By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.3
With appearances in over 150 movies and a reputation synonymous with celebrity glamour, the Mercedes-Benz SL is as much an international pop-culture icon as it is a classic roadster. All-new from the tires up, the 2013 SL-Class is underpinned by a highly rigid yet lightweight aluminum bodyshell that weighs some 300 pounds less than its steel predecessor. The result is a sharp-handling hardtop convertible that holds true to its "Sport Lightweight" moniker. While few vehicles can match the SL's stratospheric level of prestige, would-be rivals like the Porsche 911, Jaguar XK and the BMW 6 Series Convertible each offer varying degrees of performance, panache and luxury. But thanks to a new twin-turbocharged V8, industry-leading technologies and improved fuel efficiency, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is poised to once again redefine the meaning of grand touring.
Well-to-do buyers in the market for a world-class retractable hardtop convertible will find a lot to like about the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. Whether your preferences run to high-performance, impeccable craftsmanship, cutting-edge in-vehicle tech, or a mixture of all three, the SL-Class will satisfy even the most discerning drivers.
While the SL63 and range-topping SL65 AMG models have enough horsepower to destroy a new tar job, hardcore automotive purists will likely prefer the superior handling characteristics and visceral sensation of the Porsche 911.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is all-new inside and out. The trio of turbocharged engines receive notable bumps in horsepower, and despite the additional thrust, fuel consumption for the 2013 SL550 has been reduced by roughly 30-percent. Mercedes-Benz has also bolstered the SL's luxury quotient, as a host of exclusive creature comforts and infotainment services combine to create a new level of sophistication for the 60-year-old nameplate.
Driving Impressions Although the new electromechanical Direct-Steer system filters out more road feedback than necessary, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL still delivers a reasonably engaging driving experience. Grip is tenacious with the available...Active Body Control system, which works to virtually eliminate body roll during enthusiastic cornering. Braking power is more than adequate, particularly so when outfitted with the race-inspired carbon ceramic setup (a $12,600 option). The adaptive suspension system provides exceptional traction and bump absorption without completely diluting the lines of communication between car and driver. The linear power delivery and seemingly endless torque of SL550's new twin turbocharged V8 make the high-performance AMG models a tougher sell than ever. Not surprisingly, the updated 7-speed automatic transmission is equally impressive on account of its well-timed shifts and smooth operation.
The 2013 SL is the first Mercedes-Benz vehicle to feature mbrace2, a 2nd-generation infotainment system that offers embedded emergency services, 24-hour concierge assistance and access to popular mobile applications such as Facebook and Yelp.
MAGIC VISION CONTROL
Designed to eliminate that split second of zero visibility created by the wide spray of traditional washer nozzles, Magic Vision Control sprays an even stream of washer fluid through – and just ahead of – the wiper blade.
In the realm of 2-seat roadsters, the 2013 SL-Class simply has no equal when it comes to sheer opulence and spaciousness. With the hardtop in place, even six-footers will find ample headroom and legroom. The cabin is laden with the type of top-notch materials and exacting construction for which the Mercedes-Benz brand has earned its reputation. Perhaps the most appealing feature inside the SL-Class is what Mercedes-Benz calls Magic Sky Control, which allows the driver to alter the transparency of the glass roof with the touch of a button. In terms of storage, the SL offers roughly 10.2 cubic feet of trunkspace, enough to accommodate a large carry-on suitcase.
The SL's innovative design takes an evolutionary step forward without compromising its heritage. Finely contoured sheet metal, prominent bi-xenon headlights with LED lighting accents, and fender-filling 19-inch wheels represent a modern take on the classic sports car aesthetic. As a purpose-built hardtop convertible, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class looks as stunning with its top up as down. The SL grants buyers significant room when it comes to personalizing the vehicle to suit individual tastes by offering bespoke options such as matte-finished paint colors and a wide variety of wheel choices.
