2010 Mercedes-Benz SL Class Review

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 7, 2010

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class roadsters challenge luxury grand tourers and high-energy exotics alike with stupendously powerful engines and enviable ride quality.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the latest Mercedes-Benz SL-Class roadsters and have written this road test from those experiences. Editors have compared the new Benz SL with other high-end sports cars to help you narrow your choices. Finally, editors have put together a full review of opinions and quotes from other publications to give you a comprehensive look at the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL is the German automaker's most expensive convertible-for the time being. It slots beneath the new 2010 SLS AMG in the sports car realm, in price and performance, but not by much. Offered in V-8 versions (SL550 and SL63 AMG) and V-12 editions (SL600 and SL65 AMG), the 2010 SL-Class carries a base price of $100,000 for the SL550, leaping to a stunning $196,000 for the SL65 AMG. The 2010 SL-Class roadsters compete with the likes of the Porsche 911, Ferrari California, Jaguar XK, and Audi R8.

With a styling revamp in the 2009 model year, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is no longer the chic trophy-wife piece it once was. Mercedes refashioned the SL's nose and flanks to lend it some testosterone, and it's effective. The nose has more edge and looks more chiseled, with a large single-bar grille that recalls some classic Benz roadsters while framing a large three-pointed star badge. The rear end is also tidied, and in all, the look is now more unified with the crisp new E-Class and C-Class range-not to mention the 2010 SLS AMG gullwing.
AMG versions wear deeper front air dams, a more pronounced grille, a hood with twin power bulges, and side and rear-end skirts for a distinct look. The Benz SL's interior saw less change last year; for 2010 a wood-and-leather steering wheel has been fitted to the elegant and sporty interior, along with new instruments.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL range includes four distinct models, each with unbelievable power and acceleration. The SL550 has a 5.5-liter V-8 with 382 horsepower, and in tandem with a seven-speed automatic, accelerates to 60 mph in under 6 seconds, according to Mercedes. Next up is the SL600 and its twin-turbo, 510-hp 5.5-liter V-12 and five-speed automatic; Mercedes pegs its 0-60 mph time at 4.4 seconds. Two AMG models get their own powertrains: The SL63 AMG thunders along with the new AMG V-8 worth 518 hp, teamed to an automated-manual seven-speed transmission and good for 0-60 mph times of less than 4.8 seconds. Atop the lineup for mortals is a 604-hp, twin-turbo, 6.0-liter V-12 SL65 AMG that shoves its power through a five-speed automatic and slingshots to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. All versions have a stock limited top speed of 155 mph, and all SL-Class roadsters offer paddle shifters and rapid gearchanges. There's yet another SL-the SL65 AMG Black Series-that's really a race-ready tourer with a fixed roof and a wide carbon-fiber body. In general, the AMG editions have an altogether different driving feel from the non-AMG SL-Class roadsters, with tauter tuning and quicker steering. All versions have new Direct Steer systems with better road feel, and even the AMG cars have a surprisingly comfortable, absorbent ride. Mercedes fits an Active Body Control (ABC) suspension to all versions and gives drivers control over comfort, normal, and sport driving modes. Fuel economy's fairly abysmal, with the best figures of 13/21 mpg coming with the "base" SL550.

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Common to all 2010 Benz SL roadsters is a plush, spacious interior that's an enviable environment for long-distance road trips. The cozy, well-trimmed dash wears wood, leather, and aluminum trim in warm balance. The seats are among the finest in the class, with all sorts of power adjustments, along with massage and heat functions, and the packaging gives passengers ample legroom and headroom, even with the convertible roof raised. In several experiences with the previous SL, TheCarConnection.com finds the top arrangement incredibly tight to make an interior that was quieter and more refined than most coupes. Some interior materials may seem slightly off the million-dollar mark, but mostly the SL-Class is a rich place to ride.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has tested the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class for crash safety. There are extensive standard safety features on board each SL roadster, including dual front airbags and thorax airbags that inflate to give head protection, along with a driver knee airbag. Anti-lock brakes, as well as stability and traction control, are fitted, along with a pop-up roll bar that deploys automatically in the event of a rollover. TeleAid emergency telematics are also standard, including automatic collision notification. The SL does offer parking sensors and adaptive cruise control, but other safety features such as a rearview camera and lane-departure warning systems are not available.

Each 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class roadster is plushly outfitted. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels; dual-zone climate control; a telescoping steering wheel; power seats; leather upholstery; DVD navigation; an AM/FM/CD/DVD changer with iPod integration, Sirius Satellite Radio, real-time traffic, Harman Kardon surround sound, and HD Radio; and Bluetooth. Multicontour seats are optional on some models, and the AIRSCARF system, which blows warm air at neck level when the top's lowered, is available.

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