Porsche 911 VS Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
- Tight in the rear
- Bit thirsty
- No manual (yet)
- Amazing ride
- Brilliant engine
- Unparalleled presence
The big three automotive icons - VW’s Beetle, the original Mini, and… the Porsche 911.
In continuous production for more than 50 years, a new, eighth-generation ‘992’ version of one of the world’s most recognisable cars has arrived in Australia.
Launching initially in rear-wheel drive Carrera S (CS) and all-wheel drive Carrera 4S (C4S) variants, the headline technical upgrades are more power with lower emissions, all alloy body panels (apart from the front and rear aprons), a new eight-speed ‘PDK’ dual-clutch transmission, a ‘Wet Mode’ driving program that supports the driver in the rain, and availability of ‘Night Vision’ using an intelligent thermal imaging camera.
But there’s so much more to the story.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Mercedes-AMG SL63 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Well. They don't make cars like this anymore, do they? Time was, a big coupe or convertible were de rigeur for the well-heeled banker, with 12 cylinders almost a given and fuel consumption measured in super tankers, or more likely just not talked about at all.
The world has changed but Mercedes’ SL hasn't. That's not strictly true, of course. The SL63 may drop four of the SL65's 12 cylinders, but at just half a litre smaller and still with twin-turbos it generates the enormous thrust a luxo-barge like this needs. The things that made it an icon are indeed still there - lots of tech, a style all its own and a name everyone recognises.
|Engine Type||5.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
In designing a modern sports car, who’d hang the engine over the back wheels? This layout just shouldn’t work in the way it does, but Porsche has continued to evolve and hone the 911 to an incredibly fine point. It’s a simply superb sports car experience.
If it were our money, we'd go for the Carrera S coupe. Entry-price dollars with minimal penalty in terms of dynamics relative to the C4S.
Porsche 911 or Merc-AMG GT? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The SL's overall score is somewhat skewed by everyday concerns, and rules are rules - an average punter will find the price of this car somewhat confusing and the devil-may-care attitude to fuel consumption bewildering.
If neither of these things are a problem, then the SL63 makes plenty of - well, not sense, because it's not a particularly clever or considered car - but it fills a niche that not so long ago we all thought would go the way of the dodo.
The fact it sells so few examples is betrayed by some of the cabin amenities and the fact that Mercedes hasn't put much effort into reducing the car's weight to improve its consumption or sharpen up the handling.
The fact it still exists at all is pretty damn cool, though, and for certain people an SL63 purchase is the culmination of a lot of hard work.
If it is your dream car, the SL63 won't disappoint. Everyone who rode with me said it was mightily impressive, but you've got to really want it. When you're not far off buying a Ferrari California T or Aston Martin V12 Vantage S for the money, you'll need a real yearning for the three-pointed star to go this way. And if you do, good luck to you - you've probably worked quite hard to get here.
Would you consider the SL63 over a Ferrari or Aston-Martin? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
In designing a new 911 you’re effectively carrying the Porsche brand on your shoulders, and Porsche design chief Michael Mauer and his team have created a look that’s contemporary, yet unmistakably 911. Quality and attention to detail permeate every millimetre of this car.
The profile, though substantially larger, mirrors that of the 1963 ‘901’ original, with the car’s rear-engine layout a key driver in terms of stance and overall proportion.
Read More:The latest 911 Carrera Coupe review.
First, the front and rear axles have been lengthened (45mm fr - 44mm rr) without any change to the wheelbase, so the car looks broader than ever before.
And for the time being, there’s no such thing as a ‘wide body’. In previous generations of the 911 successive iterations (AWD C4S, Turbo and GT versions) have offered wider bodies, particularly at the rear. But the CS is as wide at the haunches as the C4S.
One of the key external changes is a single LED light bar across the back of the car; a design signature across all current Porsche models. And I for one, love the old school typefaces used for the brand and model badgework.
Another shift is the move to staggered rims on the mainstream Carrera models, with 20-inch alloys up front and 21s at the rear, while the pop-up rear spoiler is a new design incorporating a large slice of the rear decklid and able to raise all the way to a full air-brake position.
The drag coefficient is a very respectable 0.29, and car-spotters will be pleased to know the RWD CS sports black louvers in the rear grille, while the AWD C4S swaps that out for chrome finish.
