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Agent Orange

Mercedes and AMG have a long history. It was a while back when Mercedes felt the need for an in-house tuning company, and as Brabus turned down their initial offer in order to stay independent, they in turn chose to go with AMG.

The Mercedes SL was never very popular in Malaysia. It certainly wasn’t as popular as the SLK, which attracted a huge following locally. At one point, the waiting list for an SLK would be 2 years long- and yet people would still put their money down on the compact roadster. But no, the SL is a completely different beast. The current generation SLK was released just a few months ago, only available with a turbocharged 1.8 litre powerplant- while Mercedes Benz Malaysia still only offers the 5th generation Mercedes SL, as opposed to the current 6th generation.

Now, the SL isn’t quite like anything else Mercedes produces. The closest thing it could be compared to is the SLS; in fact, it’s hard to think of any direct competitor from other German car manufacturers, short of going head to head with Porsche. The BMW Z4 falls short in the power department, with the most powerful variant only matching the least powerful in the Mercedes SL range. The SL is also a much bigger car, with a much longer engine compartment.

Here we have an example of one of the more powerful versions of the SL, the SL55 AMG. This was the pre-facelift model, produced between 2002 and 2006. If you saw it in stock form, you’d think it was a much older car as the styling was significantly dated compared to the other Mercedes models in the lineup with their Avant-Garde grill option. The car produced roughly 476PS from its supercharged 5.5-litre engine, which seems a bit low compared to engines nowadays, though it helps to bear in mind that the block is roughly 10 years old. The facelift model got a significant power upgrade to 517PS, as well as Active Body Control to keep the weight of the car in check. So this particular SL55 AMG was more of a driver’s tool, requiring more focus and concentration to keep the car on the road.

The problem with Mercedes is that they chose to skip offering manual transmissions with their performance cars at the turn of the century. The demographic was such that less customers appreciated having 3 pedals and a proper H-pattern box, and would much rather have the car handle the shifting for them. Practically every AMG car that came after that was forced to use the AMG Speedshift automatic transmission, although in more recent years they have started to offer a dual clutch transmission with their models (after all, if the new B-Class can feature a DCT, why can’t the AMG models do it too?). This means that the cars are designed to be more cruisers than bruisers, offering comfort over long range travel instead of precise control when shaking up the back roads.

But is it a problem? A car this size won’t really feel at home on a back road anyway- most of these roadsters don’t. A 911 is just about small enough to make it through without causing claustrophobia, but something this big can’t be driven at considerable speed without balls, or a missing fear centre in the brain. No, leave the back roads to the hot hatchbacks and the venerable Toyota 86, because everything else will destroy itself in the process.

So where does the SL55 AMG fit? The highways seem to be a pretty good home. Long stretches of straight tarmac, mixed up with the occasional sweeper and bend provide for some entertaining driving. Shift speed isn’t as much of a problem with such a large power band provided by the supercharger. It’s a real barnstormer, something you can destroy ricers with while maintaining comfort.

But being such an old car, it needs a little bit of help to keep it current and modern. Exotic Mods went to work on that, installing a cat-back exhaust system that was custom fabricated for this car. To make full use of the lowered back pressure, a custom ECU remap was also doen, which in turn boosted the power to 520bhp at the wheels. The 7-speed AMG transmission didn’t need any additional reinforcement to handle the extra power, and hence remains essentially stock.

While the Mercedes SL is a roadster, it still isn’t as aggressive as a full out sports car should be. The stock ride height is a little high and there are still quite a few comforts that you wouldn’t expect to see on a full blooded speed machine. I personally find navigation and entertainment systems to be a waste of space in a proper driving machine, but I digress. The SL55 gets an Exotic Mods lowering linkage to drop the car slightly and improve handling performance in the corners as well.

There really isn’t much more to do on the performance front with this car. It was a good enough car to begin with, so most of the work that Exotic Mods did was related to improving the looks of the car, on both the interior and exterior. The exterior got a host of AMG Black Series components from the SL65 AMG Black, which aimed to both modernize the styling of the SL55 and to give it a more aggressive look. But if that wasn’t enough, the whole car was painted in a nice coat of PPG Arancio Argos paint, giving it a fluorescent orange body.

Wheels were changed in favour of Modulare B18 20-inchers, wrapped in Nitto Invo tyres. The interior received more modest changes in the form of Nappa leather wraps on both the steering wheel and seats.

This SL55 AMG may be the better part of a decade old, but it still manages to keep up with the current crop of performance cars. It’s a testament to how far ahead Mercedes was with their technology back then, as well as how competent Malaysian tuners are, even with something as classy as an SL55 AMG.

Car: Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG
Engine Mods: Exotic Mods custom cat-back exhaust system
Electronics: Exotic Mods custom ECU remap
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic (stock)
Chassis & Handling: Exotic Mods lowering linkage
Brakes: Custom painted yellow brake calipers
Wheels & Tyres: Modulare B18 20×10 (front) and 20×13 (rear) custom forged wheels, Nitto Invo 285/30/20 (front) and Nitto Invo 345/25/20 (rear)
Interior: Exotic Mods custom Nappa Leather steering wrap, Exotic Mods custom Nappa sport seats wrap
Exterior: Exotic Mods facelift style side mirrors, Exotic Mods PPG Arancio Argos paint, Exotic Mods SL65 Black Series front hood, Exotic Mods SL65 Black Series widebody conversion, Exotic Mods SL65 Black Series boot spoiler, Exotic Mods SL65 Black Series facelift conversion (headlights & grille), Speedy Car Wash Paint glass coating, 3M Vehicle Protection System Smash Proof Tints, Prius 6000k xenon bulbs
Power: 520bhp
Garage: Exotic Mods (Sunway Damansara)

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