Merecedes-Benz has been defining the luxury convertible market since the introduction of the SL in 1953. Though I have only driven the two most recent SL class vehicles, they’ve stood out as the best luxury roadsters on the market. The unique thing about the Mercedes SL class of vehicles is they combine the quiet and poise of a coupe with the open air fun of a convertible. The SL also has all of the latest technology, from heated, cooled, and massaging seats, to radar cruise control, to a twin turbo V8 engine. More on that last bit later.
The first and most important thing about the SL is that it isn’t your typical convertible. Even other manufacturers’ retractable hard tops sacrifice noise and chassis rigidity for the function of dropping the top; not so with the SL. The big Benz doesn’t even have a hint of cowl shake, and is just as quiet with the top up as any luxury coupe on the market. This highlights the underlying aspect of one of the best roadsters around: no compromises from having a convertible. The other amazing toy is the Magic Sky sunroof. This crazy LED tintable glass is just amazing, at the press of a button it goes from clear to darkly tinted to keep out the light and heat. It’s absolutely magic.
The power train is another story in itself. The SL550 is the slowest SL you can buy, and we recorded a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds. (With two people on a normal street, not a prepped drag strip) The automatic transmission really feels like a dual clutch unit: silky smooth, direct, and awesome. The SL also handles quite well. Adaptive air suspension soaks up bumps as well as staying level during cornering. The steering also matches the car- luxurious, if not a bit disconnected, but fitting for a grand touring car. Long distances in this car are so painless, comfortable, and enjoyable. It’s the kind of car you could drive around the country in and never experience an ache or pain, other than perhaps a sunburn from having the top down for too long.
My overall impression of this car is just fantastic. It’s everything you’d hope a grand touring roadster would be. Comfortable, fast, capable, and great. The bottom line: if you want a luxury roadster, give the SL550 a look. It truly is a gem. I can’t even think of another car that is as good. The only disappointing aspect is that you can’t share the joy with more than one friend. Mercedes-Benz has truly set the bar very high. I look forward to other manufacturers trying to come close, though I doubt it’ll happen. Until the next review, enjoy!