Future classic: Mercedes-AMG SL55

| 5 Jul 2024
Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mercedes-AMG SL55

When the SL55 AMG arrived in 2002, it capped a campaign by Affalterbach of tuning a new set of flagships for Mercedes-Benz.

From A-Class to S-Class, each range-topper now wore three letters that promised to outrun, outbrake and outclass lesser cars in a far more conspicuous manner than ever before.

The appetite for these hot rods surprised even Stuttgart, and ever since no performance stone has been left unturned in the effort to imbue its cars with AMG muscle.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mercedes-AMG SL55
Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mercedes-AMG SL55

The Mercedes-AMG SL55’s snug cockpit has a large touchscreen front and centre (left); the seats reflect the latest SL’s performance intent

Today this includes letting AMG design and build the SL from the ground up, with the classical elements of Mercedes-Benz comfort now coming second to outright performance – a controversial move for a model line that has existed primarily as a luxury car.

Being longer and heavier than its predecessor might not seem like a great start, but the R232 SL does cut 115mm from its wheelbase and uses a new aluminium spaceframe chassis derived from that of the AMG GT.

Gone, too, are the folding hardtop and plush air suspension in favour of a traditional fabric hood and steel springs.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mercedes-AMG SL55

The Mercedes-AMG SL55 is powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine

It strikes you as something with performance intent: gaping grille and sharp headlights are set low in a short overhang, and huge wheels dominate the side profile.

Similarly, there is less grandeur to the seating position, which drops low into a cocoon of rich leather and ambient lighting, while marginally usable +2 seats have been squeezed in behind the fronts.

The guttural noise of its V8 on start-up and slightly ham-fisted part-throttle gearchanges suggest this is another uncompromising attempt at defeating the Porsche 911 in the mould of the overly aggressive AMG GT.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mercedes-AMG SL55

The Mercedes-AMG SL55’s wheelbase is shorter than the previous model’s

Mercifully, it resists, with a ride quality that impersonates its predecessor, only with better body control, and an interior that deploys every available comfort.

It makes an oddly pleasant daily companion, with only a few new-era touchscreen frustrations.

Not quite the same as SLs past, but it is at least a close relative. The spirit of Affalterbach is far from lost, however.

Stirring the 4-litre V8 brings such a gratifyingly thunderous sound and twin-turbocharged surge that arguments for the nominally quicker SL63 are easily dismissed.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mercedes-AMG SL55

The new Mercedes-AMG SL55 packs a 577bhp punch

The chassis has talent, even if it requires a plethora of dynamic assistants.

Active roll control, four-wheel steering and a surprisingly quick rack help this two-tonne car feel agile on turn-in, while the torque-vectoring four-wheel drive makes for snappy corner exits.

It’s certainly more of a sports car than its forebear, but this new AMG-led SL is still just shy of a revolution.

As ever, the charm of the lineage continues, shifted but uninterrupted.

Images: Max Edleston


  • Engine 3982cc twin-turbo V8; 577bhp @ 5500-6500rpm; 590lb ft @ 2500-5000rpm
  • Transmission eight-speed auto, 4WD
  • 0-62mph 3.6 secs
  • Top speed 196mph
  • Mpg 21
  • Price £171,965


Mercedes-Benz SL Pagoda at 60: superstar attractions

Buyer’s guide: Mercedes-Benz SL (R129)

Porsche 911 turbo at 50: icons of the air-cooled era