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The 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL is on the warning track: with a new roadster on the way and an SLS AMG gullwing already in the lineup, there's little changed to the two-seat roadster for the new model year.
Bless the built-in corporate stability control for that, because the SL is a stupendous piece, its enviable ride quality topped with huge dollops of torque and cloaked in a body that's going to look great five or fifty years down the road, as almost all Mercedes convertibles do.
While it isn't as chic as some exotics, the SL acquits itself extremely well in performance. The SL550 bridges the gap from Jaguar XK territory into Ferrari California range; the SL63 AMG is the pinnacle of the SL's ability, faster than an Aston Martin Vantage and not far off the mark set by the Porsche 911. (A Nissan GT-R will trounce it, but to be fair, it'll backhand some sport bikes, too.)
Like only a few other cars with a similar mission, the Benz SL has a very roomy cabin. But like almost all super sportscars and roadsters, the carry-on space gets beaten by a single overhead bin on a Canadair jet.
Feel free to spend up to $200,000 on an SL65 AMG; our favorite is the relative bargain SL63 AMG, for its time-warping acceleration and its multi-contour seats and an amazingly tractable ride. No matter which you choose, there's always AIRSCARF, which deserves some kind of Nobel of its own. Anything that keeps the top down longer, and more frequently, is an inspiration all its own.
- Amazing long-distance cruiser
- Stunning performance in every one
- Fab seats
- AIRSCARF's warmth beats all-caps rudeness
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- Big and heavy for a two-seater
- Luggage space is at a premium
- So, so expensive