Ξ Comments are off

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 Review & Test Drive

posted by  
Filed under Automotive, Featured, Mercedes-Benz, Test Drives


The last time I tested the Mercedes-Benz SL was in 2011 when it was an all-new fifth generation model.  It came fully equipped and was powered by the 6.3 liter Twin Turbocharged AMG V8 good for 510 hp.  After a week behind the wheel I came away with the feeling that the two-seat high-performance luxury hardtop convertible roadster had finally reached its zenith.  After spending a week behind the wheel of the all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL powered by the 4.7 liter Direct Injected Twin Turbocharged V8 making 429 hp, I was wrong.  This new, sixth generation SL is even better in all facets of what makes a superb, world-class two seat high-performance luxury hard top convertible roadster.

The new SL’s frame and body panels are now made of 90% aluminum and 10% magnesium with high-strength steel found only in the structural tubes of the A-pillars.  This saves about 200 pounds in total weight making the car supremely stiff (20% stiffer), and slightly lighter feeling in its handling capabilities.  Further enhancing its stability is the fact that the new SL is 2.2 in. wider and 1.4 in. longer.  The curb weight is down to just 4,001 lbs.

The SL is powered by a new, all-aluminum, 4.7 liter direct injected, DOHC, twin-spark, twin-turbo V8 with 13 lbs. of boost.   Increasing mpg from this powerful engine is a new ECO system with start/stop when you are in the Comfort mode.  When you stop at a traffic light or when driving in stop and go traffic, the engine shuts off when you fully depress the brake pedal, then restarts in less than one second when you lift your foot off.  This new smaller displacement engine produces more power and gets better fuel economy-429 hp at 5,250 rpm and a ground shaking 516 lb.ft. of torque at just 1,800-3,500 rpm.  EPA mileage specs are 16 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway.  That’s not bad for a big German two-seat hardtop convertible muscle car that reaches 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.5 seconds.  Top speed is governed at 155 mph.  When you fire up the engine with the push button start system you’ll hear a beautiful growl coming from the dual exhaust system but when you stomp your foot down on the throttle the sound quickly grows to a wild howl and the rear wheels start smoking

All of the torque is transferred to the rear wheels through a seven-speed Touch Shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.  I like that location better than when some makers locate them on the steering column.  This way you always have your hands on each shifter as you turn so you can downshift or upshift quickly.  If you want to use the paddle shifter you can follow which gear you are in by pushing on the black button on the console marked E/C/M for ECO mode, Comfort mode and M mode for the Sport setting.  On the center of the instrument cluster you’ll see the 1-7 gears in a line and the gear selected shaded from the other gear numbers.  This a better way to know your gear selected when in Sport mode and getting the most from this more advanced suspension/engine mapping and steering setting.  It is best to be in comfort mode/ECO when you just want to sit back and relax letting the automatic do its thing as you cruise along the highway or maneuver around slow city traffic.  All of the power is put down on the pavement through a viscous coupled limited-slip differential.  This new SL is a thrill machine in straight-line blasts!

Enabling you to do this with aplomb is the awesome four-wheel independent suspension system with Active Body Control and the new stiffer body.  While not the best two-seat roadster to carve through twisting roads, this new SL is supremely capable of cruising down the highway at triple-digit speeds all day with no fatigue to you and your passenger.  This new SL, like the last, is more appropriate for a more mature consumer.  I’d direct younger consumers, with $125,000.00+ allocated for a new car, to look at the Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferrari California or any Lamborghini sports car.  They are better matched for dicing through tight mountain curving roads at high speeds.

While handling is fantastic, you will feel the 4,000 lbs. of luxury roadster when taking it to the edge of adhesion.  I’m not saying that the new SL can’t handle the load, it is markedly neutral when putting it through its paces, but with the uber luxo interior and heavier hardtop convertible mechanism, a lighter sports car would be safer and more thrilling.

