First impressions after just 400 miles
April 5, 2018
I've been searching for a hardtop convertible for over a year to replace my 2014 Corvette Z51 3LT coupe. Test drove a BMW435 last year and was disappointed in the ride quality, interior comfort and lack of basics such as a power adjustable steering wheel.
Also recently test drove a SL450 but the V6 seems tuned to make a lot of noise via the exhaust to make up for what's lacking under the hood. So, first impressions after an extensive search for a SL 550 in light silver with light chrystal gray interior:
The build quality is off the charts great, very comfortable seats which is something the Vette was sorely lacking. It's also a few inches higher off the ground from a seat bottom standpoint making it much easier to get in and out of. The Dynamic Performance selections show true changes in ride and performance vs the Vette where all you got was more exhaust noise in "Sport" mode, until it dropped down to 4 cylinders. The SL 550 shows a noticeable jump in performance when switching from Comfort to one of the 2 Sport modes, not just noise but shift patterns and ride stiffness. There's also a neat feature to have the seat bolsters adjust automatically when needed for extra support in turns. Admittedly its more for "show" than something absolutely necessary. (I'm NOT taking this to a race track!)
As expected driving with the hardtop up is very quiet. Field of vision is excellent in all directions with the top up although the rear view mirror seems absurdly large for the overall size of the car. I suspect it was designed to hide all the stuff that has the front sensors.
One disappointment driving with the top down stems from the placement of the side view mirrors. They are placed a bit too far up on the door panel, leaving a gap with the windshield pillar. This causes a steady stream of air to blast the driver on the left forearm and passenger right in their chest. Maybe I won't mind when it gets hot. A related issue is with the pop up windscreen behind the seats. It doesn't seem to do much to reduce the backflow of air. About the only benefit I found so far is the perforated screen filters out headlights from cars behind you. The heated Air Scarf gets plenty warm but not enough air flowing out to make a difference. I suspect it will only help if you drive with the windows up, something I will never do when the top is down.
A couple of things are missing that fall in the category "what were they thinking". First, there's no option to automatically lock the doors when you walk away from the car, keyfob in hand. Clearly the car recognizes when the keyfob is near and it has an autolock feature once you start driving. Why make me touch the door handle to lock it? Second, there isn't a Valet Mode which would lock the screen displays to prevent a parking attendant, car wash driver or even Mercedes Service tech from messing with the settings. In my case, I'm not letting the keyfob out of my hands except for the Mercedes Service folks but the designers didn't know that. There's also a neat Engine Performance display option that shows additional gauges for Torque, Horsepower, etc. but it's buried under layers of settings options and can't be saved as a preference for display.
Finally, some thoughts on my buying experience. I started searching the MBUSA website, picked my non negotiable exterior and interior colors preferences, optional equipment I thought was important and hit View Inventory. The first thing it asked for was my zip code. The results showed a large number of cars but most did not meet my criteria and were not in any meaning sort order. In addition, the display of the sample car at the top of the page showed a very dark grayish silver. I almost just stopped there as I wanted a light silver. I ended up finding something close to my ideal car, hit the box to make an appointment to test drive and waited for a call. 2 days later I got a call from a local dealer who had no knowledge of the specific car I picked out of the inventory list. I took for granted she was just an untrained clerk and made an appointment. Unfortunately the salesman I got handed to as the only one not busy couldn't find what I did online, stating the car doesn't exist in US inventory and isn't in the pipeline from Germany. The only positive about the experience is they have a light silver 450 available for a test drive so I knew the color existed despite the online photos.