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Car News: GTO Dead, SL Goes to 55


2004 Pontiac GTO

2004 Pontiac GTO

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2004 Pontiac GTO

2004 Pontiac GTO

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Current GTO Done After ‘06

The Pontiac GTO, so shortly revived from its decades-long coma, will be going back under at the end of the model year. Automotive News reports that the two-door coupe would cost General Motors too much to certify for tougher safety regulations being phased in for the 2007 model year. Pontiac sources told the paper that about 10,000 to 12,000 more GTOs will be built for sale before the current body style goes off the production line. GM is said to be working on a new rear-drive architecture that could spawn a new GTO as well as a Chevrolet Camaro based on January’s Detroit show concept, but Pontiac has not confirmed any replacement for the car.

 

 

Benz SL Goes to 550 and 382

You don’t want to mess with a good thing, so Mercedes didn’t change too much about its 2007 Mercedes Benz SL550 roadster. Underneath the hood, a new 5.5-liter V-8 engine matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission compelled the name change from SL500 to SL550, although outside North America , the name will remain SL500.

 

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

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2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Enlarge Photo
The new engine produces 382 hp from those 5.5 liters, up 80 hp from the previous engine. Torque also gets a boost, moving up 52 lb-ft to 391. As you’d expect, this is a thoroughly modern and sophisticated chain-driven, double-overhead-cam engine with variable-valve timing to get the best balance between performance and efficiency.

Hooked to this engine is a new adaptive seven-speed automatic transmission called the 7G-Tronic, which comes with a sports system that includes paddle shifting on the steering wheel. It shifts smoother, but engineers say the shifts are also 30 percent faster.

The second generation of Mercedes’ Active Body Control is installed to the SL550. It allows 60 percent more control of the suspension, to keep the car flat when the driving gets strenuous. The entire active suspension system and various brake assists work together to — well, they can’t change the laws of physics, but they do extend the time until they take effect. The result is to make every driver better and safer without their even realizing it.

The appearance changes are subtle. A new front air dam, front grille, revised taillamps and redesigned door-entry sills, and a new 18-inch ten-spoke wheel are the extent of outside updates. Inside, the upgrades are the materials — new high-quality leather and some new colors, including black and red, and some new toys-and-trinkets like Sirius Satellite radio and hands-free telephone capability (you have to buy the Bluetooth or Multi Handset Interface separately).

To honor the 50th anniversary of the most famous of this line, the 300SL, the North American market will get an SL Roadster 50th Anniversary Edition. Just 550 of them will be sold, and they’ll feature exclusive double five-spoke wheels, a brown leather and black ash trim interior, and a pewter-colored exterior.

Prices won’t be released until closer to the April sale date, but expect the new SL550 it to go up about a percent or so. —David Schmidt


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