The suspension is excellent with terrific turn-in and great balance when taking a cloverleaf entering a fast moving highway.  It tracks great on curving roads and blasts out of that curve when you push hard on the throttle.  Power comes on instantly with the available 516 lb.ft. of torque at just 1,800 rpm.  It is a dream machine.  The speed-dependent, electro-mechanical steering gives super-quick response to your inputs but doesn’t give you a great feel for the road that you would want.  That is why I believe it is not best when carving through steeply curving roads at high speed.  You need all the feedback from the road to know how much steering input to use.  The standard electronic stability control and traction control do their thing but when out on the back roads you want to shut those systems off, and you can, to get the most thrills and a faster beating pulse.  This car is built for cruising not dicing.  Up front is a multi-link setup with coils, 2-mode electronically controlled gas-charged shocks and a torsion bar.  The rear is the same multi-link setup with 2-mode electronically controlled gas-charged shocks, coils and a torsion bar.  When you dial in Sport the suspension tightens up, the engine computer is re-mapped for quicker gearing and the steering system’s ratio changes for even more razor sharp response to you inputs.  With either setting, the new SL is a supreme cruiser on the road.  Further enhancing the drive is the magnificent wheels and tires.  Up front they measure 19X9 in. and in the rear are 19X10 in. twin-spoke alloy wheels.  The front wheels are wrapped with 255/35R19 in. and the rear wheels with 285/30R19 in. Continental Conti Sport Contact SSR low-profile, high-performance tires for excellent grip and a smooth, quiet ride.

Quickly and safely slowing the new SL down from speed are strong brakes with the latest in brake technology.  Up front are power-assisted, electro- hydraulic 13.5 in. vented rotors that are punched to help dissipate heat buildup from the six-piston calipers.  In the rear are 12.6 in. vented rotors clamped with single-piston calipers.  Keeping you in control during severe braking maneuvers or when braking hard on slick or wet pavement is standard ABS, BA and Electronic Brake Proportioning.

Under the aluminum skin of the new SL is power, capability with the latest in automotive powertrain and suspension high-technology, but under the folding hardtop roof is an interior worthy of the best luxury cars in the world.  Each door opens wide to reveal an interior covered in the finest leathers, brown Poplar wood, real aluminum trim including a billet aluminum shift knob.  The leather/ wood/aluminum clad/flat bottom steering wheel is just the right size for ease of use.  It feels perfect in your hands.  The power tilt and telescoping function gives you the correct angle and reach.

The 12-way powered/heated/cooled/massaging/active bucket seats are the best that I have ever sat in.  You can set your seat, outside heated/self-dimming sideview mirrors/steering wheel at the touch of a button.  The multi-contour seats fit you like a glove and the active, deep cut side bolsters move and keep you snug depending on which way you are turning.  Like I said earlier, there is really no fatigue when sitting and driving for long periods of time, and of course, you can get a full back massage to magically move your back muscles when you want.  The seats also feature the AIRSCARF system whereby heat comes out through the bottom of the active head restraints warming your neck when driving in colder temperatures.  This is an option that I highly recommend if you live in an area that has winter temperatures.

The instrument cluster is easy to see and understand with a 160 mph speedometer with a smaller fuel gauge inside and a 8,000 rpm tachometer with a smaller engine coolant temperature gauge also inside.  In the middle are your system warning and trip computer readouts along with time of day, outside temperature readout and safety systems working.  The central control knob is mounted on the center console and is very intuitive and easy to use with all of your information on the navigation screen above the center control stack.  The stack has controls for the dual-zone climate system at the bottom and seat controls on top.

