2017 Mercedes SL65 AMG

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — If you are going to cruise Key Biscayne, Fla., you might as well do it in a 2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL65 Roadster, right? Right. Normally I wouldn’t evaluate a car with which I had only spent 30 minutes; but because it was and will probably be my only opportunity to pilot this $217,000-plus roadster, I’ll go with it. I am an opportunist at heart.

Just so you don’t think all the green one must pony up to own this Benz is for just the glitz and glitter, a raging AMG-goosed Mercedes-AMG SL 65 621-horsepower 6-liter V12 Biturbo engine thunders under its hood. Its 738 lb-ft of peak torque shoots it off the line as though fired from a missile launcher. One doesn’t get much opportunity to air out such a thoroughbred on the quiet boulevards of Key Biscayne, but Benz claims a 0-to-60 time of 3.9 seconds. That’ll knock the sun bonnet off your head. The top speed is 186 miles per hour.

An AMG SpeedShift MCT seven-speed sports transmission replaces the nine-speed automatic transmission in the SL550, which serves as the platform for the AMG SL65. Yet to report fuel-economy estimates to the government, Mercedes is keeping us in the dark as to the mileage, but the as-tested price above includes a $1,7000 gas guzzler tax. Needless to say, the Sierra Club won’t be asking it to the winter formal.

No matter the fuel economy — Let them eat cake! — the exhaust note itself is nearly worth this car’s sticker price. A show-off car of the first order, the booming exhaust signals the AMG SL65’s arrival long before it glides into view. This gives the proletariat crowding the average sidewalk the opportunity to gawk in awe as it sails by. Of course, in Key Biscayne, most of the folks on the sidewalks are jogging or biking for exercise before returning to their $1.5 million condos. Among these one percenters, the Mercedes hardly coaxed a glance.

As the performance arm of Mercedes-Benz, AMG has been tweaking and hopping up Mercedes models for decades. Appearance enhancements include the grille, front spoiler with larger air intakes, side skirts, rear apron and special 19-inch alloy wheels, among others. Although the only time the suspension came into play was making a U-turn to head back to the hotel, AMG has enhanced the SL550’s Active Body Control for more agility.

Not only did AMG replace the SL550’s nine-speed tranny to accommodate the greater load of the AMG SL56’s V12, but it also delivers quicker shifts whether in manual with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, or automatic modes. AMG also incorporated the rear-axle differential lock to reduce slippage of the inside wheel when cornering without any intervention of the braking system. This, they say, allows the driver to get back on the throttle more quickly when exiting a curve.

Inside, AMG’s fingerprints include the liberal use of Nappa leather on the seats and steering wheel, a unique three-spoke steering wheel, sportier heated seats, and a few carbon-fiber accents.

Optional on other SL models, but standard on the AMG SL65, the Driver Assistance Package features Distronic Plus with Steering Assist that not only maintains a consistent distance from the vehicle in front of it, but also relieves the driver of the strain of steering the car on straightaways. Active Brake Assist (ABA) reads the traffic ahead – even traffic crossing the car’s path – automatically braking to avoid hitting another vehicle. The Pre-Safe Brake serves the same function as ABA, but for pedestrians. Active Blind Spot Assist nudges the Mercedes back into its lane when it senses a vehicle in the blind spot during a lane-change maneuver. Active Lane Keeping Assist warns the driver when the vehicle drifts out of its lane and then nudges it back on course. Pre-Safe Plus senses and warns of an impending rear-end collision.

Also standard, Parking Pilot can seek out an appropriate parallel parking space and then aid the driver in parking the car. It also has a perpendicular-parking feature.

Loaded with all the high-end bric-a-brac you would expect on a car costing more than the average home in the United States, the standard features list is long and impressive.

Mercedes-Benz isn’t at all squeamish about the price of its cars nor its well-heeled customer base. Its several models and their many variations almost defy counting. It knows its customer and makes every effort to provide just the right vehicle for anyone with the money to spend. Horsepower addicts who want the sun in their face while tooling along in the lap of luxury have the ideal roadster in the AMG SL65.

Base price: $217,550; price as tested: $221,675 (approx.)

— Russ Heaps