Reviews

2017 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Driving Impressions


It seems weird, and it’s almost difficult, to say that the 362-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 is the slow sister of the SL-Class. What we think we should responsibly say is, for crying out loud, it brings plenty of sweet speed (and 369 pound-foot of torque!), so the other engines are overkill, unnecessary beasts. In fact, if anyone says that, we won’t argue one bit. If this twin-turbo V6 isn’t enough engine for you in this gentleman’s roadster, then you’re an unnecessary beast yourself. Or at least a dinosaur. Or maybe someone who simply wants a civilized Viper. Which is where the AMG SL63 with the bigger V8 would come in.

Fact is, the SL450 feels nearly as quick as the SL550 with its V8. Not only that, it sounds more strident, if less throaty. You have to want the basic nature of a V8 to prefer the SL550. That said, the V8 power characteristic maybe best fits the touring character of the SL. The SL550 lopes along in a refined manner. However we observed some uncouth behavior and low speeds and easy throttle, which we blame on the 9-speed transmission, or more precisely, the transmission/engine combination.

We haven’t driven the V12 SL65 yet. Maybe it’s a good thing. We might say something bad about overkill. Or we might totally contradict ourselves and say if you’re going to have an SL-Class, you only should have the ultimate, a V12.

As for handling, the SL-Class feels secure as a vault as it rolls down the road. There are five Dynamic Select modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual). Sport mode isn’t particularly firm, but it handles sweepers with grace. The electric power steering isn’t engaging like a sports car, but it’s stable on center and gets quicker off center.

We actually prefer the standard suspension over the sophisticated Active Body Control, or at least we did in the 2016. Mercedes-Benbz has made some meaningful changes to the way the SL-Class rides and handles for 2017. We haven’t driven a 2017 SL-Class car yet.

ABC is a full active suspension system, controlled by hydraulics and capable of adjusting its parameters in milliseconds. It helps erase lift during hard acceleration, nosedive during hard braking, and body roll during hard cornering. The 2017 version includes a Curve Tilting function that helps the car lean into corners up to 2.65 degrees, as a motorcycle rider would, to reduce lateral Gs within the car.

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