First, there was the dense fog. Then there was the snow. But inclement weather couldn't put a damper on the AMG iterations of Mercedes' flagship EV or its latest generation SL.
Performance, luxury, comfort, and technology all hit the mark even when the AMG team gets their hands on the Mercedes EQS and the latest SL Roadster.
At its core, the 2022 Mercedes AMG SL Roadster still has a glimmer of the soul that enveloped the original 300 SL Roadster introduced in the late 1950s. Where that vehicle was the top-down transportation of choice of Hollywood's golden era elite, it's easy to imagine Clooney, Mirren, and Run the Jewel's Killer Mike rolling into an event behind the wheel of this newest convertible.
Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ Image credit: Mercedes-Benz
And while the Bondish AMG SL Roadster has roots in last century, the AMG EQS is Ironman. It's all about all today's tech being used to accomplish a goal -- while like the Roadster -- doing so in style.
Both the AMG SL Roadster and AMG EQS are new vehicles and while they share much of the same technology at their core, there is a stark difference.
The menacing roar of the SL is replaced in the EQS by a composed set of sounds. The EQS has instant EV torque, the SL's impressive displacement and turbos are no match for the EV's launch potential.
Mercedes will build handcrafted engines for its AMG lineup until the bitter end. There is no handcrafted electric motor in the AMG EQS. The signature of a technician will not show up on a battery pack. Meanwhile, the amount of filth spewed into the air by the EQS is merely a fraction of what the V8 roadster will put into our atmosphere over its lifetime.
2022 Mercedes AMG EQS
Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+ at a charging station. Image credit: Mercedes
There's a concern with a vehicle that's built to be luxury-first that it could be slightly ruined by receiving the performance treatment. If a sedan's main purpose is to pamper the driver and passengers, stiffening up the ride and remapping the accelerator so that every little tap results in a neck snap, it's really no longer accomplishing its goal.
EQS fans that also want to go faster, relax. That hasn't happened here. The AMG EQS — the first electric AMG to land in the United States — deftly combines what's great about the electric luxury sedan with some tuning by the AMG team.
With a power increase of up to 751 horsepower and 752-pound feet of torque (a jump of 133 horsepower and 69-pound feet of torque over the EQS580), the luxury electric sedan feels decidedly quicker than its non-AMG counterpart. An internal being slammed into your spine 3.4 seconds from zero to 60 quicker.
It's not just the two electric motors that got an upgrade. Tweaks to the cooling system, wiring, and battery management system of the 107.8-kWh capacity pack on the AMG variant also allow the vehicle in Sport and Sport Plus mode to stay at peak performance longer. During my drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles, I never felt a loss of power after multiple acceleration tests.
That increase also comes with new acceleration-coupled sounds in the vehicle called the AMG sound experience. I'm a fan of these EV noises. While artificial, they do recreate the audible experience of sudden bursts of speed.
The power increase is accompanied by AMG ride control air suspension with active dampeners. Throw in the 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system and rear-wheel steering of up to nine degrees and attacking hairpin turns at speed a controlled and impressive experience considering the size and heft of the vehicle. There is some body roll, but it's far less than what I've experienced on the regular EQS.
In addition to all those performance hardware and software tweaks and the new Sport Plus, there's another new mode that luck would have it, I was able to test. As we climbed higher into the mountains during the drive, and the road transformed from black to gray, to snow-covered white, I was able to use that AMG Slippery mode. Which worked wonderfully in the ice and snow and any loss of traction was short-lived and more likely the result of the AMG EQS rolling on Michelin Pilot Sport EV summer tires.
Mercedes-AMG EQS encounters snowy roads. Image credit: Roberto Baldwin
When choosing the wheels for this drive program Mercedes was clearly expecting dry roads and if not sunny weather, at least dry weather. Mother Nature had other plans. With winter or even all-season rubber, the AMG EQS would have made even those nervous about driving on frozen water more at ease.
Inside, other than a few AMG flourishes here and there, it's the same EQS with the latest MBUX infotainment system and its enormous 56-inch Hyperscreen that includes a 12.3 instrument cluster, 17.7 -inch touchscreen display, and 12.3-inch passenger display. All standard in the AMG trim level. The display also includes the Zero Layer interface, which presents a map with widgets of features that appear as needed.
