Mercedes-Benz 2017 SL Roadster first test


Reshaping an icon

The wealthy heritage of the Mercedes-Benz SL calls for a classy design. The 300SL Gullwing, the fragile Pagoda of the Nineteen Sixties and extra lately the fifth era R230 of the early 2000s, have been all stunners. But the present SL, on sale since 2013, is lacking a few of that class. Regardless of loosing almost 300 kilos over its predecessor, this blunt-nosed SL appears to be like bloated, slab-sided and far heavier than the outdated one.

No bueno.

For the 2017 mannequin yr, a lot of the automobile has been restyled, reimagined or just tossed. In line with growth chief Michael Scheer, the whole lot from the A-pillar ahead is a clear-sheet re-boot. The brand new fenders and the longer hood slope way more steeply towards the grill making a smooth profile. The brand new headlamps are angled aggressively, not in contrast to those on the AMG GT S—Mercedes-Benz’s prime sports activities automobile. The look is way extra swish.

A lot of that entrance finish has been altered that Scheer says they needed to re-check for pedestrian influence. Within the rear, much less work was wanted — there’s a revised bumper cowl and taillights. From nearly any angle, the look of the SL has been improved.

2017 Mercedes-Benz SL first drive Photo 27

A photograph gallery for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster.

But the enhancements to the 2017 SL lengthen deep beneath the sheetmetal. The one which receives probably the most enchancment is definitely the least costly mannequin—and one of the best vendor. Of the four,060 SL roadsters Mercedes-Benz moved final 12 months, greater than half of them had been the twin-turbocharged V6-powered SL400. So, to additional entice patrons for 2017, the brand new SL450 (which replaces the SL400) makes use of the identical engine however engineers have bumped the horsepower by 33 and torque by 15 lb-ft via a re-tuned ignition system.

The improve now requires premium gas and the ensuing 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque is channeled by means of a brand new 9-velocity computerized changing the seven-velocity unit. The 9G-Tronic made its debut within the latest CLS400 and Scheer says it presents faster shifting and is not any heavier than the previous gearbox. Gas economic system is probably going to enhance because of overdrive ratios within the transmission’s prime three gears.

The SL550 makes up 37 p.c of the lineup and it too receives the brand new 9-velocity transmission however no enhance in horsepower. Nonetheless each the V6 and V8 SLs now provide a better breadth of efficiency when homeowners go for the adjustable Computerized Physique Management (ABC) suspension system. On the outgoing mannequin, this method had modes solely for Consolation and Sport, however the brand new Dynamic Choose menu within the infotainment system has settings for Consolation, Sport, Sport Plus and Person that alter steering heft, stability management traits, throttle response and transmission shifting.

A brand new Curve perform on this menu, is designed to actively stage the SL’s suspension in a nook, eradicating a number of the aspect forces from the driving force. Curve may even tilt the automotive as much as 2.sixty five levels into the nook, primarily carving it barely like a bike. It’s the proper mode to make use of on a twisty mountain street when the first aim is to maintain from spilling your morning espresso. The suspension robotically lowers by half an inch at freeway speeds and could be raised almost 2 inches above regular if you end up driving on a street higher suited to a G-Wagen.

2017 Mercedes-Benz SL first drive Photo 23

A photograph gallery for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster.

The most popular SLs, the AMG SL63 and SL65 additionally profit from the outside redesign. However these fireplace-breathers retain the identical powertrains with no enhance in energy or torque. Hey, with 577 hp and 621 hp respectively, did they actually need any extra? The SL63 now comes customary with a mechanical restricted slip (beforehand an possibility) and the 7-velocity automated handbook transmission supplies faster shifts in Sport Plus mode. The insanely potent, uncommon and costly SL65 stays unchanged mechanically.

The inside of all SLs carry over from the earlier yr, and that’s okay. It is a very snug place to spend many lengthy hours driving. Our solely actual grievance is the navigation system. The directions are typically complicated and the tempo at which these instructions are delivered is painfully gradual. Greater than as soon as we practically missed a flip. It’s time for an replace.

2017 Mercedes-Benz SL first drive Photo 14

A photograph gallery for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster.

What’s it wish to drive?

