Since a new SL Class is in the pipeline for the 2013 model year, Mercedes-Benz has trimmed this year's lineup to just two models. Either one is as plushly outfitted as ever, but some of the features are a little more logical on first blush than others.
This year, the base SL Class roadster is the SL 550. It comes standard with leather upholstery; 18-inch wheels; power seats; a telescoping steering wheel; dual-zone climate control; an AM/FM/CD/DVD changer with iPod integration, Harman Kardon surround sound, Sirius Satellite Radio and real-time traffic, and HD Radio; Bluetooth; and DVD navigation. Last year, Mercedes added standard real-time traffic and HD Radio to the bundle. The SL 63 AMG gets all of these features plus special interior trim along with its performance add-ons.
Among all the electronic fancies in the SL Class, it's the COMAND controller that will require the most study. COMAND uses a knob controller, buttons and an LCD screen to direct navigation, climate and audio functions--like similar systems from Audi and BMW--while the driver keeps eyes on the road. In this case, the knob acts like a toggle switch, and doesn't rotate, which makes some commands and actions counterintuitive. You'll find yourself making several clicks to access simple functions like a seek through radio stations. Some steering-wheel controls reduce the amount of time you spend on the toggle control, and with some practice, it becomes easier to operate, if not truly fluid.Multicontour seats are optional on the SL 550, and standard on the SL 63 AMG. Air bladders inflate and deflate as you're cornering, to provide more padding. They're a bit distracting, but fantastically supportive. We're also 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.