At the front, a recessed channel at the top of the bonnet (front boot lid) is a tip of the hat to early 911 generations, the headlights look the same as the out-going model but they’re LED (four types offered), and electric pop-out door handles are flush fit.
Inside, the dash design will be immediately familiar to early 911 owners. Parallel horizontal lines define its upper and lower edges, with a sleek 10.9-inch multimedia screen neatly integrated in the centre, and five toggle style-buttons underneath facilitating the switch between key functions.
The instrument display allows for a classic 911 five dial arrangement, or multiple other layouts to be configured across two 7.0-inch “freeform” screens sitting either side of a fixed analogue tachometer in the centre. It’s beautifully executed.
The steering wheel is new, with a drive mode dial sprouting from the four o’clock position on ‘Sport Chrono’ equipped cars, and marginally lighter redesigned seats trimmed in partial leather look as good as they feel (especially with the standard houndstooth-style cloth inserts).
The SL has always been completely unapologetic about its size and seems to be designed to accentuate rather than hide its length and width. The long bonnet screams power and prestige, and get out of my way, and is reminiscent of the little-loved McLaren SLR project of some years ago.
The size of the Mercedes logo on the huge front grille leaves you in little doubt about the brand of car that’s about to pass you at speed and some might say (okay, I would) that its large surface area is a little vulgar.
Like the SLR, the design doesn't seem to have a particularly cohesive strategy, with a number of Mercedes elements from around the traps that climb over each other. Roof up it looks awkward because of the gigantic posterior while with the roof down it looks overly long and, again, tail-heavy.
Folding hardtops are notoriously cumbersome and need a lot of room to hide them, but the silent operation is something to behold.
Elements that are worth deleting if possible are the dodgy 'Biturbo' badges. It's that kind of bling that gets people raising their little finger at you.
So, there’s practicality, and then there’s sports car practicality. The latter balances all the smile-inducing dynamic ability you’d expect, with space for luggage and the stuff of everyday life, on a sliding scale from pathetic to liveable.
The 911’s needle is bouncing up against the liveable end of the dial because it’s actually a four-seater, with more than toothbrush and undies cargo capacity.
Yes, it’s a ‘2+2’ with the back seats best for kids or very occasional and short-term adult accommodation. But talk to a 911 owner and despite the limited rear legroom they’ll tell you about dropping the kids off at pre-school, or that time they had to take friends home after a party. Those extra spots are incredibly handy.
As well as that, the rear backrests flip forward to create a broad storage platform, supplementing the 132-litre (front) boot.
Generous boot dimensions mean it’s big enough to swallow a weekend-for-two’s worth of soft bags, or even small hard suitcases, not to mention a modest grocery shop if the need arises.
In the cabin, increased interior dimensions mean front seat occupants are provided with 12mm of extra headroom despite the car growing only 4.0mm taller overall. Part of that trick is the front seats being mounted 5.0mm lower and the cushions being slightly thinner. There’s heaps of room.
Day-to-day stuff includes a fixed cupholder at the bottom of the centre console, and a pop-out device at the end of the dash on the passenger side. Door pockets are slim, but they’re there, and will accept small water bottles laid on their side.
A medium-size glove box is a welcome addition, as are multiple connectivity/power options including two USB ports in a small console storage box, and a 12-volt outlet in the passenger footwell. There are also clothes hooks on the front seat backrests and on the B-pillars.
“Practicality” is about as relevant to this car as a code of ethics is to a drug dealer or a contract killer, because the SL63 buyer is hardly worried about cupholders and boot space. For what it's worth, there are four cupholders in the two-seater cabin (which might explain why owners aren't worried about their liquid carrying prospects) and a minimum boot space of 364 litres and a maximum - with roof up - of 504, which is actually not bad.
Cleverly, there's a little robot-operated luggage cover inside the deep boot that stops your gear from being crushed when the roof goes down.
There's also space in the long doors where you might secrete a bottle of wine that would get a NSW Premier fired if he thanks you for it, and a bin in the console to hide your phone.
Price and features
The new 911 is offered initially in rear-wheel drive Carrera S, and all-wheel drive Carrera 4S versions with a new eight-speed ‘PDK’ dual-clutch transmission only. Pricing for soft top cabriolet variants has been set with arrival timing to be confirmed.
Base ‘non S’ Carrera models, and the option of a seven-speed manual gearbox an all models will be available later in 2019.
