While most people drive out of necessity, there’s something about going for a drive for the sake of it that can put a smile on your face. It’s the reason why some people spend thousands on sports cars rather than just driving a Vauxhall Corsa, and it’s a genuine concern for manufacturers making the move to electric.
Our list of best electric cars proves that you can go combustion-free and still have a car that’s seriously fun to drive. However, I can’t say that I don’t miss the roar of a big lump under the bonnet. So when after a busy few days in the office, I got the chance to drive some of Mercedes’ latest AMG models, I jumped at the chance.
AMG is the high-performance subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz with a background in motorsport. It takes models from the regular Mercedes range and tunes them to make them faster, sportier and generally more fun to drive. There are AMG versions of almost every model in the current Mercedes range, including the electric ones, however, some stand out more than others.
For my test drives, I picked two of the best-looking models in the fleet, and ones that I suspected would really deliver on that smile factor. The good news is that neither disappointed. Though vastly different in size, both models are extremely quick and handle beautifully.
Mercedes-AMG SL63 4Matic+
There are in fact three AMG models in the two-door SL range, but the SL63 is the flagship. In fact, the SL, which has been a regular Mercedes model since 1952 now only comes in AMG forms.
Powered by a 4-litre V8, this delivers 576ps (mechanical horsepower) and a 0-62mph of 3.6 seconds. This is a seriously fast piece of kit, with 4Matic+ all-wheel drive, active ride control suspension and rear-axle steering to make it handle around those corners.
Perhaps as importantly though, this is by far the best-looking car in the Mercedes line-up. It’s simply beautiful to look at whether the top is up or down. The long low profile body is reminiscent of the SLS convertible, while the curvy back end has hints of those early gullwing models.
Inside the car, it has an 11.9-inch central display that tilts to reduce reflection on the roof comes down. There’s a 12.3-inch instrument screen behind the wheel and a head-up display so that you can keep your eyes on the road – I’m still baffled as to why the new Aston Martin DB12 doesn’t have one.
You get the latest MBUX operating system here and Burmester 3D surround sound system and incredibly comfy seats, with diamond quilting and finished in nappa leather. The model I drove had the optional Microcut microfibre on the steering wheel which gives an extra racing feel, and paddle shift control for when you want to manually select the gears.
The engine burbles nicely giving a reassuring sound as you pile on the power, and the car is incredibly quick. The roof controls are all electric but is really easy to raise and lower, and does it relatively quickly too. What I liked is that even at motorway speeds the cabin doesn’t get too blowy with the top down.
You get a choice of driving modes in the SL, but it’s the Sport and Sport+ modes that make the car really fun to drive. If you put it in comfort though, this is a great car for long trips too. With a starting price of £171,965 it’s reassuringly expensive, though you can pick up the slightly slower SL43 from £108,165 and still have a lot of fun.
Mercedes-AMG GT63 S E-performance
This GT 4-door coupe is also an exclusively AMG proposition and comes in four versions, with the SL63 S E-performance being the top of the range. This is powered by the AMG 4-litre V8 and delivers 639ps and a 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds. This is actually a plug-in hybrid model though, and also features a 6.1kWh battery that can deliver 12km of range in electric-only mode, or provide 10-second boosts to the petrol engine to create a whopping 843ps and 2.9-second 0-62mph combined.
With all that power, it’s good to know that there’s some of AMG’s best suspension technology on board, including an impressive air suspension system and rear-axle steering. There’s a fixed rear aerofoil too, to provide some extra downforce.
This is a big car – similar to an E-class coupe, but it feels sporty inside making it a lot of fun to drive. Plus there’s loads of room inside and big comfy seats. The only downside for me here was that it uses the old Mercedes infotainment system and relies on a large number of giant buttons in the centre, which feel a little dated. That said, I do prefer the central drive selector rather than the newer indicator stick style.
While priced at £173,705, it’s not currently available on the Mercedes or Mercedes-AMG websites for sale, so it might be on its way out. However, I’d love to see a fully electric version of this car, as I really think it could have more appeal than some of the AMG versions of the EQ range.