In the world of the super rich, the normal rules don’t apply. I ponder this from behind the wheel of Mercedes’ flagship roadster, the SL65 AMG.
As impressive as it is, I can’t help but wonder why you’d choose it over the SL63, which is near-as-dammit as fast and a hefty $85,000 cheaper.
Exclusivity, that’s why. Unless you have a Pagani Huayra parked in the garage, the only way to gain access to AMG’s 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 is to buy a ‘65’.
For the target market (ie, not 20-something motoring journalists) having ‘V12 Bi-Turbo’ written on the front wings is worth every cent of that $85K premium.
So, given you’re essentially paying extra for the engine, it’s a good thing it’s a pretty special one. Tweaks to the turbos, manifolds, ignition and cylinder heads have lifted power to a stonking 463kW while torque remains electronically capped at 1000Nm to stop the gearbox turning into a meteor shower of metal.
Speaking of which, AMG has finally engineered its seven-speed auto to handle the V12’s torque, which is slightly ironic given it could probably get away with a two-speed Powerglide.
Put your foot down and the SL65 AMG doesn’t so much accelerate as simply add 80km/h to your current speed without passing go or collecting $200.
In contrast to Merc’s slightly uncouth (and wonderful) V8s, the V12 delivers its insane slug of power with a minimum of fuss; a slight hum at idle becomes a rather industrial growl at higher revs with the turbos furiously sucking away in concert. But it’s not an engine you’d extend for its aural delights.
As you’d expect from a luxury grand tourer costing this much, the ride is exemplary and it handles surprisingly well for something that weighs 1870kg. The front end’s a bit heavy but traction is excellent and a 170kg diet (thanks to aluminium construction) has done wonders for its grip levels.
It’s only when the rear starts to edge wide in a third gear bend that you remember how much power it has, how much it weighs and how much it costs. Gulp.
But driving hard isn’t really what this car is about. It’s about nestling into those diamond-quilted Nappa leather seats, turning up the Bang & Olufsen stereo to ear-bleed volume, dropping the roof, and enjoying the satisfaction of driving something very few other people have.
The SL65 nails its brief, but I’ll have the sharper, noisier SL63 every time, thanks.
Engine: 5980cc V12, DOHC, 48v, twin-turbo
Power: 463kW @ 4800-5400rpm
Torque: 1000Nm @ 2300-4300rpm
0-100km/h: 4.0sec (claimed)
Fuel consumption: haha, really?