Launch pricing, before on-road costs, ranges from an rrp of $265,000 for the Carrera S Coupe, through $286,500 for the Carrera S Cabriolet, on to $281,800 for the Carrera 4S Coupe, right up to $302,600 for the Carrera 4S Cabriolet. So, very much the premium sports car experience, then.
And despite the rarefied air the 911 flies in there’s some serious competition in the same space, although they all circulate at a slightly higher financial altitude.
In ascending order the key competitive set includes, the BMW M6 ($292,600), Jaguar F-Type V8 SVR AWD ($295,578), Nissan GT-R Nismo ($299,000), Merc-AMG GT S ($301,129), McLaren 540C ($325,000), and if you’re willing to cough up a few extra bucks a month, the entry-level Audi R8 ($367,000).
And aside from the new 911’s comprehensive safety and performance packages, which we’ll cover in later sections, the standard features list is an impressive roll-call.
It kicks off with partial leather trim, complete with chequered flag style cloth inserts, over heated 14-way electrically-adjustable sports seats (with memory package), a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, ‘Porsche Communication Management’ (audio, navigation, communication and assistance systems), 12-speaker Bose Surround Sound-audio (including digital radio), Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto), keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, LED auto headlights, the characteristic ‘4-point’ LED daytime running lights plus LED tail-lights, the ‘Carrera S’ alloy wheels, active cruise control, the 10.9-inch multimedia screen, and twin 7.0-inch digital instrument screens.
The options list is also long. For example, ‘Night Vision Assist’ using an intelligent thermal imaging camera to bring the darkness to light is a $4900 extra, and a Burmester ‘High-End Surround Sound System’ will set you back $6700.
Available standard colours are white, black, red and yellow, with optional metallics covering white, black, grey, mid-blue, dark-blue, dark-grey, silver and a deep green. ‘Special’ optional colours include a full-bodied red, and soft grey, as well as ‘70s-inspired orange, close to aqua blue and lime green. And I’m sure if you really wanted it, Porsche would finish your 911 in pink, brown, or gold.
It’s difficult to ponder the idea of value when a car is already approaching $400,000 at a rapid rate even before you start piling on the options. On the plus side, for a list price of $368,715 you do get an extremely long list of standard equipment.
Edited highlights include leather on almost every available surface, heated and cooled electric seats with a fan heater for your neck, a B&O stereo that will shatter the windscreen on request, aluminium trim that's real aluminium (mostly), Active Ride suspension, sat nav, dual-zone climate control, active cruise, LED headlights and a huge swag of safety gear.
The 12-speaker stereo also has DVD, limited smartphone integration via Mercedes' COMAND system, a seven-inch screen and, of course, Bluetooth.
Engine & trans
The 911’s rear-mounted, all-alloy 3.0-litre, twin-turbo flat six-cylinder engine now features high-pressure piezo injectors and bigger turbos for more power (+22kW) and torque (+30Nm), with outputs reading 331kW (444 horsepower) at 6500rpm and 530Nm from 2300-5000rpm.
Not only are the turbos bigger, they’re now mirrored and rotate in opposite directions, where they were previously identical and spinning the same way. It’s all about balance and evening out charge pressure.
The turbo wastegate valves are now operated by electric stepper motors rather than vacuum for faster pressure control, with maximum boost set at 1.2bar.
Porsche’s ‘VarioCam Plus’ variable valve timing and lift system, operating on the intake and outlet side cams and the intake valves, is now able to de-throttle the engine under partial load to save fuel.
A new eight-speed ‘PDK’ dual-clutch transmission packs a completely revised gear set, and the final drive ratio is longer. Maximum speed (a lazy 308km/h in the CS) is achieved in sixth gear.
The front diff in the AWD C4S is now water-cooled for improved durability, with the map-controlled multi-plate clutch able to deliver a maximum 50:50 front to rear variable torque split, although Porsche says that would only ever happen on snow and ice.
The SL63 is powered by Mercedes’ increasingly famous V8, with two turbos along for the ride to add oomph and cut the car's famous consumption, at least slightly. The 5.5-litre unit produces a massive 430kW and a scarcely believable 900Nm of torque.
All of that heads rearward via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that helps sling the 4.6m, 1848kg machine to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds.
Of course, Porsche claims improved fuel economy and lower emissions to go along with the 911’s boosted performance.
Stated fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 9.5L/100km in the CS, and 9.6L/100km in the C4S. Hardly frugal, but not bad for cars with such huge performance potential.
