The SL550 holds the middle ground between the new V6-powered SL400 and the slightly unhinged AMG models. A turbocharged 4.6-liter V8 sends a muscular 429 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is a respectable estimated 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway achieved with a blend of conscientious engineering and focused technology, including an engine stop/start system.
The slightly bulky bodywork wraps around an exceptionally stiff chassis; both are made almost entirely of aluminum. Suspension tuning finds a keen balance between ride comfort, handling and stability. The cabin is pleasantly roomy and supremely well-tailored, and the whole works is topped off by a now-characteristic folding hardtop.
A comprehensive listing of the SL550's standard features would test the browser memory allocation of most personal computers; suffice to say that the SL550 is exceedingly well-equipped. Highlights include seats that are heated, ventilated, include a massage function, and keep your neck warm when driving top-down in brisk weather; active parking assist, which simply dismisses the age-old challenge of parallel parking; the fascinatingly complex COMAND infotainment system; and the endearingly-named Magic Vision Control, which pipes windscreen washer fluid to laser-drilled jets inside the wiper arms.
There are relatively few options or option packages, and they tend to be ambitious in scope:
- The Driver Assistance Package includes Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control, the Pre-Safe collision prediction and mitigation system, blind spot scanners, and a path-deviation detector which alerts inattentive drivers to the need to keep it between the lines.
- Night View Assist Plus uses an infrared camera coupled to the driver's information display to scan for pedestrians, deer, or other warm-blooded creatures that may be lingering along the side of the road.
- The Splitview system allows the passenger to watch a DVD movie while the driver focuses on the road.
- Active Body Control uses computer-driven hydraulics to continuously adjust suspension damping and body position.
- For a more traditional performance driving experience, the Sport Wheel Package bolts up a set of big 5-spoke AMG wheels and includes a stylish flat-bottomed steering wheel and enhanced brakes.
Other options include Magic Sky Control, which unfortunately does not actually control the sky; instead, it darkens the glass roof of the hardtop. And if that Harman-Kardon stereo is somehow deemed inadequate, an obsessively tuned Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system (12 speakers, two acoustic "lenses", 900 watts of output) is available and will hopefully suffice.
Options on an SL are more about personal preference than performing a bottom-line balancing act. Set it up as you see fit. That said, either of the headlining sci-fi-grade options -- Driver Assistance or Active Body Control -- are most appropriate additions to a technological tour de force like the SL550.
Choose your Mercedes-Benz SL550 »