2023 Mercedes-AMG SL 43: Surprising power in a compact package

Mercedes-AMG SL 43 (carbuzz.com)

A Closer look at the four-cylinder AMG SL Roadster

The iconic Mercedes SL-Class has traditionally been a versatile sports tourer, often sought after in its convertible form with various engine options. However, with the latest generation of the Mercedes-AMG SL-Class, the landscape has shifted. The newest addition to the lineup is the handcrafted four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG SL 43, packing a punch with 375 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, courtesy of an electric turbocharger linked to a 48-volt electrical system with F1-inspired technology. CarBuzz explores this unconventional addition, evaluating its features and performance.

Exterior: Aesthetically pleasing
The Mercedes-AMG SL 43 continues the legacy of the SL-Class with its classic proportions, blending contemporary design elements. It draws inspiration from the iconic SL models while incorporating modern styling cues. Notably, the SL 43 distinguishes itself from its siblings, the AMG SL 55 and AMG SL 63, through subtle front and rear fascia variations. While it comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, it offers optional 20 and 21-inch ‘Aerodynamically optimized’ wheels. Personalization options include various paint colors and a captivating red soft top.

Interior & Infotainment: Luxury and some quirks
The interior of the AMG SL 43 maintains the 2+2 seating configuration, although the rear seats are best suited for cargo or daily essentials rather than passengers. Nappa leather covers the seats, which are praised for their comfort and adjustability. The driving position is ideally tailored for a sports car, albeit with somewhat limited rear visibility when the roof is up.

While the interior is luxurious, it features an infotainment system that can be frustratingly complex. A large touchscreen controls nearly all functions, and a split start/stop button introduces some ergonomic challenges. Nevertheless, the vehicle boasts a remarkable Burmester audio system, offering an exquisite audio experience.

Powertrain: Four-cylinder surprise
The idea of an AMG-branded SL roadster powered by a four-cylinder engine may initially appear unconventional, but the Mercedes-AMG SL 43 challenges traditional expectations. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, equipped with an electric turbocharger, delivers ample power, particularly in the mid-range. With a torque range spanning from 3,250 rpm to 5,000 rpm, the engine excels in overtaking maneuvers and corner exits.

While its sub-five-second 0-60 mph time (4.8 seconds) may not dazzle AMG enthusiasts, the SL 43 shines when already in motion. Sport and Sport+ modes unleash the full potential of the nine-speed Multi-Clutch Transmission (MGT), characterized by swift and responsive gear shifts. Although the engine may not evoke the emotional appeal of traditional V8s, it proves itself as a capable performer.

On the road: A blend of identities
The Mercedes-AMG SL 43 navigates a fine line between being a sports car and a grand tourer. In Comfort mode, the suspension provides a comfortable ride, albeit with a hint of disconnection between the front and rear ends. The SL 43’s suspension maintains composure over varying road surfaces, but Comfort mode can feel slightly stiff.

Sport and Sport+ modes transform the SL 43’s demeanor, enhancing its agility and performance. The transmission displays impressive speed, and the throttle response becomes even sharper. The vehicle exhibits a desire to be a hardcore sports car, yet it carries the weight of luxury amenities, including massaging seats and a power-operated soft top. While the SL 43 impresses in many aspects, it struggles to define itself as either a sports car or a touring vehicle.

Quirks and frustrations
The interior is adorned with ambient lighting and an extensive infotainment system, both of which can be distracting and cumbersome. The illuminated mode buttons, steering wheel, and touchscreen are particularly distracting when driving in Sport or Sport+ modes. Adjusting these settings through a complex infotainment system may prove to be an inconvenience.

Final verdict: A car of mixed traits
The Mercedes-AMG SL 43 offers a compelling driving experience, even though it introduces quirks and frustrations, particularly with its infotainment system. It successfully blends luxury and performance, making it enjoyable to drive and comfortable to be in. While it may not possess the emotional appeal of traditional V8 engines, it fulfills its role adequately. However, its identity is somewhat blurred, leaving it uncertain whether it aspires to be a flashy tourer or an outright sports car. Despite these challenges, the AMG SL 43 manages to delight more often than it frustrates, with room for improvement in streamlining its technological features.