Place in the Sun: Mercedes’ classy SL63 AMG

Shed a tear for the poor, magnificent Mercedes-Benz SL.

Once the undisputed top-dog of the open-top Mercedes line-up, these days it’s over-shadowed by the likes of the new, whipper-snapper AMG GT Roadster and an endless menagerie of C, E and S-class cabriolets.

Oh, and I almost forgot the pint-sized SLC Roadster – the one formerly known as the SLK.

At the last count, Mercedes offered no fewer than 16 drop-tops ranging in price from $51,200 to $222,000. And that doesn’t include a few with the option of all-wheel drive.

While it may be lost in the line-up, for me the SL is still the icon, the poster-child, the car to be spoken about in hushed, adulatory tones. After all, the first SL dates all the way back to 1957 with the mighty Gullwing. There’s rich history, and a lot of it, here.

And just five minutes behind the weighty, suede-wrapped helm of the latest SL63 AMG, soaking-up the tailpipe symphony delivered by its thundering twin-turbo AMG-built V8, will reinforce the significance, relevance and pure joy that’s the SL.

These days you can savor this two-seat hardtop roadster in four distinct flavors. While the SL400 with its 3.0-liter 367-horse biturbo V6 might be dismissed as the bottom-feeder, it delivers all the power and performance you’ll ever need. For an attainable – for a hand-crafted Mercedes – $88,200.

Step up to the $112,300 SL550 and you’re getting 449-hp of twin-turbo V8 power and 0-to-60mph sprinting in a mere 4.3 seconds.

I’m sure there’s the odd Russian oligarch or Silicon Valley whizz-kid billionaire who is happy to drop $222,000 on the insane SL65 with its twin-turbo V12, but I just don’t see the point.

Which leaves the $151,000-and-up SL63 as, for me, the ultimate, still-crazy-fast, best-of-the-best SL derivative. And it is truly beyond awesome. I love this car.

Power and performance aside, what sets the latest SL apart is its sheer practicality over something like the cloth-topped AMG GT Roadster. At the lift of a lever, the SL morphs from sun-on-your-face convertible to a snug, hardtop coupe.

And that’s not its only party trick. That hardtop comes with a glass roof to add light and airiness to the cabin. Too much solar heat in the mid-day Florida sun? Simply tap a button and the SL’s wonderfully-titled Magic Sky Control will jiggle electrons, instantly darkening the glass.

The hardtop still continues to fold with all the poise and fluidity of a Russian ballerina, rising and descending at speeds up to 25mph. And no longer do you have to mess with the awkward luggage compartment partition; for 2017 its operation has been motorized.

Top down, however, is how you pilot this latest SL63. Not just to feel the elements, but to listen to the hard-core rock concert that erupts from its quartet of quartic tailpipes sprouting from the rear diffuser.

As you’d expect, the AMG-tuned 63 is a true joy to drive. Of course it’s blisteringly quick. With 577 horseys on tap and an even more impressive 664 lb-ft of torque – there are Peterbilts with less muscle – the SL catapults way from stop lights hitting 60 in just under 4.0 seconds.

Even more exhilarating is the car’s mighty mid-range thrust that will rocket you past slower traffic, or slingshot you out of tight freeway on-ramps.

But the beauty here is the car’s Jekyll and Hyde dual personas. Yes, it can play the full-thrust rocketship scaring the heck out of you with its supercar-like performance. But it’s equally happy and adept at burbling effortlessly around town in a high gear.

And comfort is this car’s middle name. Take for example the car’s Active Body Control adaptive suspension that adjusts suspension firmness at the touch of a button.

For the 2017 refresh however, the system gets an additional mode called Curve Control. This adjusts the suspension to lean the car ever so slightly into corners – kind of like a motorcycle does – to add comfort for driver and passenger.

Add to this a cockpit that sets the standard in sports car comfort.   From the multi-adjustable seats with that still-remarkable adaptive bolstering that holds you in place in corners, to the feel of that chunky AMG steering wheel, to the low, enveloping driving position, the SL’s cabin is a truly wonderful place to be.

Hopefully there’ll always be an SL in the Mercedes line-up. But maybe you need to experience one before it’s too late.