For a base price of more than $106,000, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL 550 has every conceivable feature its well-heeled buyers will want or imagine, and two or three they wouldn't have pictured in a car just a few years ago.
Each SL has the usual standard leather upholstery and wood trim; cruise control; 12-way power seats; 18-inch run-flat tires; Bluetooth; ambient lighting; heated windshield; power tilt/telescoping steering; integrated garage door opener; dual-zone automatic climate control; and a navigation system.
The navigation system is integrated with all the SL's infotainment features via the COMAND controller, a roller-clicker knob with some occasionally arcane motivations. Programming radio favorites is a peeve-worthy process, but once it's set up, COMAND allows you to run the GPS, phone, and audio systems with the controller or with steering-wheel control buttons. That means fingertip access to satellite radio; iPod audio; HD radio; a six-DVD changer; an SD card; and 10 speakers of Harman/Kardon surround sound.
There's a pricey Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade for $6,400, but as was the case in an S550 sedan I drove just before the SL, its thin bass response--despite "Front Bass" speaker packaging in the new roadster--doesn't justify the big-ticket upgrade.
COMAND's other, more important facet is its new connectivity features. Mercedes is ushering in mbrace2, its app-driven suite of services, with this new SL, which means in-car access to Google Local Search, Yelp, and Facebook, accessible through read-back technology.
A trio of features are just nerdy enough to be cool. To keep the front glass clear, the new SL marks the debut of a new wiper system dubbed Magic Vision Control. The fascination with "magic" aside, the wiper uses special blades with channels that spray fluid ahead on the glass, in the direction of their travel, to keep the glass clear outside of the cleaning path. The system's laid out so that the fluid's warmed before it's dispensed, and aero-tuned so it doesn't fly over the windshield onto perfectly styled hair, Tabatha Coffey be praised. There's a photosensor in the bumper that triggers the small trunk to open, with a wave of a foot below--and closes it with a similar motion, too. And the SL now has electric power steering, which means it now can be had with active park assist--press a button, and it steers itself into a tight spot while you man the brakes.
Options we'd choose include the active multicontour seats that inflate selectively as you corner briskly; they're in a package with Airscarf, a rearview camera, and pushbutton start. An analog clock and wood steering wheel are relatively inexpensive, as are 19-inch wheels and sport brakes, but while you're forgetting the BeoSound, consider leaving the $4,090 Active Body Control off the order sheet too, since the basic suspension is quite comfortable and well-tuned.
Of course, the SL's hallmark feature is the power-operated top that cycles up or down in 20 seconds. Mercedes offers the top with a glass roof panel or with Magic Sky Control, which sounds like a Summer of Love warm-up act, but is actually photochromic control that dials in more or less tint, as the passengers require. It's the world's most seductive set of Foster-Grants, and a perfect tag-teamer with the standard power wind deflector, and optional Airscarf neck vents and heated and ventilated seats.
On the SL 63 AMG, the upgrade to get is the $9,000 Performance Package. You'll get bright red brake calipers, a Torque Vectoring Brake system that makes you more surefooted in tight corners under power, plus a bump in turbo boost from 14.2 psi up to 18.5 psi--boosting power to 557 hp and 664 pound-feet of torque, along with a top speed of 186 mph.