As one might expect of a vehicle carrying a 6-figure price tag, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class comes generously appointed in "base" form. Standard creature comforts consist of the aforementioned Magic Vision Control, driver-selectable adaptive suspension, solar-reflective leather seating, a power wind diffuser, and a 10-speaker harman/kardon surround sound audio system with navigation, real-time traffic and digital music storage via an integrated hard drive. Besides their more powerful engines, the SL63 and SL65 AMG models feature exclusive AMG styling adornments along with a performance-tuned suspension, exhaust system, brakes and transmission. Safety features include a full complement of airbags and electronic stability aids, roll hoops that automatically deploy in the event of a rollover, and a new Attention Assist feature designed to audibly and visibly warn the driver when the system detects irregular driving behavior.
Highlights from the SL's lengthy option sheet include front seat massagers, a power trunk that opens by waving your foot under the rear bumper, a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, soft-close doors that essentially suck themselves shut, and the famed AirScarf system that gently blows warm air on your head and neck. Performance upgrades include the extreme handling poise of Active Body Control, a sport steering wheel and 19-inch wheels wrapped with high-performance rubber. We are, however, amazed to find such a mainstream features as keyless ignition/entry and a backup camera also relegated to the options list.
The 2013 SL550 packs a new twin-turbocharged V8 that stirs up 429 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Stepping up to the SL63 AMG gets you a larger and more powerful 530 horsepower twin-turbo V8, while the mighty SL65 AMG boasts a 621 horsepower twin-turbo V12 that churns out a whopping 738 lb-ft of torque. All SL models direct power to the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission, with AMG variants sporting a quick-witted automated manual version. In an effort to improve city fuel economy, every SL-Class includes a start/stop function that automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop.
4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8
429 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 mpg
5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8
530 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
590 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 mpg
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12
621 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm
738 lb-ft of torque @ 2,300-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/21 mpg
By Sureshot on Thursday, March 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "A beast-handling and acceleration"
Cons: "Not for winter, hard to get into"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Even with Pirelli summer tires I could get my 2003 SL55 up the slight incline into my garage with a running start especially if I turned off the ESP when there was some snow and ice in the driveway. With the replacement 13 SL550 and Bridgestone run flats summer tires, be prepared with two strong pushers and a bunch of cinders to get it back in the garage if you are dumb enough to try driving it in the winter. Also without the easy entry feature that my old SL55 had, its not too easy for the driver to get into when the top is on. Otherwise it is superior in every way to my 2003 SL55 which I owned since fall of 2003. All the electronics are up to date and look like they will be trouble free. The car is a beast as far as handling and acceleration just like my 03 SL55 but also gets 18 mpg in city driving, not 12mpg. Be sure to get the bigger AMG wheels which also come with bigger brakes. Wish it had a heated steering wheel option, but on the other hand its undrivable in the winter. All in all a great car, but not if you live in snowy climes and don't have a winter car. It will have to be stored for the winter."
5 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Dave on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "High-performance Mustang for mature driver!"
