Ask 100 seasoned car biz watchers about the future of 12-cylinder engines, and 99 of them will tell you they're running on borrowed time. With ever-more-daunting fuel economy and emissions regulations being enacted worldwide, and advances in areas like turbocharging, direct fuel injection and hybrid assistance making V8s more and more powerful while still being less thirsty than comparably-performing V12s and W12s, it's easy to assume that twelves will soon go the way of the vent window, cigarette lighter and cassette deck (Hey, those mix tapes aren't going to digitize themselves!). Sad but true…or is it?
Mercedes-Benz – more specifically, wholly-owned tuner AMG – apparently doesn't see a future where eight is enough (not an immediate future, anyway). How else do you explain the German labels introducing a new SL65 AMG ahead of next month's New York Auto Show?
As with previous R230
-body SL65 AMG, the new R231
-based model gets its massive motive force from an AMG
-built twin-turbo 6.0L V12
, itself an enlarged version of the twin-turbo 5.5L V12
found in Mercedes-Benz
. However, the new AMG bent-dozen (codenamed M 279
) features revised turbochargers, as well as a remapped ECU, optimized cylinder heads, and reshaped manifolds (AMG hasn't specified if they're intake, exhaust or both.) and wastegate channels aimed at improving airflow unlock an additional 17 horsepower, for a total of 621hp
. Torque remains electronically limited to a still-B.J. and the Bear
-worthy 738 lb.-ft
in the name of transmission longevity.
However, that transmission is no longer the TH400-of-its-day (i.e. nukeproof but short on gears) 5-speed automatic; instead, shifting duties are now handled by a fortified version of the AMG Speedshift Plus 7-speed automatic. The wider ratio spread afforded by those two extra gears, plus a start-stop function for the engine and a curb weight of 4,299 lbs. (254 lbs. less than the R230 SL65) translates to noticable (though presently unspecified) fuel economy improvements. It won't threaten the SLK250 for the title of frugalist Benz sold in America (at least as far as EPA figures are concerned; the E350 and S350 Bluetec clean diesel sedans probably put up better real-world highway numbers), you can be sure, but people don't buy AMG SLs for their thrift with Texas tea; no, they buy them for speed and style.
Naturally, there's plenty of both to be had in the new SL65. In terms of speed, 0-60 mph blasts are expected to take 3.9 seconds, while the top speed of U.S.-spec models will be electronically capped at 186 mph. There's also a new AMG sports suspension system based on Mercedes-Benz's Active Body Control system. For style, you'll have pretty much everything found on the SL63 AMG, plus "SL65" and "V12 Biturbo" badges. Magic Sky Control is standard for the power retractable hardtop, as is exclusive diamond-pattern leather on the seats and door panels, and a Bang & Olufsen surround sound stereo.
No word yet on how much this terror of Biscayne Boulevard will cost to acquire, but we're guessing somewhere in the ballpark of $200,000. That's a lot of coin, but you also get a lot of car. We can't think of another car that combines exquisite luxury, head-turning style and stupefying performance in one four-wheeled package so well.