2013 Mercedes-Benz SL 550
For more than 50 years, the Mercedes-Benz SL has been the benchmark for sporting two-seaters, starting with the iconic 300SL Gullwing, named the sports car of the century. While the design has evolved with the times, the classic lines and proportions have remained true to their heritage. But with the racy SLS now carrying the brand’s high performance flag, the sixth-generation SL has evolved to focus more on the luxury roadster side of open-air motoring. In typical Mercedes fashion, that means wanting for nothing in terms of driver comfort, safety or technology. The full slate of electronic driver aids is on tap, as well as a new windshield wiper system called magic vision control. No sleight of hand here, just a wash fluid dispenser integrated into the wiper blades for precise and splash-free cleaning.
The well-crafted interior gives the impression of a tailored suit, cut to fit and lacking frivolous ornamentation. Fine stitching, wood and metal accents, and soft-touch materials are all top-drawer. A unique Harmon/Kardon audio system places a pair of woofers under the front footwells, reducing door vibration and increasing bass clarity. Exterior styling is purposely masculine, with aggressive front air openings and tight, pronounced accent lines for an overall more rakish look. Rear overhang has been chopped slightly, and the mostly aluminum body shell is about 275 pounds lighter than the previous SL yet stiffer, leading to a more dynamic driving experience.
Both the standard agility control and the optional active body control suspensions are combined with a new electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering system that got mixed reviews during our test drive in the hills of Spain. Powering the SL is a slightly smaller 4.7 liter V8 that still improves output to 429 horsepower despite its lower displacement. Fuel economy is up by nearly 12 percent, too. The 2013 sl550 nicely fills the gap between the all-out performance offered by the SLS AMG Roadster and the more basic SLK. It continues the Mercedes tradition of “the best or nothing” and embodies all we like about open-air grand touring. Look for it in showrooms in May.
Engine: 4.7 liter V8