Although the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class retractable-hardtop convertible was substantially upgraded in 2007, the 2013 model year marks its first complete redesign in 10 years. Constructed almost entirely out of aluminum and equipped with a new drivetrain, the SL550 is 275 pounds lighter and is more efficient.
Regular SL550s hit dealerships in spring 2012, accompanied by a limited-production Edition 1 version. A performance-oriented AMG variant is expected, but it isn't available as of the vehicle's launch.
Mercedes' flagship roadster competes in principle with two-seat models like the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster, but its $100,000-plus price tag puts it in league with four-seaters like the BMW 6 Series and Jaguar XK convertibles.
The 2013 SL is almost 2 inches longer and 2.2 inches wider than the 2012. The new model ditches the L-shaped headlights, which were more common on previous Benzes, for standard bi-xenon headlamps with articulating lenses.
Mercedes says the powered retractable hardtop goes from fully raised to fully closed in 20 seconds. Two tops are available: a glass roof or one that features Magic Sky Control. Using technology similar to that of an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Magic Sky Control can change the tint of the glass panel from opaque to transparent at the press of a button.
The 2013's additional width adds extra shoulder and elbow room. The cabin is appointed in standard leather, rich genuine wood and metal trim. The Edition 1 has exclusive paint on the outside, plus full exclusive leather, an imitation suede headliner, special badging and loads of standard equipment.
In addition to Magic Sky Control, the SL provides further "magic" in the form of Magic Vision Control — special heated wiper blades that spray washer fluid directly in their own path. Mercedes says this allows the windshield to be cleaned when the top is down, without spraying the occupants. This system joins Airscarf, another feature designed to combat a shortcoming of top-down driving: Vents below the head restraints blow warm air at the occupants' necks.
Additional high-tech trickery includes Active Parking Assist, which maneuvers the car into a parking space automatically, and the latest iteration of the Comand multimedia system, which integrates communication, entertainment and navigation systems into one display-based controller. It includes internet access with web browsing when the car is stationary.
As expected of a small roadster, the trunk volume is modest. The lowered roof cuts into the trunk's capacity, but as before, pressing a button causes the roof panels to rise, granting access to the remaining space beneath. New to this car class, a hands-free-access feature opens or closes the powered trunk lid when you wave your foot under the rear bumper.
Under the Hood
A new 429-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 with direct injection replaces the 5.5-liter V-8 on the SL550, continuing Mercedes' deviation from its onetime naming convention, which, if adhered to, would rename this model the SL460. The new motor brings a 12 percent improvement in horsepower and 32 percent more torque, now rated at 516 pounds-feet. A standard start/stop function and recalibrated seven-speed automatic transmission are claimed to increase mileage. The SL comes only with rear-wheel drive.
The SL550 does zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, a decrease of 0.8 second, Mercedes says.
Adaptive shock absorbers are standard equipment, and a more ambitious active suspension, Active Body Control, is an option.
As required of all new cars since the 2012 model year, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control are standard. Airbags include the frontal pair plus side airbags to protect both the occupants' torsos and heads.
As in the previous generation, active roll bars behind the seats stay out of the line of sight but deploy in the event of a rollover to create occupant-protection space.
All SLs come standard with a drowsiness detection system, which monitors driver attentiveness, and an adaptive braking system. Also available is Mercedes' Pre-Safe technology, which can autonomously stop the car if a collision is imminent.
Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG
The SL63 AMG joins the redesigns in the SL family. The AMG styling enhancements include a front apron with a large air dam, AMG-specific LED daytime running lamps, new radiator grille, side sill panels, rear AMG spoiler lip and twin chrome tailpipes.
The big news is that for the first time, the SL63 AMG is available with a choice of maximum power output. The standard twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 engine produces 530 horsepower and 590 pounds-feet of torque. With the optional AMG Performance Package, the power is bumped to 557 hp and 664 pounds-feet of torque. The sole transmission is a seven-speed automatic that offers driver-selected shifting.
Active Parking Assist, a Bang & Olufsen stereo and safety options including adaptive cruise control are optional. Back to top
Mercedes SL65 AMG
Styled similarly to the SL63 AMG, the SL65 reprises Mercedes most powerful roadster with a 621-hp, turbocharged 6.0-liter V-12. The engine sends 738 pounds-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, sending the SL65 to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds, Mercedes says. Exterior updates include high-polished chrome, a differently styled lower diffuser and AMG-specific LED daytime running lights. The SL65 also gets a body-colored, AMG-specific spoiler lip and rear skirt inlay. The engine has larger air openings for cooling the engine oil, water and transmission oil, too. In the cabin, there are AMG-specific sport seats with carbon fiber trim, a chrome instrument cluster and an analog clock designed by IWC Schaffhausen, among other changes. Back to top
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