Cons: "Car requires premium gas but uses it to advantage."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"In the early 70s I owned a high-performance Mustang. Until just recently, I couldn't get a car that tickled my fancy like it did. Power to weight ratio and handling went out the window. After experiencing the SLK and then the SL 550 I can report that my humor has been restored. While not a 7 Liter car, this Mercedes is absolutely wonderful. Even my sports car driving (Miata) girlfriend is impressed, commenting favorably on the handling of the SL. One of the main benefits is improved interior room over what I experienced in the SLK. A properly designed roadster in my opinion. You will be inspected by the local Highway Patrol for your speed settings. Fortunately if you drive exactly the speed limit they don't seem to bother you. I am thankful for the precise speed gauging in the SL."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By RRinFlorida on Thursday, December 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Overall refinement, power and handling"
Cons: "Quirky design, storage and driver amenities"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Having just traded in my 2011, his is my 2nd consecutive MB SL550. The 2014 is a vastly improved car in many, may ways- it drives better, handles better, feels more solid and has more power. Candidly, the 2014 feels like a far superior vehicle and makes it almost impossible to believe that I had been driving the same car for 3 years. There are a few knocks however. First, the styling takes some getting used to. The nose of the car maintains a decidedly MB look however the rear and rest of the car feel somehow disconnected and somewhat pedestrian. The rear of the car could be almost any luxury brand based on looks alone. Next, the interior of my car has a pretty bad odor to it. From my past experiences, I realize that MB doesn't not have the typical "new car" smell but this vehicle almost smells like a drunk mechanic. I've had the car for less than a week and have an air freshener in the car which is a tragedy given the six figure price of the car. I have reached out to the dealership and am waiting for their reply. Also, the interior redesign, which is far superior to the 2011 also comes with sacrifices. Fit and finish are amazing. The ridiculous cup holders from the old model have been addressed. The seats are on a whole new level comfort-wise. However, the storage spaces are terrible. The fantastic door compartments of the 2011 are gone. Beyond the glove box, the dash has no storage. And, the center console, which was redesigned to make room for cup holders, offers a storage box that opens at the elbow, making it nearly impractical to use as a driver. It makes the day to day driving experience a little frustrating. Finally, the audio system is far superior to that of the 2011, however, the centering of the surround is WAY forward in the car. It sounds like someone is singing from under the hood directly in your face. This hinders the true magic of the new system, which includes the best bass EVER. The SL line of MB is without question their pinnacle of their brand. Driving the 2014 feels like driving a completely new type of car, which isn't a bad thing at all even if it is a quantum leap over the same car. Most of the shortcomings of the car, including the exterior design, are ones that will improve over time, however, the smell and creature comforts you expect in a car of this price are completely lacking and, at times, make me wonder if I have made a mistake in committing to a second SL."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By The Prof. on Saturday, November 30, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Incredibly comfortable, powerful & solid"
Cons: "Its cost - even though it is worth it."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The 2013 SL550 is even better than I expected, and I've been looking forward to purchasing this car for many years... and finally did it. It is a gentle beast. While incredibly powerful, it is also very sensitive. It is very touchy-feely, I feel like the car is almost alive. The electronics add to the fun. I do not think I will ever own a better, more fun to drive car. I checked out the Porsche 911, but it was too tight for me. I want to drive the most comfortable hard top convertible on the road and the SL550 is it. All my ratings are "10" except for value. That should really be "10" too, but I still can't believe it cost so much even though it IS worth it!!"
9 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By Jim B on Monday, October 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,596overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Attractive, sporty and great performance"
Cons: "Rattles and compression thumping"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"The car is attractive, sporty and performs great. However, it has more rattles that a baby's nursery and has a compression thump when traveling between 45 and 53 mph. It is frustrating to pay in excess of $100,000 for a car and have to put up with these things. And the only option put forth by the dealer is for me to come in and spend time with the shop people to point out the problems - not how I want to spend a day and it shouldn't be necessary. Between the rattles and the thumping I will likely dump the car and quit being a Mercedes fan. I have owned quite a few Mercedes over the years (Currently own an S, ML, CLK and this one.) This will likely be my last Mercedes."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By DoubleT on Tuesday, February 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "looks, ride, quality, room & technology"
Cons: "must be stopped to manually enter address on GPS"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This time I compared to a Maserati and Porsche. This is my 6th SL ... I have also had 5 Jag convertibles and a BMW 650. The Porsche had a weak engine sound, had an uncomfortable seat, no room for my golf clubs .... and while new for 2013 ... still looked like the aged porsche. The Masserati was just plain old. Sexy in appearance and sound, but reminded me of the first BMW 645. They discount these cars so the Maserati, Porsche & Mercedes were all within $5k. The Mercedes has a trunk that hold my golf back with the top down ... the distronics really works. The car is a low 4 second car to 60, but in florida, there are no winding mountain roads, so I did not rated any of the cars on cornering. The interior is great and the high tech the most intuitive of the bunch. My car has all the options including the spoiler on the trunk. What a car."
13 people out of 15 found this review helpful