A four-cylinder AMG SL doesn’t sound right, but surprisingly, it works.
There has always been a business case for Mercedes to offer a lower-power engine in its iconic SL-Class sports tourer, particularly in its most common form – as a convertible. However, now that the SL is only available as a Mercedes-AMG roadster, times have changed. Until now, the latest generation of Mercedes-AMG SL-Class has been available with a potent V8 engine in the US, but now we have the sophisticated handcrafted four-cylinder version here. The engine arrives with 375 horsepower and a maximum torque rating of 354 lb-ft, boastfully delivered courtest of an electric turbocharger that uses a 48-volt electrical system Mercedes tells us is “a direct derivative of the development successfully used by the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team.”
The rest of the Mercedes-AMG SL 43 is familiar with its iconic silhouette, just-so styling, motorized folding soft top, Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system accessed by a big touchscreen, and a plethora of standard equipment that puts the SL firmly in the luxury sport segment.
Exterior: Mercedes At Its Finest
While we feel Mercedes has lost the plot with how it styles its electric vehicles, the Mercedes-AMG SL shows the brand still has the magic touch for aesthetics. It draws from the classic SL model in its proportions, but is brought up to date with distinctive yet not overcooked styling.
The SL 43 differs from the AMG SL 55 and AMG SL 63 with its front and rear fascias, but you’ll be hard-pressed to notice as one goes by. It comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, but 20 and 21-inch ‘Aerodynamically optimized’ wheels are available. Our test car came optioned with the 21-inch units ($2,450), Manufaktur Moonlight White Magno paint ($3,250), and a stunning red soft top.
Interior & Infotainment: Beautiful And Frustrating
Technically, the current AMG SL is a 2+2, meaning it has back seats; however, they are of no use to people. They are perfect for dropping in daily carry bags or as extra cargo space on a road trip. The interior is Nappa leather and the comfiest and most adjustable seats we’ve sat in for a long time. The driving position is close to the floor and just about perfect for a sports car. Rear visibility isn’t perfect with the roof up, but that’s par for the course.
The interior is a ten out of ten – right up until you have to reach a long way through the narrow gap between the steering wheel and oversized touch screen to press the start button. It’s at a flat angle and split in two – the top part is the start/stop button, and the lower part turns the start/stop feature off.The fiddly awkwardness is low-level but persistent enough to annoy – all for the sake of a massive screen that a sports car doesn’t need.
That carries on into the full-featured infotainment screen that, despite the buttons underneath, is used to control everything. It’s fiddly, and the highlight of that is having to use a virtual slider switch – and keep your finger on it – to lower the roof. Balancing that out, fortunately, is the simply gorgeous-sounding Burmester audio system.
Powertrain: Far From Underpowered
The idea of an AMG-built SL with a four-cylinder engine is anathema to traditionalists and purists, but it’s 2023, and technology relentlessly pushes forward while the price of gas continues to rise just as relentlessly. The bottom line right now, however, is that there are two V8 models available for those who can afford it and are willing to fill them with gas, and the four-cylinder version arrives as a fascinating entry to owning and driving an SL.
On paper, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder promises to be more than potent enough, with its electric Formula 1-based turbo delivering higher torque at lower RPMs. Indeed, the full 354 lb-ft of torque is available between 3,250 rpm and 5,000 rpm, and it shows when overtaking or pushing out of a corner. It’s a responsive engine that pairs well with the standard nine-speed Multi-Clutch Transmission (MGT) that features a wet start-off clutch to replace the torque converter.