R107 is now deep in 'phwoar' territory and the 1990s R129 is getting prettier every day. We'll, er, gloss over the 2000s R230, shall we?

Mercedes found better form with its next one, though, this R231 - available from 2012 and facelifted earlier this year. We've already sampled the impressive entry-level V6 SL 400 on UK roads. This time we're driving the altogether more potent, AMG-fettled, twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 SL 63.

Unlike the 400, the 63 gains no extra oomph for 2016, but it didn't really need any more; a colossal 577bhp is still produced at 5500rpm. It does receive the range's other (minor) changes, though. These include a new headlight, grille and front bumper design, as well as a boot separator that now closes electrically rather than manually. I told you it was minor. 

What's it like?

To return briefly to where we started, even in AMG guise the SL makes a superbly graceful cruiser, and one that seems inordinately classy. Sure, there'll be some cynical passers-by, but the SL evokes a more positive response from the general public than some of its obvious plush open-top GT rivals.

And AMG getting involved has done nothing to ruin said cruise. The 63's ride is a touch firmer than the 400's - as you'd hope and expect - but it's only the sharpest road-ruts that reveal the difference. Roof-down, which takes 18 seconds - and with highly recommended optional £525 wind deflector in place - the cabin remains brilliantly calm, even beyond 70mph.

But the 400 can do all of this. For your additional £40,000 you'd hope that AMG would added some magic. Happily, it has. Turning the rotary drive mode dial from Comfort through Sport to Sport+ firms the suspension, weights the steering, improves throttle response and alerts the gearbox, all in the name of enhanced performance and handling.

There's a brief pause while the V8's two turbos whine into life, before the SL 63 surges forward. Traction on, this is accompanied by a busy dash stability light. Traction off, and the 63's huge torque soon turns rubber to smoke. In both cases the standard sports exhaust spits furiously. 

The 63 isn't all sledgehammer, though. While it doesn't offer the poise or outright agility of, say, a Ferrari California T HS, it does a very convincing job of changing direction given its near two-tonne kerb weight. There's a little autobahn vagueness around the straight ahead, but what lies beyond is precise and nicely weighted, if not particularly communicative.

Crucially, you feel involved in the process, although the ESP's halfway-house Sport setting could be a little less intrusive. Particularly given the 63's combination of long, lazy wheelbase, effective limited slip differential, responsive gearbox and accurate helm that help you build enough confidence to enjoy steering it on the throttle.

Two adults sit in complete comfort, even after the 63 swaps the 400's squishier pews for equally adjustable but more figure-hugging AMG seats. The steering wheel is also changed for an AMG sports example, while outside, our car's £2475 Night package turns its 19in alloy wheels, exhaust, mirror housings and other exterior details a moody black. 

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Probably the one area where the SL is beginning to feels its age is inside. It certainly still feels special, with supple leather wrapping the dash and chrome accents providing flair, but its switches, both in arrangement and feel, are decidedly last-generation Mercedes. It's now relatively small colour-screened infotainment system is also looking long in the tooth, although the brilliance of Apple CarPlay continues to revive some life from a flagging system as it has done in so many cases elsewhere.

Should I buy one?

A California T HS is more agile and a 911 Turbo S Cabriolet is both that and quicker, yes, but the SL 63 does a better job of making you smile than a Bentley Continental GTC or Maserati GranCabrio when taken by the scruff of the neck. The fact that it does it while also providing one of the most comfortable, refined experiences in the class when you want it to wins it points.

If you're more interested in what the SL does best, save your cash and buy the equally cosseting and similar quick 'standard' V6 400 or V8 500 models. But, if you've got the funds and enjoy turning up the wick at the weekends, this SL is sure to win your affections. 

Mercedes-AMG SL 63

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £114,115; Engine V8, 5461cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 577bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 664lb ft at 2250-3750rpm; Gearbox 7-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1845kg; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 4.1secs; Economy 28.0mpg; CO2/tax band 234/ 37%

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