2009 SL-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes SL debuted in 1957 and has been an object of lust ever since. A two-seat, rear-wheel-drive roadster, the SL is the classic sporting Mercedes. Like the original, today's SL boasts outstanding performance. The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has matured in every way over its six generations, quicker and faster on the one hand, more beautiful and more luxurious on the other, to the point where it lacks absolutely nothing, from its array of powerful V8 and V12 engines to its powerful stereo to its active suspension system to those all-day bucket seats. It is a marvel of automotive technology, featuring a folding steel convertible top.
For 2009, the SL models feature a whole new look, though underneath they retain the same basic platform. Also new is the 2009 Mercedes SL63 AMG, sporting a powerful normally aspirated V8 engine.
Speaking of which, each of the four models that comprise the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is designed around a different engine. Each has its own character. Each has its own charms, but all are fast. There's no such thing as a slow SL, not in the current lineup.
The SL550 is plenty, trust us. Its 5.5-liter V8 engine emits an uncharacteristically barbaric growl for a Mercedes. Boasting 382 horsepower, it's ready and willing to accelerate at all rev ranges, and it comes with the latest in transmissions, a seven-speed automatic with a manual shiftgate. Overall, the SL550 is a sporty roadster with quick steering and nimble moves. Compared with the other models, the Mercedes SL550 seems like the deal of the century for $95,900 MSRP.
The SL600 has a more immediate power than the SL550, yet the engine is considerably quieter. Our advice: Don't drive a Mercedes SL600 unless $136,100 is burning a hole in your pocket because you might fall in love with it. Fast and comfortable, there's lots to love here. Its butter smooth twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 is time-tested and produces 517 horsepower. More noticeable and oh so wonderful is its gobs of torque, a bottomless well of power available when cruising along: specifically, 612 pound-feet of torque from 1900 to 3500 rpm. The V12 comes with a five-speed automatic that can also be shifted manually. With its heavier V12 engine, the SL600 is less nimble and more of a tourer than a pure sports car. But as a touring car, say driving from L.A. to Vegas, the SL600 is pure joy.
Since the beginning, the SL's laurels have been raised by performance models, and two AMG versions are available in the current lineup. The 2009 Mercedes SL63 AMG uses a normally aspirated 518-hp 6.2-liter V8 mated to a new seven-speed automated manual transmission called the AMG Speedshift MCT 7. The SL63 AMG is a meaner version of the SL550. It's the sportiest SL and, arguably, the sportiest car Mercedes-AMG has ever built. The SL 63 AMG is brutally quick and fast when the throttle pedal is pushed into the carpet, yet it is still quiet enough, and docile enough to use as a commuter car in heavy traffic every day. Stand on the gas and it's even louder than the SL550.
The SL65 AMG has a twin-turbocharged V12 that puts out 604 horsepower. It is a torquey beast that delivers a rush of power bested only by exotics and pro drag cars. It's a lot of car, perhaps too much for an unskilled driver as its immense power can make it hard to handle. Like the SL600, the SL65's V12 is quieter than the V8s. And like the SL600, the SL65 is heavy (it is the heaviest SL), so it isn't as tossable as the V8 models. Tossable often equates to fun.
Not surprisingly, no SL gets good fuel mileage. The SL550 is EPA rated at 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, and it gets worse as you move up the model line. As a result, every SL is saddled with a Gas Guzzler Tax by the federal government.
Inside, the SL is a model of fine German luxury. Leather upholstery is standard, and the seats have plenty of adjustments to make just about anyone comfortable. The view from the drive.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class comes in four models:
The SL550 ($95,900) has a 382-hp 5.5-liter V8 mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability via the gearshift or available steering wheel paddles. Standard equipment includes leather upholstery; heated 12-way power-adjustable seats with lumbar adjustment; dual-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; navigation system; Tele Aid assistance system; power tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; memory for the driver's seat; exterior mirrors, and steering wheel; heated power mirrors with driver's side auto-dimming and passenger side tilt-down back-up aid; power windows and power door locks; remote keyless entry; Harman/Kardon AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer; auxiliary audio input jack; Sirius satellite radio with six-month subscription; Bluetooth wireless cell phone link; trip computer; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; heated rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers; automatic headlights; power-retractable hardtop; wind deflector; theft-deterrent system; adaptive bi-xenon headlights; front and rear fog lights; Active Body Control adjustable suspension with level control; and P255/40ZR18 front and P285/35ZR18 rear tires on alloy wheels. Note the SL550 is saddled with a $1300 Gas Guzzler Tax.
The SL63 AMG ($132,000) comes with a 518-hp 6.2-liter V8 mated to a new seven-speed automated manual transmission called the AMG Speedshift MCT 7. The SL63 adds to the SL550 uprated brakes, massaging multicontour seats, carbon-fiber interior trim, alcantara headliner, Bose AM/FM/CD player, 6CD changer, sports suspension, 255/35R19 front tires, 285/30R19 rear tires.
The SL600 ($136,100) comes with a 517-hp 6.0-liter V12 and a five-speed automatic with manual shift capability. The SL600 also gets upgraded leather upholstery; massaging multicontour seats; wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel; alcantara headliner; keyless access and starting; front and rear park assist; panoramic roof; and a power trunk closer. The SL600, SL63 AMG and SL65 AMG have a $2600 Gas Guzzler Tax.
The SL65 AMG ($190,700) adds to the SL600 uprated brakes; leather-wrapped steering wheel; ventilated seats; carbon-fiber interior trim in place of wood trim; sports suspension; and P255/35ZR19 front and P285/30ZR19 rear tires.
Options include a Premium package for the SL550 ($3750) and SL63 AMG ($3050) that includes ventilated/multicontour seats, keyless entry and starting, Airscarf heating, power trunk closer. A Wheel package for SL500 and SL600 ($1950) adds ventilated rear brake discs, sport steering-wheel with shift paddles, unique exterior trim, 19-inch alloy wheels with performance tires. An AMG Performance package for SL63 AMG ($14,220) includes a limited-slip rear differential; 15.4-inch diameter two-piece compound ceramic brakes; performance tires; unique alloy wheels; and 186 top-speed limiter. The SL550's Trim package ($1510) adds a wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and upgraded leather upholstery. Front and rear park assist is optional ($1140) for SL550 and SL63 AMG. Illuminated door sills are available for SL500 ($700), Adaptive Cruise Control is optional for all ($2230), and the Panorama glass roof is optional for SL500 and SL63 AMG ($1950). Special paint options are available.
Safety features include dual front airbags, side-impact airbags, driver knee airbag, pop-up roll bar, tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control. Front and rear park assist are standard on SL600 and SL65 AMG and optional for SL550 and SL63 AMG.