Interior of Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+ shows the expansive infotainment system. Image credit: Mercedes
The crown jewel of MBUX — the voice assistant — continues to evolve. "Hey Mercedes" along with the Zero Layer interface are essentially the standard by what other automakers should strive to accomplish in the vehicle. A robust voice-powered navigation feature coupled with a more focused screen.
On more than a few occasions, I realized that instead of looking for a feature, I'd ask the vehicle to do what I wanted. Other items, like media controls that in previous generation Mercedes required multiple taps to skip to the next song, were presented readily in the Zero Layer interface hovering over the navigation.
Like with the SL Roadster, the combination of voice assistant and Zero Layer make for an improved infotainment experience although, I'm still puzzled why Mercedes made the screen so wide it's actually blocked by the steering wheel. Sure they moved all the widgets over, but it's still an odd decision beyond the ability to say, "hey, look how big we made that display."
2022 Mercedes AMG SL
Mercedes-AMG SL on a foggy section of the test drive. Image Credits: Roberto Baldwin
While the balance of luxury versus performance errs on the side of speed and handling thanks to up to 577 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque on the AMG SL 63 variant, even at slow speeds (thanks to the previously mentioned fog), the AMG SL delivers a rich top-down experience.
Mercedes will sell two versions of the vehicle, the AMG SL 55 Roadster with 469 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque and the more powerful 63 variant mentioned above. Both are outfitted with the automaker's all-wheel-drive 4Matic+ system powered by handcrafted 4.0-liter V8 Biturbo engines.
The result of all that displacement coupled with turbos is impressive and well-mannered power that reacts instantly either from a standstill or while passing slower vehicles. The AMG SL 63 might be the more powerful vehicle, but the AMG SL 55 is likely the better call since there are very few instances where all that extra horsepower and torque are even usable.
Interior shot of Mercedes-AMG SL Image Credits: Roberto Baldwin
It's also the least powerful SL Roadster you'll be able to buy of this generation. Mercedes has no plans to release a non-performance version of the roadster. Instead, as with all other Mercedes, it's decided to make sure that this vehicle, when not blasting through canyons, is as smooth and luxurious as any other Mercedes. During my tests, I can say that they're about 85% there.
On everyday suburban and urban roads, the AMG SL Roadster offers up a nearly glassy ride, but its performance underpinnings are a gentle reminder that this is not an S-Class. You're going to feel some of the bumps, holes and ruts in the road. The bright side to that is impressive handling that even on rain-slicked roads, kept the wheels firmly planted to the asphalt with just the slightest bit of oversteer that only appeared when you really pushed the vehicle. Steering is tight and responsive without feeling twitchy and the inclusion of the rear-wheel steering creates the impression of a smaller vehicle both on backroads and while tooling around town.
Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ 11.9-inch touchscreen display can be tilted back and forth. Image credit: Mercedes
Inside, Mercedes has also outfitted the SL with the latest version of its MBUX infotainment system complete with the Zero Layer option. As an extra bonus, because of potential sun glare, the 11.9-inch touchscreen display can be tilted back and forth from 12 to 32 degrees. The reflections of the sun are also why the 12.3-inch instrument cluster has an integrated visor. Sadly neither was needed during my overcast and foggy drive.
With the SL Roadster, Mercedes has built a proper convertible sports car that's filled with its latest technology. Neither sides of the vehicle, performance, and tech, contradict the other. It's a symbiotic relationship. Essentially, it's the James Bond of cars. A nod to the past with a wild side that's already ready with the latest gizmo to complete the mission while dressed in a tuxedo.
After driving the AMG EQS and SL vehicles back to back over two days, it's interesting to see the beginning of the transition of AMG vehicles. The performance arm of Mercedes, like the automaker itself, is poised to go fully electric by 2030.
What's most striking is thinking about the future, I've driven the first generation SL 300 Roadster. At the time of its launch, it was like something from outer space. At some point in the near future, the automaker might introduce another AMG SL and if Mercedes continues to refine its EV technologies at the pace it's doing so right now, it'll likely be just as groundbreaking and electric.
Also, it'll have no problem driving in snow even with the top down.