The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL 43: What We Think
I found the SL 43 to present a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, it delivers the joie de vivre you’d expect from an SL; I enjoyed driving it. It looks spectacular. It’s pleasant enough to drive in normal conditions — with all the power you can realistically use on public roads. If you just want a cool convertible to cruise around town in on weekends, the SL 43 is just about perfect.
The trouble is, even after cutting more than $30,000 off the SL 55’s price tag, the SL 43 is still really expensive. It starts at $109,900; my tester came in just under $120,000. And I can’t really come up with any particular quality beyond looks — at a price point where you can buy a Porsche 911 — that would make the SL 43 be your choice.
The SL 43 looks fantastic, especially by modern Mercedes standards
Mercedes EVs resemble aerodynamic potatoes, but Mercedes’s last-call combustion cars have been comparatively on point, style-wise. And the new SL may be the best-looking of the bunch. My wife called the SL 43 “classy,” a tough designation to achieve in Hyper Blue Metallic paint. But the SL 43 nails the balance few sports cars manage, projecting style and power without looking like an ostentatious try-hard. It’s a return to aesthetic form for an SL line that lost its way after the R107.
But the SL 43 doesn’t have that rumbling 4.0-liter V8
The SL is an AMG-only affair, and the SL 43 is Diet AMG. The other SLs employ different tunings of the handcrafted 4.0-liter V8. The SL 43 downsizes to a handcrafted 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four — with Mercedes touting its F1-derived tech that reduces turbo lag.
On the plus side, the power dip (about 20 percent less than the 55) isn’t too dramatic considering you’re losing half the displacement. And you can’t really use much more than the 375 horsepower it has on real roads. Many buyers won’t feel the difference. But you don’t get that rich, visceral soundtrack a Mercedes V8 provides — and that’s a notable absence.
And the SL 43 is not particularly sporty
The SL 43 will be a thoroughly pleasant drive for most buyers. Cruising around in it made late summer in Southeast Michigan feel like the PCH — a bit. And it is decently quick, shooting from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. But the base spec car doesn’t really bring the sporty edge the retractable spoiler and optional AMG Track Pace option would suggest.
Despite dispensing with all-wheel-drive, the SL 43 is still a big boy, checking in at nearly two tons. You don’t have the AMG V8 to thrust that weight around. And helpful tech like the four-wheel steering, torque vectoring and active suspension body control is stripped off the SL 43. The experience is less “purist model” and more “doesn’t have the features that makes the other cars better.”
The engine also delivers its peak torque at around 3,250 rpm, which is hard to hit unless you are absolutely on it, or using the paddles to keep you in a lower gear. Even in Sport and Sport+ modes, the SL 43’s nine-speed automatic tries not to get anywhere near that.
The SL 43 interior is standard Mercedes fare … with rear seats
The SL 43 interior reminded me of several other Mercedes cars I’ve driven — a bit too much, perhaps, since it’s a dramatic increase in price from most of those cars. It feels like a luxury car. But after a few days, the center console was catching my fingerprints, and the door sill was doing the same for any speck of dirt on my shoes. The clean look of the center console requires cramming the charging pad/ports and the cupholders in one section — making it troublesome to use both at the same time.
This is the first SL generation with factory-installed rear seats. They aren’t particularly useful, sitting alarmingly upright and not fit for full-size adult duty. But I was able to shoehorn my kids’ car seats back there — permitting me to use the car much more than I would have otherwise.
What are some Mercedes-AMG SL 43 Roadster alternatives?
If you’re planning to spend $120,000 or so on a two-door sports car, you’ve got options. Mercedes positioned the SL 43 as a competitor for the base Porsche 911 Carrera ($114,400). Those looking for a more precise sports car could save more than $10,000 and opt for a maxed-out 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 ($97,300). You can also shave more than a second off the 0-60 mph time with a BMW M4 Convertible ($93,300).
I’d also throw in the Lexus LC500 convertible ($106,500) as a credible alternative if you’re just looking for luxury. It’s markedly more dated than the SL 43. But you get nearly 100 more horsepower from a delicious-sounding naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8.
The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL 43 Roadster
– Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four; 9-speed automatic; RWD
– Horsepower: 375
– Torque: 354 lb-ft
– EPA Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
– Seats: 4
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