Maybe the most important complement one might give the SL450 is that it doesn’t really feel just like the entry-degree SL. That V6 pulls exhausting and because of these twin-turbos, delivers a seamless rush of energy and torque. And it sounds nice, particularly in Sport Plus mode—the place the exhaust is raspy, imply and backfires on downshifts.

We had an opportunity to actually stretch the SL450’s legs and weave via a number of the greatest roads stretching from Orange County, California south to San Diego. The extra modes within the Dynamic Choose menu make it really feel sportier and extra enjoyable to drive. Sport Plus mode is completely tuned with fast shifts timed with nook entry and exit. The mode doesn’t rework the SL450 into an AMG automobile, but it surely does push the capabilities and, extra importantly, the pleasure of hustling an SL alongside a great street to a brand new stage. Sport Plus learns in a short time if you aren’t driving exhausting anymore — again on town streets the SL adapts to the highway situations and tempers its actions barely. It received’t have you ever reaching for consolation mode as quickly as you’re completed taking part in within the canyons. And but, while you do dial the SL all the way down to consolation, it’s as plush as, effectively, an S-Class. It’s hushed on the freeway too, the place at 60 mph the SL450 loafs together with the engine purring at 1400 rpm.

2017 Mercedes-Benz SL first drive Photo 10

A photograph gallery for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster.

However pretty much as good because the SL450 is, we all know why the SL550 exists. There’s a full 516 lb-ft of torque accessible down under two grand. Toe into the throttle from 60 mph the place the tach exhibits simply 1200 rpm, and the SL550 makes velocity with all the convenience of a Bentley Continental GT. And, just like the Bentley, there’s little sensation of that pace. Eighty mph feels extra like forty mph on this automobile.

Mercedes-Benz says that the SL550 can attain 60 mph in simply four.three seconds. That’s simply three tenths off the tempo of the V8-powered AMG SL63. And it’s additionally greater than brisk sufficient for any street we discovered. Though the four.7-liter twin-turbo V8 provides about one hundred ten kilos to the nostril of the SL, you don’t actually really feel it. The SL550 is simply as agile because the lighter mannequin. Make no mistake; these are nonetheless huge, two-ton roadsters. For a extra sporting expertise, there’s AMG.

Okay, sure, it’s straightforward to fall for the insanely fast AMG SL63 and SL65. The SL63 is the lighter and sportier of the 2. Pin the throttle from a standstill and that restricted slip works onerous to get these huge 285/30R19’s to hook up. With a slight wiggle, they do, after which acceleration is downright violent. The SL63 is an excellent machine within the tight corners, behaving like an actual sports activities automotive. And but it seems like a automobile in a distinct class than both the SL450 or SL550. The breadth of functionality is narrower. It is significantly better suited to arduous driving however the AMG fashions are more durable-edged throughout, and lose somewhat of the consolation and serenity that makes the SL really easy to dwell with.

In any case, most SL patrons don’t go for the aggressive AMG remedy. Simply seven p.c of all SL patrons select an SL63 and the uncommon SL65 makes up a mere one %. That’s simply forty vehicles per 12 months. So in the event you’re searching for the SL that might be collectible many years from now, the sixty five might be the one.

2017 Mercedes-Benz SL first drive Photo 6

A photograph gallery for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster.

Do I would like it?

Sure. To our eye, the improved SL is way prettier and higher aligned with the fashionable roadsters which have come earlier than it.  These AMG SLs are breathtaking in each means, however they arrive at a premium that’s onerous to disregard. Although pricing might be set nearer to when the automobiles go on sale in Might, the SL550 actually appears to supply a big chunk of the AMG’s efficiency for round a $forty,000 low cost. If we had barely greater than six figures to spend on a automotive like this, that’s the one we’d decide.

What’s subsequent for the SL? Scheer wasn’t about to reveal all of the mannequin’s future plans, however between smiles and some hints, he did counsel that the following SL will shed weight, seemingly by beneficiant use of carbon fiber; it may additionally return to a roomier two-plus-two seating configuration. That, after all, would make the SL a good higher grand touring machine than it already is, however extra importantly, it will put extra distance between the SL and the corporate’s AMG GT S sports activities automobile.


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