By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.0
Since the 1950s the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has defined the luxury 2-seat convertible. The new 2017 Mercedes SL remains the brand’s flagship roadster and an undeniable international symbol of success. Luxury convertibles such as the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin Vanquish Volante may be viewed as play toys for the well-heeled, but it’s the 2017 Mercedes SL that delivers more civility and everyday livability thanks to its folding hardtop and comfort-focused amenities. Even the $88,000-plus "base" model, the V6-powered SL450, is potent. If you want to make a bigger impact at the country club (with over 13 cubic feet with top up, the trunk can swallow two golf bags), there are the AMG performance models, including the V12-powered SL65 with over 600 horsepower and roughly $221,000 price tag.
Speed, luxury and style are backed by six decades of excellence and international prestige. This sixth generation of the iconic SL is all that and more. More than a car, the SL is a statement of success that coddles its occupants with amenities like massaging seats and neck heaters.
Although the new SL is fast by any definition, if you itch for a sizzler that will attack twisty roads or the track, go with the more dynamic Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type, which also offer all-wheel drive. Drivers desiring more exclusivity can look to the Bentley Continental and Aston Martin Vanquish.
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More style and more power for 2017, the new SL gets a full front-end redo drawing inspiration from its iconic race-car lineage. Also new is the SL450 model, which replaces the SL400. Power jumps from 329 to 362 horsepower and it, along with the SL550, gets a new 9-speed automatic transmission.
Despite having just two seats and offering up engines packing as much as 621 horsepower, the new Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is no sports car. It never has been. This is a...
... grand touring machine. Oh, it can go fast when you want it to, extremely fast, but the new SL is as much about luxury and comfort as it is performance. This is the car you want to drive to Las Vegas for the weekend. At 100 mph. Top down. If the razor-sharp reflexes of a racetrack-ready ride are your jam, then a Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type will be more to your liking. However, the more mature and versatile SL won’t beat you blind in the day-to-day and it can provide an engaging driving experience when a twisty road calls. The new SL's Active Body Control system virtually eliminates body roll, enhancing handling.
BITURBO V6 ENGINE
We know a bargain when we see one and the new 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL450 qualifies. For $20,000 less than the V8-powered SL550, the SL450 packs equal amounts of style and luxury. Plus a wonderfully smooth 362-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine and sub-5-second 0-60-mph acceleration.
MAGIC SKY CONTROL
Forget the name, it ain’t magic. But it’s definitely one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. At the touch of a button, this $2,500 option instantaneously alters the transparency of the new SL’s roof panel by applying electrical current, delivering sunshine on your shoulder, but without messing your hair.
A beautiful and beautifully built interior has always been an important part of the Mercedes-Benz SL’s appeal. For 2017, top-notch materials and exacting construction exceed even the highest expectations. Seat comfort is almost sinful. And the new SL is the rare 2-seat roadster for tall adults. Even with the hardtop roof in place, there's ample head- and legroom for 6-footers. Finer details include leather upholstery designed to reflect the sun. The audio system is amazing, and on the practical side, there's plenty of storage space, with 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space with the top up. That’s enough for two golf bags.
For 2017, the new Mercedes-Bens SL gets a front-end restyle, drawing inspiration from its iconic lineage. It looks better. It’s a successful marriage of modern style and timeless long-hood/short-deck proportions. Cars should be long, low and wide and the new SL is just that, despite being 10 inches shorter than its 4-seat rival, the BMW 6 Series convertible. The grille evokes the original 1950s’ Gullwing, while the contoured sheet metal, bi-xenon headlights with LED accents and fender-filling 18-inch wheels are solidly 21st century. The SL looks elegant, top up or down. AMG variants flaunt staggered 19- and 20-inch wheels and twin-outlet tailpipes.
You'd expect even the $88,000 base-model Mercedes-Benz SL450 to be generously equipped, and you'd be right. Leather upholstery is standard, as are heated 12-way-power seats with memory, and a power wind-blocker to help minimize wind-mussed hair. Also standard is Mercedes-Benz's COMAND system with navigation, Bluetooth and satellite radio running through the harman/kardon audio system. Standard on V8 models are Mercedes' Airscarf neck-level heating system, driver-selectable adaptive suspension and a hands-free system to open the trunk. Also notable are the Active Multi-contour seats with massaging function, plus heating and ventilation. The SL63 and SL65 AMG models feature specific AMG styling, badging and wheels.
There are many ways to make the new Mercedes SL more pleasing, starting with the wizardry of the aforementioned Magic Sky Control. You can also add a wonderful-sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system. One very cool feature is the Splitview center screen, which allows the driver to see navigation instructions, and the passenger to watch a movie, all on the same screen at the same time. There are also upgrades to the wood-and-leather interior trim, plus a Driver Assist Package that bundles blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and radar-based cruise control. If that's not enough, there are Designo-commissioned treatments for a bespoke experience.
The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 in the SL450 puts out 362 horsepower, while the twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 in the SL550 delivers 449 horsepower. Step up to the AMG SL63, and you're looking at a 5.5-liter 577-horsepower behemoth. If that still doesn't suffice, there's the 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 putting out 621 horsepower. As the quickest of the pack, the AMG SL65 goes 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds. The SL450, with half as many cylinders, still hits that benchmark in only 4.9 ticks. This year the SL450 and SL550 get a new 9-speed automatic transmission, while the SL63 and SL65 still use a 7-speed automatic transmission. All models are rear-wheel drive and include a start/stop function to improve fuel economy. The SL65 still tallies up a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax, though.
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (SL450)
362 horsepower @ 5,250-6,000 rpm
354 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg
4.7-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (SL550)
449 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/24 mpg
5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (SL63 AMG)
577 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
664 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-3,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 mpg
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12 (SL65 AMG)
621 horsepower @ 4,800-5,400 rpm
738 lb-ft of torque @ 2,300-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/21 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
With the introduction of the SL450, Mercedes' iconic roadster became attainable for less than six figures, but at nearly $88,000 (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price/MSRP), it's anything but cheap. Prices only scale from there, with the SL550 starting just shy of $112,000 and the AMG SL63 at over $152,000. At nearly $221,000 when factoring in the gas-guzzler fee, the AMG SL65 is among the priciest Mercedes-Benz models you can buy. Thousands more can easily be applied to these figures with options. With such a wide range of prices, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class competes with luxury and ultra-luxury convertibles ranging from the Porsche 911 to the Bentley Continental. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. The Mercedes-Benz SL's resale value is predicted to be quite poor, and at these prices depreciation costs bring the value down quickly.