Special Silver Arrow versions of Mercedes-Benzs top, two-passenger models are new for 2002. Considered Limited Collectors Editions, the SL500 and SL600 Silver Arrow models feature ultra metallic paint, a fully lined black soft-top, a brushed-aluminum instrument cluster with chrome bezels, and aluminum trim on the wind deflector, shift gate, pedals, grille and trunk lid. New two-piece alloy wheels hold 18-inch tires. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and a six-CD changer are installed, and brake rotors are factory-drilled.
The company plans to produce only 1,400 Silver Arrow SL500s, and another 100 are earmarked for production in the SL600 form. These special editions are painted in the traditional Mercedes-Benz racing Silver Arrow color as a reminder of the marques motorsports heritage.
The poshest and most costly of the two-seaters is the SL-Class model. The SL500 and SL600 continue into the 2002 model year without significant change. Introduced in its current form in 1990, the SL-Class models have a powered, folding fabric top and a removable hardtop. A glass-roofed Panorama top is optional. A roll bar behind the seats deploys when sensors detect an impending rollover. The SL500 has a 302-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 engine, while the SL600 carries a 389-hp, 6.0-liter V-12. Both use a five-speed-automatic transmission.
At the high end of the roadster scale, the principal competitors for the SL-Class include the Jaguar XK8 convertible, the Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet and even the more costly Aston Martin DB7 Vantage. While the SL600 commands a $129,615 tariff (including the destination charge), the SL500 can be driven home for a mere $84,465. Silver Arrow editions are $86,965 and $133,615, respectively.
Mercedes-Benz sold 4,217 SL-Class models during 2001, down from 5,409 units in the previous year, according to Automotive News. At the 2002 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz introduced a redesigned SL500 that will go on sale as a 2003 model.
AMG, Mercedes performance partner, gave the SL-Class a more dashing lower-body look last year, but the roadster has looked basically the same through the current generation. A plush big brother to the SLK-Class, the SL-Class has been a familiar figure in the high-dollar sports-car league.
Both a soft-top and a removable aluminum hardtop are included with the purchase of an SL-Class model. Pushing a single button on the console lowers the cars side windows, releases the fabric top from the windshield and folds back the top into a storage well at the rear. At that point, its covered automatically by a hard tonneau.
An Adaptive Damping System that is standard on the SL600 and optional on the SL500 automatically varies shock-absorber firmness to suit changing road conditions. Front and rear fog lights are installed. An optional Panorama hardtop features a heat-reflecting glass roof and power sunshade. An available Sport Package includes high-performance tires on 18-inch wheels; standard rubber includes 17-inchers on alloy wheels. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are standard on the SL600 and optional on the SL500.
Both occupants luxuriate in Nappa leather bucket seats, which are upgraded and heated in the SL600. Standard equipment includes automatic air conditioning, cruise control, 10-way power seats with memory, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift lever, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with memory, and a Bose premium stereo system. Heated power mirrors are equipped with a memory feature. Power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers, a universal garage-door opener and a wood-framed shift gate are other standard features.
In addition to V-12 power, the SL600 gets heated seats, a leather-wrapped/wood steering wheel and gearshift knob, a six-CD changer and a Motorola integrated cellular phone with voice control. These items are available in an option package for the SL500.
The Silver Arrow SL500 has two-tone leather upholstery in silver and black hues, as well as a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift knob. The Silver Arrow SL600 gets black leather upholstery with silver perforations, a leather/black birds-eye maple steering wheel and shift knob, multicontour seats and a Panorama hardtop.
Standard equipment on both models includes a Tele Aid emergency communication system that incorporates such features as vehicle diagnostics, remote door unlocking and alarm monitoring. These services are available 24 hours a day from the Tele Aid assistance center.
Under the Hood
The SL500 uses a 302-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 engine. Buyers must pay a hefty premium to move up to the SL600, which has a 6.0-liter V-12 that produces 389 hp. Both engines drive a five-speed-automatic transmission.
An abundant array of safety equipment greets and helps protect SL-Class occupants. Door-mounted side-impact airbags, antilock brakes and an Electronic Stability Program are standard. A BabySmart system prevents the front-passenger airbag from activating if a small child is seated in that position. A roll bar behind the cockpit pops up when sensors detect an impending rollover. Mercedes-Benzs Brake Assist system helps reduce stopping distances in emergency situations.
Is it possible to mix seriously sporty performance with truly posh trappings? With its SL-Class models, Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated for years that these two qualities of high-end motoring can coexist neatly. Whether youre sitting behind a V-8 engine or the luscious V-12, energetic acceleration awaits you at the mere tap of the gas pedal.
Because a smooth, controlled boulevard ride is part of the experience, handling might fall a bit short of some of the sports car leaders. Still, the SL-Class roadsters are no slouches when it comes to coping with curves and corners. As for comfort and convenience features, the SL-Class owner cant complain about anything lacking in his or her two-seater. This sports car isnt as modern as some, and it may appear less frisky on the highway, but it excels most in what it does best: luxury, with a healthy dose of vigor tossed into the mix.