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2013 Mercedes-Benz SL Class Quality

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More massive in appearance but lighter in curb weight, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL has grown longer and wider, reaffirming its mission as the "S Class of sporty cars." It's almost 2.0 inches longer, more than 2.0 inches wider, which nets it more than an inch of additional shoulder and elbow room inside.

The cabin's an inviting one, thanks to the extra room, and with the roof lowered, very easy to slide into. With the roof raised, it takes more of a mid-waist bend, but the SL's long doors feel lighter. Once in, the driver and passenger are tucked in a wood-and-leather-trimmed module glinting with softly sheened metallic trim and a glowing TFT screen at the center of the dash. A set of control pods organize basic audio controls and COMAND controls, and under a trio of upholstered flip-up lids, you'll find the USB and iPod ports and the convertible top switch. The controls are grouped logically, but aren't all marked transparently. The wide center console flares out toward inboard knees to accommodate a big pair of cupholders: score that a win for us Yanks.

Trunk space is slim, but the SL's cabin is amply sized for big adults, and fitted to a very high standard.

The SL's seats are wide and deeply scooped, with fairly flat bottom cushions that can be extended for better comfort. They're very supportive for very long-distance cruises, but still, we'd spend for the fancy versions with Airscarf neck vents, heating and ventilation, and active bolstering that inflates and deflates as the car dives into corners.

Though it's bigger and more accommodating for people, the SL's lost ground for cargo. The shallow storage area behind the seats is much smaller now, with room only for an ultrabook or two. The trunk's roughly the same size as before; with the roof raised there's room for one or maybe two roll-aboards, but when it's lowered, plan on bringing soft-sided bags--and make them gym-sized.

Mercedes' shapes and textures tend toward the cool side of the styling spectrum, but the very high levels of fit and finish can be dressed up with choices of ash or burled woods, and brightly colored leather. What's more noticeable, and emotional, in this SL is the noise it makes. The powertrain's no longer a hushed, distant piece, and when the top's down, the whistle of two turbos hard at work is unmistakable, and inviting. Meanwhile, the wind and cockpit turbulence are tamed very well; at 120 mph, a baseball hat has better than even odds at staying on a head with a low mu.

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