by Nauman Farooq
What you’re looking at here is the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550. Yes, I know we are still in 2012, but this model made its first public appearance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI., earlier this year, and just went on sale about a month ago.
So the 2013 SL is among us, but is it any good?
Let’s start with the looks, which are not very alluring in my view. When I first set eyes on its front view, I suddenly remembered the line from the children’s tale ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, the scene where Red sees the wolf disguised as her grandma and says, “Gee grandma, what big eyes you have!”
The new SL’s headlights seem to be a bit too big for its body. They look awkward and unattractive. The rest of the car looks pretty much the same as the outgoing model, only with a few tweaks, which is also a bit disappointing.
But this is more than just a nip and tuck on the old model. According to Mercedes-Benz, the platform is all new and uses more aluminum than any other model produced by the company. Aluminum helps make this SL lighter than the one it replaces. It now weighs 140-kg less than the outgoing model.
Add more power to a lighter body, and you’ll end up with a faster car. The SL550 for instance now produces 429-hp (a 12% raise) and 516 lb/ft of torque (a 32% jump over the old model). Power is sent to the rear-wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Performance numbers for acceleration are very impressive. It can sprint from 0-100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds, while top-speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h.
As usual, there are plenty of new safety and convenience gadgets on board to keep CEOs and Doctors happy. I could go into detail, but they’re likely to put you to sleep.
However, numbers are one thing and how it all feels is another. So I called Moe Zaver at Mercedes-Benz Mississauga to ask if he’d let me take their demonstrator for a test run.
Thankfully he agreed and fixed a time for my drive.
As soon as I slipped inside, I forgot how the car looked and was quickly falling in love with its interior. This is a well-made car with lots of interior style and the list of gadgets look very impressive.
First things first: find the button for the power folding hard-top roof and lower it – it was a sunny day so doing this was a must.
Roof down, I hit the road. I first try its comfort setting, which is in a word, comfortable. This is a luxury grand touring convertible and it feels like it.
Out on the highway, I put the car in its sport setting. This should make the car feel much sportier, but the effect was more muted than I prefer. Perhaps Mercedes-Benz intentionally gave this car a softer set-up, so they could have a sportier set-up for their AMG models. The SL550 is fast, but it doesn’t feel so.
On the highway, with the windows up and its clever wind-deflector up, it is a comfortable place to be in. I liked that.
I also liked its seven-speed automatic gearbox, which changes gears very quickly and smoothly. I would have still preferred a dual-clutch set-up, but this torque convertor system is not bad at all.
On some back roads, I played with its shift paddles (located on the steering wheel) to get the revs up to get more sound from the motor, and also to stand on the throttle to experience its acceleration. The SL550 is truly quick, but it could sound better; its set-up is a bit too quiet. Again, the AMG models will probably address this issue.
Since I only got a short drive in this car, I cannot tell you what it’s like to live with. But I’d say, the new SL550 from a driving point of view is better than the car it replaces. However the old car looked much, much better.
As improved as this new SL550 is, I cannot personally justify spending $123,900 on it (certainly not the $143K that my tester was stickered at). For this type of money, there are more exciting options to be had. Personally, I’d save myself some money and buy a used 2011 SL550. It looks nicer and has most of the gadgets you’ll find on the new car, plus prices for those are in the $90K range. Moreover, Moe will be able to help with that too. So that’s what I’d actually do.
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