Three versions of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class return for the 2011 model year, as plushly outfitted as ever, with some features that make perfect sense at first blush--and some that are a little more inscrutable.
With the former SL600 dropped, the SL is offered in SL550, SL63 AMG, and SL65 AMG trim. On each of them, Mercedes-Benz fits standard 18-inch wheels; leather upholstery; power seats; dual-zone climate control; a telescoping steering wheel; an AM/FM/CD/DVD changer with iPod integration, Sirius Satellite Radio and real-time traffic, Harman Kardon surround sound, and HD Radio; Bluetooth; and DVD navigation. Newly standard for 2011 are HD Radio and real-time traffic alerts.
Leading the hit parade of electronics is Mercedes-Benz's COMAND system. Like those from Audi and BMW, the COMAND uses a knob controller, buttons and an LCD screen to direct navigation, climate and audio functions while the driver keeps eyes on the road. The flavor of COMAND baked into the SL uses a round toggle switch instead of a rotating knob, though, which makes some actions counterintuitive--on top of the multi-action clicks you'll need to make to access simple functions like radio seek. There are more buttons on the steering wheel to work the most commonly used controls. It can be overwhelming, but with practice and experience, it could eventually be safer to operate.
Multicontour seats are optional on some models, and they're fantastically supportive if not a little distracting; air bladders inflate and deflate as you're cornering, to provide more padding. We're smitten with the AIRSCARF system, which blows warm air at neck level when the top's lowered, too. The Benz SL's roof folds out of sight, and can be fitted with a panoramic glass panel.
A special Night Edition for the 2011 model year gets distinctive black paint and leather trim, 19-inch wheels, silver brake calipers, and new seat stitching.