- Awesome acceleration from any of the engines
- Retractable hardtop
- Ride comfort
- Fuel economy
- Doesn’t handle like a sports-car
- COMAND interface isn’t user-friendly
- Styling starting to look dated
Think of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class as a big, luxurious grand tourer with a little bit of sportscar soul, and you're on the right track.
Mercedes's upmarket roadster model returns for 2008 with four models: There's the 382-horsepower SL550, the 510-horse SL55 AMG, the V-12-powered 510-horsepower SL600, and the AMG-tuned V-12 SL65, with 604 horsepower. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL550 comes with a seven-speed automatic while all the other models make do with a five-speed automatic.
All 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models come with a clever retractable hardtop system that actually aids body stiffness. With the top down, it stows itself away in a section of the already spacious trunk, leaving enough room for weekend bags. With the top up, the SL is remarkably refined and quiet inside, with very little road or wind noise; with the top down, the SL is very well designed with little wind turbulence.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL rides like the big, comfortable grand-touring car that it is, at least in part. The ride is rather firm, yet the suspension soaks up even the larger bumps, and the body stays relatively flat in cornering. Thank the standard Active Body Control (ABC) system, which uses hydraulics to eliminate excess body motion and enhance the SL's cornering performance while maintaining ride comfort.
Although the SL accelerates and brakes very quickly and handles capably, it lacks the fast steering response and agility of other smaller, lighter roadsters. Fuel economy in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class also is among the lowest of any roadster model, at 11 mpg city for the SL600.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL doesn't disappoint inside, with rich leather upholstery and distinctive wood trims. Seats are very generously proportioned, yet firm and supportive for longer trips or enthusiastic driving. Even better are the available active ventilated seats with the multi-contour function. The screen-driven COMAND interface is unnecessarily complex, though, and out of place in a sporty car.
The AMG models add a special SpeedShift five-speed automatic transmission, larger wheels and tires, upgraded brakes, a modified suspension, sport seats, and a host of other upgrades. An AMG Sport Package brings the appearance of the AMG models to the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL550 or SL600; it includes larger wheels and high-performance tires, the AMG front air dam and rear apron, and other extras.
Standard equipment on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL is, of course, very generous, including a Smart Key system, DVD navigation, Bose Cabin Surround system, and leather heated seats even on the base SL550. Top options on the SL line include Distronic adaptive cruise control, the Parktronic parking assistant, and a panorama roof.
None of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models skimp on safety; it's perhaps the safest roadster, considering its good handling, heft, and long list of safety features, including side airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and a rollover hoop that automatically deploys if needed.