Boosted and befuddled by technology.
Its name suggests a sporty, lightweight car, but the SL is as much about pampering the driver as it is about pounding the road. Airscarf titillates the back of your neck with warm air for cold-weather, top-down cruising. Magic Sky Control allows the driver to adjust the transparency of the glass roof. The windshield washers meter out more water for cold, snowy conditions, and when the top is down, they only spray on the wipers’ down stroke to keep passengers dry. Active Body Control — standard on all SLs — uses hydraulic cylinders to continually tweak the suspension and eliminate any trace of unwanted body motions. An aluminum body that cuts weight by about 250 pounds compared with the previous car suggests that Mercedes would like to recapture the SL’s sports-car heritage, but its agility is compromised by variable-ratio steering that is unpredictable and imprecise. In a straight line, however, the SL is unquestionably competent, whether you choose the very fast SL550 or the effortless SL63 AMG with its 530-hp V-8. Both cars use a seven-speed automatic transmission, but the AMG model has a clutch in place of the usual torque converter to create the feel of a sportier launch. The optional AMG performance package raises the top speed to 186 mph, boosts power output to 557 hp, and adds a limited-slip differential.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Bentley Continental GTC
new for 2013
The SL is all-new for 2013. It’s not nearly as beautiful as the original 300SL of six decades ago, but the new car is quicker and more refined than ever. Eight-cylinder engines that are more powerful and more efficient have put the twelve-cylinder models on notice. The SL600 is gone for good; the SL65 AMG is available in late 2012.
ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; drowsiness alert; and traction and stability control are standard. Options include active parking assist, active blind-spot monitoring, active lane-departure prevention, and adaptive cruise control with a collision-warning feature.
Great V-8 engines
Brilliant Airscarf feature
Variable-ratio steering plagues the SL550
Numb brake pedal
Base Price Range: $106,405–$213,145
TRIM LEVELS: SL550, SL63 AMG, SL65 AMG
BODY STYLE: Convertible, 2-passenger
ENGINES: 4.7L twin-turbo V-8, 429 hp, 516 lb-ft
5.5L twin-turbo V-8, 530/557 hp, 590/664 lb-ft
6.0L V-12, 621 hp, 738 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: N/A
CARGO SPACE: (top up/down) 10.2/7.2 cu ft