Mercedes-Benz took the unusual step of combining the unveiling of the 2012 Mercedes Petronas AMG W03 Formula One car with the launch of the AMG version of the new SL Roadster. This was probably quite a smart move. Although these F1 launches are good photo-ops there is always a severe lack of hard information, for understandable reasons. A new AMG however is always an interesting story - plus, "Shuey" and Nico Rosberg get to ferry a few privileged journos around the Barcelona F1 track.
On the surface, this year's F1 cars differ from last year's in just two respects. A new restriction on the height of the front portion of the car was introduced, ostensibly to allow the drivers to actually see the front wing and stop running into each other. Most teams were loath to lose their existing steering geometries so there is now an ugly step up from the nose to the car body. The second major change is that the exhausts have to exit away from the rear diffusers to stop them being used as an "active" component. As to changes under the skin, component count has risen to 4,500 from 4,300 last year yet the core weight is down, which tells us nothing frankly. None of the teams really have any idea where they stand on performance until the first race gets underway in March.
Of the AMG SL63 there was plenty of information available. The engine comes as no surprise - it's the 5.5 liter twin-turbo V8 common to the Merc/AMG range. In this incarnation however, it's been tuned to provide a pretty healthy 537 bhp (395 kW) and 590 ft.lbs (800 Nm) of torque. For the first time on the SL, a performance pack is available to push power output up to 564 bhp (415 Kw) and torque up to 663 ft.ibs (900 Nm). The resulting performance is acceleration from 0 - 62 mph (0 to 100 km/h) in 4.3 or 4.2 seconds, and to 124 mph (200 km/h) in 12.9 or 12.6 seconds, without or with the pack respectively. Top speed is 155 mph (250 km/h) electronically limited, although this rises to 186 mph (300 km/h) with the AMG Performance package on board. Combined fuel consumption is a full 30 percent lower than for the outgoing model.
The fuel economy improvements are due to extensive weight savings in construction and stop/start engine technology, standard on the regular SL that we covered in December. The 7-speed gear box has been given a "Sports" makeover and in S+ mode the engine will "breathe" on full-bore up-shifts and double de-clutch on downshifts to make you sound like a racing hero. AMG-only performance options include a limited-slip differential and performance suspension (be careful if you tick that option - it's likely to be rock-hard). Red brake callipers and carbon discs are available as seen on the SLS. Light weight forged matt-black 20-inch rims are an option (yes please) and of course the exhaust note has been tuned for that AMG rumble.
Body changes include larger front air-dams and those annoying always-on LED running lights, plus a two-bar radiator grill. "V8 Biturbo" badges adorn the side vents and the rear trunk lid gets a lip spoiler that actually improves the look of the over-generous rear. Twin chrome tailpipes and a rear (pretend) diffuser complete the look.
Serious power with comfort, good looks and surprisingly improved fuel economy suggest that the SL63 will as successful as ever for AMG. Now bring on the 12 cylinder SL65.