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The Mercedes-Benz SL has represented the ultimate in two-seat, open-air motoring for the last 60 years. The tradition continues for 2013 with the all-new SL550, an ultra-luxury roadster with elegant style and plenty of muscle.
That muscle now comes in the form of a twin-turbo, direct-injection 4.7-liter V8 making 429 horsepower, up by 47 from last year's engine. Fuel economy is also up by 30% thanks to smaller displacement and a seven-speed automatic transmission. The taut new body is 90% aluminum, which cuts weight to about 4,000 pounds, a reduction of 400 pounds from the previous model, which was the undisputed heavyweight of its class.
On the road, the SL550 feels relatively light and nimble, yet it's packed with just about every luxury and convenience feauture that will fit into a car. High-quality materials abound in the elegant cabin and the 12-way seats are supremely supportive and inviting. Those seats are covered in leather that's specially treated to reflect sunlight. Everything is scrupulously tailored and fits just right. When pushed, the SL jets to sixty 4.5 seconds, the benefit of less weight and more power.
A power retractable glass roof with magneseum frame is standard, giving the SL the feel of a convertible even with the roof up. Buyers can opt for an electrochromic glass panel that changes from clear to opaque at the touch of a button. Magic Sky Control, as Mercedes calls it, allows passengers to enjoy sunlight and blue skies one minute and then block them out the next if things get too hot or bright. It's cutting-edge technology for sure, and only the SL550 has it for now.
Another cleverly name extra is AirScarf, a climate control system of sorts that gently blows warm air on your neck, intended for when you want to drive top-down in not-so-hot weather. Buyers who can't get enough might also spring for nifty soft-close doors and the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system. On the performance end of things, the SL550 can be ordered with beefed-up brakes, 19-inch wheels with performance tires, sport suspension, and a more aggressive steering setup.
It's been a decade since an all-new SL was introduced. The 2013 550SL appears worth the wait.
As with most cars in this rarefied air, the SL550 comes one way: loaded. In addition to the twin-turbo V8 and driver-adjustable suspension, every SL550 boasts indulgent features like 12-way power memory seats, walnust or ash interior trim, special sun-reflective leather uphholstery, steering-wheel mounted shift paddles, LED running lights, power wind deflector, and a sophisticated Harman Kardon audio system with integrated Bluetooth-enabled phone and full voice controls.
To further enhance the motoring experience, the Premium 1 Package ($4,900) adds a rearview camera, electronic parking assist, automatic trunk closer, keyless operation and starting, multicontour ventilated seats, and the Airscarf neck-level warming system. On the safety end of things, there's the Driver Assistance Package ($2,950), which features active blind spot monitoring, active lane-keeping assist, and Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control. You can also specify 18-inch, 15-spoke wheels with metallic silver finish for $1,900.
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