New Mercedes-Benz innovations inside the new SL include a standard Harman-Kardon Logic 7 digital surround-sound system featuring award-winning FrontBase in which the bass speakers are mounted in the front firewall so the two front frame members also serve as large bass boxes.  This natural amplification makes the system one of the best in the world, and saves weight in the process, since separate bass boxes are no longer necessary.  The Harman/Kardon audio system comes with Dolby Surround 5.1 and uses two amplifiers with a total of 600-watts to power 10-speakers.  All amplifier channels have individually tuned frequency response, and the system includes speed-dependent volume control.  The best way to get the most out of this incredible system is with the top up making the cabin supremely quiet, or you can lower the top and operate the power wind screen to lessen outside road noise and enjoy the sounds.  My test SL came with the innovative Magic Sky Control top which features a glass roof panel in which you or your passenger can control the tinting from transparent to heavy tint by pushing a button above the rearview mirror.  This technology is taken from the technology governing the automatic self-dimming mirrors inside and outside the car.  The hardtop raises and lowers in just 21 seconds.

Standard features not listed above include power windows/door locks with express up/down, aluminum foot pedals, self-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, dual map lights, dual cupholders, storage bin and armrest under dual opening doors, ambient lighting, power folding sideview mirrors, garage door opener, floormats, COMMAND SYSTEM with navigation, iPod/MP3 media interface, Sirius satellite radio, Mercedes-Benz embrace2 in-vehicle personal services/accident alert, electronic parking brake, sunglass holder, lighted glovebox, storage in each door and behind the seatbacks.  Options I my test SL included the 19 in. twin-spoke wheels/tires, dual illuminated door sill plates, and the MAGIC SKY CONTROL top.  The Premium Package included a rearview camera, Parktronic with active parking assist, ventilated seats, active multicontour seats, Keyless Go push button start/stop, electronic trunk opener/closer with the innovative hands-free opener that opens the trunk when you pass your foot under the rear bumper.  The driver assistance package includes Distronic Plus with Pre-Safe Brake, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and Active Blind Spot Assist.  My SL tester also came standard with the Attention Assist system with a cup of coffee on the center of the info screen on the cluster.  A small camera monitors your eyes to make sure that you are not falling asleep.  If the system detects you your eyes are blinking the coffee cup turns red, then starts beeping and if it still detects you are falling asleep, the steering wheel will shake you up to warn you of impending danger.

Standard safety systems include 3-point safety belts with pretensioners/load limiters, Neck-Pro active head restraints, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, anti-theft alarm, tire pressure monitor, automatic roll-over bars, Bi-Xenon headlamps with active curve illumination, adaptive high-beam assist, front and rear crumple zones and steel beams in each door.

This new refined SL is styled sleeker and more angular than before.  Ground clearance is just 3.8 in. and with the wider stance it gives the car a more aggressive look, yet the luxury and sports car cues are more advanced.  You see an upright nose, LED signal lights, adaptive HID headlights, and the winged M-B 3-point star on the grille.  Down below is a wide-mouth air-intake, splitter and LED running lamps at the sides.  The hood features two blisters with the right side one working to help exit the heat generated from the powerful engine.  The silhouette shows sweptback A-pillars, pull-out door handles, scalloped doors and vertical vents on the front fenders.  The rear shows an upturned lip spoiler, large, wraparound triangular LED lamp clusters, spread dual exhaust outlets and a  diffuser in between to better manage the air rushing from underneath from the front.  It is a refined, contemporary look worthy of the fabled Mercedes-Benz SL history.

The all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL is a true world-class high-performing, luxury hardtop convertible two-seat roadster that turns heads wherever it is seen and brings enjoyment, comfort and safety to its occupants living in any climate.



  • Price: $105.500.00 base/$120.140.00 as tested including destination charges
  • Engine: 4.7 liter Direct Injected Twin Turbocharged V8 – 429 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm / 516 ft-lbs. @ 1,800 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 101.8 in.
  • Total length: 181.8 in.
  • Total width: 73.9 in.
  • Total height: 51.8 in.
  • Track: f/r-62.9/63 in.
  • Headroom: 39.1 in.
  • Legroom: 42.9 in.
  • Cargo volume: 13.5-top up/8.5 cu.ft. top down
  • Turning circle: 36.2 ft.
  • Fuel tank: 19.8 gallons
  • 0-60 mph: 4.5 seconds



You May Also Like


Automotive Manufacturers & Categories