Is there anything more classic than driving around on a gorgeous summer day, top down in a Mercedes SL? It’s car nirvana. Everyone’s dream luxury roadster continues to hone its craft with a number of enhancements for the 2017 model year.
A revised front end with standard LED headlights, a more powerful engine mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission, the inclusion of DYNAMIC SELECT driving modes, enhanced levels of connectivity and convenience features and expanded semi-autonomous driving technology, the newly named SL450 is the gateway SL and it’s everything you could want from an opulent 2-seat convertible.
Now in its 6th generation, the SL has a venerable lineage dating back over 60 years. Abbreviated for Super Light, the SL is the model our minds imagine when thinking about Mercedes-Benz. Long since a favorite of mine, this updated 2017 model enriches the SL experience. A rise of 34 horsepower from the 3.0-liter biturbo V6 takes output to 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque resulting in a quicker, sub-5-second 0-to-60mph time. Mercedes introduced this engine a couple of years ago and it’s my first time in a V6-powered SL and let me tell you, I’m not at all longing for the V8. The exhaust burble is surprisingly convincing and becomes richer as you climb through the drive modes. This includes a nearly silent ECO setting. But Sport + is where it’s at when you’re done relaxing, adding tension to the drivetrain, heft to the steering, tautness to the ride and off-throttle cackles through the exhaust. But it’s this car’s glued to the road handling combined with its telepathic steering precision that amazes me most, satisfying the driver in unexpected ways. Lending to that sensation are the Dynamic Multicontour Seats which apply lateral pressure to the side bolsters counteracting the physics of taking a tight turn…one of my favorite features. These staggered width 19” Pirelli P Zeros have never felt better and just like the car itself, play both ends of the luxury sport gamut with perfection. The 9-speed auto always does you right and includes a manual setting for paddle shifted fun. And the brakes stop this aluminum-intensive roadster with great pedal feel and authority, belying its 3,800lb. curb weight. Top down with the windscreen employed, the cabin is as turbulent free as you’ll find. And of course, there are heated and cooled seats, and the awesome AIRSCARF neck-level warmers for cooler, top-down days. My tester even adds various massage programs for a spa-like environment.
I think there’s a misconception about that the SL that’s a not a true sports car; hogwash. The reason it’s a hundred grand is that it has a huge dynamic range, from the softest, most comfortable roadster you’ve ever driven to a growling, handling beast and that’s with this V6 model. AMG variants take it farther. And it’s fun no matter which end of the spectrum you’re at.