Mercedes SL65 AMG | Spotted

Not all V12s are screamers…

By Cam Tait / Thursday, 5 January 2023 / Loading comments

What does the perfect V12 performance car look like to you? For many of us, it’ll likely have a sky-high redline, a shrieking exhaust note that’ll leave tunnel walls shaking, and it’ll probably be Italian. The reason being is that, aside from the Purosangue and the odd luxury barge, a screaming supercar is one of the only ways to get your hands on a current twelve-cylinder engine. 

Not that I’m complaining. The more supercars that make a song and dance about what they’re packing under their, er, engine cover, the better. But this Mercedes SL65 AMG caught the eye because it harks back to a bygone era, where V12 power didn’t always require ear defenders. Sure, the twelve-cylinder engine has become a staple of Bentley and Rolls-Royce’s flagship barges, but the SL65 was even more brazenly about brute force. It could wipe the floor with most supercars of its era with a simple press of the kickdown switch – and yet still hunker down and play the effortless grand tourer on a Calais to Nice blast.

The numbers generated by its largely hand-built M275 twin-turbo V12 were utterly ludicrous when the SL65 launched in 2004, and could still give most supercars a run for their money today. Its 6.0-litre engine developed 612hp and 738lb ft of torque, the latter a new record for a production car at the time. That, of course, is all funnelled through a five-speed torque converter before it reaches the rear wheels, plus a hefty lump of traction control to stop the thing from lighting up when the turbos kick in. Even with it, the SL65 came under fire from some critics for its lively rear end, which is remarkable given how nannying early traction control systems could be.

Pace was searing, with 60mph coming about in just 3.6 seconds (assuming you’d moved anywhere) blitzing pretty much everything on four wheels at the time. And while the SL65 was a spruced-up GT car at heart, AMG still went to the effort of fitting stiffer dampers and a mechanical limited-slip diff. Mercedes’ Active Body Control system is onboard to help conceal the flagship’s 2.1-tonne mass, although in truth you’d probably do just as well to leave everything in its softest setting and let the thunderous exhaust note do the talking.

Ultimately, the SL65 was the pinnacle of an otherwise impressively versatile performance car – and even if Mercedes had some trouble finding buyers willing to pay its huge asking price, it is a testament to a very different age. It sounded incredible, looked the part with multi-piece alloy wheels and had all the creature comforts you could possibly want from a luxury GT car. All told, fewer than 100 examples made their way across the channel, but the fact that around 60 per cent of them are still on the road suggests that more than a few were cherished. 

Of course, comparative rarity makes finding a clean, low-mileage example potentially tricky, but this looks to be just the ticket. R230 SLs aren’t known for being completely trouble-free, but a full Mercedes service history and a modest 61,000 miles on the clock suggest this example has been well looked after. All for a thigh-slapping £41,990. Or, to put it another way, around £100,000 off the original asking price. It goes without saying that we’ll never see a car like it again; now’s your chance to see out the decade with a hero-qualifying single-digit MPG readout. 


Engine: 5,980cc V12, twin-turbo
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],800rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
MPG: 18
CO2: 362g/km
Year registered: 2004
Recorded mileage: 61,000
Price new: £143,000
Yours for: £41,990

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