The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has been brightening the lives of American car shoppers with its appealing brand of Germanic glamor since 1954. This model has spanned six generations, and it’s existed as both a coupe and a convertible. Sleek and exquisitely crafted, the Mercedes-Benz SL provides thrilling performance teamed with a first-class lineup of luxury-car amenities.
2013 to Present: Mercedes-Benz SL
The most recent generation of the Mercedes SL was introduced for 2013, and it revealed a two-door convertible that was lighter and leaner than its predecessor. Curb weight was slashed by roughly 400 pounds, and Mercedes-Benz achieved this reduction by using lightweight aluminum parts throughout most of the convertible. This generation also adds useful safety equipment, technology and infotainment upgrades, a new transmission and new engines offering increased power and fuel efficiency.
The current Mercedes-Benz SL is a rear-wheel-drive convertible with seating for two. Its sheet metal embodies all the visual excitement you’d expect from a high-end European sports car. In front, a chiseled hood overlooks tapered headlights, while a side view reveals the car’s fluid profile. In the back, sloping tail lamps are positioned over a sculpted bumper.
When the most recent generation was initially launched, buyers enjoyed a choice of three engines. A twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8 produces 429 horsepower, and AMG versions of the car were available with a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 good for 530 horsepower and a top-of-the-line 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 that generates 621 horsepower. All engines were governed by a seven-speed automatic transmission.
This Mercedes-Benz is a treat to experience in all environments. Acceleration is breathtakingly swift, and all powertrains unspool their prodigious capabilities in a manner that is smooth and seamless. Unlike some sports cars, the SL doesn’t make you pay for its performance chops with an overly stiff ride. This convertible shields passengers from rough road surfaces, and it makes a pleasing daily driver.
The cabin is plush in all respects, and it features an available glass roof that allows you to adjust the tint to control how much sun shines in. Early models from the current generation offered cargo capacity of 10.2 cubic feet with the top up. With the top lowered, this figure dipped to 7.2 cubic feet.
All the best luxury cars pamper their passengers with an ample array of standard features, and the SL is no exception. All models come with leather upholstery, heated seats, wood trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and a navigation system. Upgrades include adaptive cruise control and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system.
For 2014, the convertible ushered in standard features such as an analog dash-top clock and added an available SplitView infotainment screen, which is capable of projecting completely different images to the driver and passenger. A more affordable V6-powered model was added in 2015, and it provides 325 horsepower.
The SL-Class got a styling update for the 2017 model year, and non-AMG models were given slight power upgrades and a new nine-speed automatic transmission. All models received an upgraded power hardtop and new standard features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility. The car also received a slight increase in cargo capacity, offering 13.5 cubic feet with the top up and 8.5 with the top lowered.
Competing models include the Porsche 911, Audi R8, Jaguar F-Type and Bentley Continental. All these rivals are enticing picks in their own right, but the SL is unlikely to leave any car shopper disappointed.
Earlier Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Models
The fifth generation of the SL-Class was introduced for 2003. Early versions came with a five-speed automatic transmission and a choice of two engines: a 5.0-liter V8 good for 302 horsepower and a 5.4-liter V8 providing 493 horsepower. Standard features include heated front seats, heated side mirrors and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
For 2004, the engine lineup was expanded with a 5.5-liter V12 offering identical horsepower but increased torque relative to the 5.4-liter V8, and a seven-speed automatic transmission became available. A fourth engine was added a year later: a 6.0-liter V12 offering 604 horsepower.
Satellite radio was added as a no-cost option for 2006, and a tire-pressure monitor joined the list of standard features. The car’s engines saw notable horsepower increases for 2007, and a 50th Anniversary Edition was introduced to celebrate the model’s five decades of existence.
The SL-Class got a major upgrade for 2009 that included revised styling, additional standard features and improved steering. A new 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 joined the lineup along with a new multi-clutch seven-speed transmission for the SL63 AMG. In the years leading up to its 2013 redesign, the Mercedes streamlined the SL-Class’ lineup of trims.