CO2 emissions are rated at 216g/km for the CS and 219g/km for the C4S, and the standard auto stop-start function is relatively subtle.
Minimum fuel requirement is 98 RON premium unleaded. You’ll need 64 litres of it to fill the CS’s tank, and 67 litres to brim the C4S.
Much as is the case with the price, there's no real way to soften the blow here - the SL63 drinks like a footballer on Mad Monday, except it does it every day. The official combined cycle figure of 10.2L/100km is quite easy to double, as we did, averaging 21L/100km in mostly flowing suburban traffic. In the car’s defence, the accelerator pedal spent a good deal of time near the firewall.
The SL does have stop-start to help reduce its considerable environmental impact.
The local 911 launch program took in open rural roads in McLaren Vale (south-east of Adelaide), South Australia and The Bend Motorsport Park, a slick new facility privately developed from Mitsubishi Australia’s former proving ground at Tailem Bend.
Over two days we were able to push the CS and C4S coupe as hard as we dared, and let’s get it out of the way up front, the new 911 is fast.
With the optional Sport Chrono package the roughly 1.5-tonne C4S will accelerate from 0-100kmh in just 3.4 sec. Even in its ‘slowest’ non-Chrono CS form that number only drops by three tenths.
On top of these performance figures it also manages to magic up an engine and exhaust sound that’s a beat-for-beat match for naturally aspirated 911 flat sixes of old. There’s no synthetic skulduggery here, just skilful manipulation of the exhaust system, getting a pitch-perfect amount of gas past the turbos into grateful ear drums.
The 3.0-litre flat six produces its maximum 530Nm of torque from 2300-5000rpm, with peak power (331kW) taking over at 6500rpm. The fat mid-range pushes you firmly back in your seat with a simple squeeze of the right-hand pedal, and the engine’s revvy nature makes the temptation to visit the 7500rpm rev ceiling almost irresistible.
Porsche knows its way around a dual-clutch transmission, and the new eight-speed PDK delivers rapid fire, positive shifts up and down the ratios, with the slender alloy wheel-mounted paddles adding to the immediacy and fun.
A big question is, in its creep from small and light to bigger and heavier has the 911 lost its ability to form a direct and intimate relationship with its driver. After all, thanks to added safety and performance hardware this car’s a full half tonne heavier than the ‘901’ original. The answer is an emphatic no.
The strut front, multi-link rear suspension set-up continues, with active dampers (PASM) and active anti-roll bars standard. In Comfort mode the 911 rides incredibly well, even over the coarse chip rural surfaces covered on the launch. Despite monster Goodyear Eagle F1 high-performance rubber (245/35 20 fr - 305/30 21 rr) general noise, vibration and harshness levels are impressively low.
But switch up into the more dynamic modes and you’ll really start to bond with the new 911. The slightly quicker electrically-assisted steering points beautifully, with the variable assistance ramping up in superbly linear fashion.
I remember widespread hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth when Porsche moved the 911 to electric steering. No need to have worried, road feel is even more present in this latest gen version.
Hot lapping The Bend’s 4.95km International Circuit (one of four layouts available) amplified the new car’s abilities, not to mention its ergonomic excellence.
‘Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus’ (PTV Plus) packs in an electronically regulated rear diff lock with fully variable torque distribution and the car opens up a clear conversation as the limits of adhesion arrive.
Basically, the new 911 turns go-fast wannabes into track-day super heroes, its every movement felt immediately through the fingertips and seat of the pants. Speaking of which, the standard sports front seats are brilliant, and the new design steering wheel is perfect.
It remains balanced and predictable at speeds that would have the constabulary locking the cell door and throwing away the key, steady and easily steerable with the throttle through hold-your-breath quick corners.
There's precious little difference between the CS and C4S. Yes, the AWD car grips even harder at the front end, but the rear-drive car feels lighter in the nose and that bit more responsive to steering input. Really, there's not a struck match in it.
Then there’s the brakes, and oh how good they are. A ceramic composite brake package (complete with black calipers) is a $20,500 option. I’d advise buying a Yaris SX as a weekday runabout instead because the standard stoppers are brilliant.
Huge ventilated cast iron rotors (350mm front and rear) are clamped by red six-piston monobloc calipers at the front and four piston units at the rear. Despite lap after hot lap (tailing various tame racing drivers) the left pedal lost none its response or effectiveness. Amazing.
