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2003 Mercedes-Benz SL Class Photo
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It’s been a cold winter in Michigan this spring, so a few days under the California sunshine seemed a perfect way for my wife and I to spend a working “vacation” a few weeks back. And the trip seemed all the more enticing when we lined up the new 2003 Mercedes-Benz SL500 for our week in Los Angeles.

This is, after all, a place that defines the mantra, “you are what you drive,” where the keys you hand the valet can determine just how long a wait you’ll have at all the right restaurants and nightclubs. And as we learned the moment we started rolling down Sunset Boulevard, the new SL has plenty of head-turning power in this car-jaded city.

Now, I must admit I wasn’t much of a fan of the last-generation SL. It was big, heavy and not all that much fun to drive. The new car is plenty stylish and, at least on paper, promised to be a lot more fun to drive. With a week behind the wheel, we intended to see if the SL500 lived up to expectations.

Points scored

A quick walk-around certainly scored some points. The new car is decidedly more handsome than the decade-old vehicle it replaced. Voluptuous is the first word that comes to mind; the ’03 is a blend of gracefully sculpted curves but the overall look underscores a sense of power and performance.

That extends into the interior, which is elegant and rich. The instrument panel is striking. It doesn’t attempt to hide its high-performance nature, but the look is more suited to Beverly Hills than the autobahn.

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