We also got to play with Wet Mode through a simple figure eight exercise on a soaking skid pan, and it makes a distinct difference without shutting down the fun. Yes, the throttle’s softer, but the engine still revs freely, the car remaining stable and predictable in what equated to torrential conditions.
There are a number of impressive things about the way the SL drives. Firstly, astronauts will be familiar with the galactic thrust of the V8. It seems endless, seamless and ready to sling the big coupe into the outer atmosphere. Few engines of any kind can match the relentless go on offer in the SL and much of the credit should go to the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission.
Containing a torque figure like the twin-turbo V8's requires a lot of electro-trickery to stop you from being launched off the road. The great thing about all that stuff is that it works unobtrusively and smoothly.
Mashing the carpet in an SL without traction control would create much sound and smoke but little forward progress, such is the twist on tap. The SL has a range of modes from full-nanny (which is meant to keep you on the slippery Alpine road you've chosen to get you to some Swiss ski resort) while turning the dial all the way around to Race loosens the bonds.
It's in this mode you'll have the most fun and it does seem that the intermediate settings are a bit of a waste of time. Race mode does little to diminish the amazing ride quality provided by the active suspension setup, but relaxes the reins on the huge rear tyres. Exiting roundabouts is suddenly a huge laugh, with the tail cheerfully breaking traction and the two-mode exhaust thundering in a most pleasant way.
Better still is that when you jump on the brakes and shift down, the exhaust keeps the show going with angry crackles and pops, with more on the way when you lift off. There's little to match the aural pleasures of a properly tuned V8 and Mercedes has resisted the temptation to quieten it down on the outside and generate a fake noise for the inside. Although that would be stupid in a convertible, if you think about it.
The SL63, despite its AMG badge, isn't about all-out handling, of course. The Ferrari California would definitely show it how it’s done on a winding country road. The SL is more about flow, building momentum and rarely shifting down to second gear. The monstrous torque is enough to keep things rolling but should you wish for a bit more of the exhaust bellow, second is there for the taking.
Hustling the big convertible feels wrong, not because it can't do it, but because it's not really what it's for. Having said that, it offers a kind of fun that nothing else on Earth will provide, not even a Bentley GTC.
With the roof up, the SL63 is a quiet place but not remarkably so. The huge sticky tyres do the cabin's hush no favours, with an annoying roar on a wider range of surfaces than you might expect.
Roof down, it's hardly a paragon of virtue. A lot of wind noise reaches the cabin, even well below the huge speeds the SL can reach. So if you want to talk, it's windows up you'll need to deploy the mesh screen that bridges the roll hoops.
Although the new 911 hasn’t been given a safety rating by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, you could argue its exceptional dynamic ability represents one giant, five-star safety feature. But specific active techology includes ABS, BA, forward collision warning, lane change assist, stability and traction control, and AEB (operating up to 85km/h).
You’ll also pick up a reversing camera, ‘Parking Distance Control’ (front and rear) and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The standard ‘Wet Mode’ uses sensors in the wheel arches to pick up the sound of water splashing off the tyres. It then preconditions the brakes and other control systems as it warns the driver, who can then push a button or use the rotary dial on the steering wheel (‘Sport Chrono’ package) to change modes.
Once activated, Wet Mode connects ‘Porsche Stability Management’ (PSM), ‘Porsche Traction Management’ (PTM), the car’s adjustable aerodynamics, and the ‘Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) Plus’ system, to set the car up for best possible stability.
At 90km/h and above, the rear spoiler goes to its "maximum downforce" position, the engine cooling flaps open, the accelerator pedal response is flattened off and Sport mode can’t activated. Read all about how it feels in the ‘What’s it like to drive?’ section.
But if all that fails to side-step a crash the airbag count runs to six (dual front, dual front side and dual thorax). And both rear seat positions incorporate top tether and ISOFIX anchors for child seat/baby capsule location.
The 911 is covered by Porsche’s three year/unlimited km warranty, with paint covered for the same period, and a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty also included. Certainly off the mainstream pace, but possibly modified by the number if kays a 911 is likely to travel over time.
Porsche Roadside Assist provides 24/7/365 coverage for the life of the warranty, and after the warranty runs out is renewed for 12 months every time the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Porsche dealer, and the main service interval is 12 months/15,000km.
No capped price servicing is available, with final costs determined at the dealer level (in line with variable labour costs by state/territory).