2011 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Performance
This performance review was written when the 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class was new.
In terms of handling and acceleration, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL can’t match the Porsche 911 Carrera, a highly regarded luxury sports cars, but most reviewers are satisfied with the amount of power available with the SL’s V8 engine, saying it provides a smooth and comfortable ride. However, the SL receives more negative comments from reviewers who think its handling and braking capabilities aren’t as good as they could be.
- "This car is a cruiser and a damn comfortable one at that. The only thing I can really complain about is probably because of the wide high-performance Pirelli tires. In the wet and over-rutted roads, the car gets sucked in and kind of jiggles you around in the driver's seat a little." -- AutoWeek
- "How you experience driving a 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class depends entirely on which model you choose… the steering and Active Body Control systems produce a much better performance car that's more in tune with the driver's intentions than prior standard SLs." -- Edmunds
Acceleration and Power
Despite its V8 engine – something that isn’t available on the highly regarded Porsche 911 Carrera – the 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL isn’t the most powerful or sportiest option in the class, but test drivers say its powertrain will provide more than enough juice for city drivers. The base SL550 comes with a 5.5-liter V8 engine that makes 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. This engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Super luxury sports cars aren’t known for stellar fuel economy ratings, but compared to the rest of its class, the SL’s ratings are low. It gets 14/22 mpg city/highway, which isn’t dismal, but it is less than what the Porsche 911 Carrera cabriolet and Jaguar XK’s ratings. They average 19/27 mpg city/highway and 16/22 mpg city/highway, respectively.
The Mercedes-Benz SL is also available as a 63 AMG and a 65 AMG, which are reviewed separately. These models are super powerful and super pricey. The nearly $140,000 SL 63 AMG produces 518 horsepower with its V8 engine, and the nearly $200,000 SL 65 AMG’s V12 pumps 604 horsepower.
- "Most should happily settle for a base SL550, because even this entry-level model is crammed with 382 horsepower, a veritable catalog of cutting-edge technology and touches of luxury that might be expected only from an expensive options list." -- Edmunds
- "There's plenty of power here, too. I can remember driving an SL with the twin-turbo V12 in the SL600 and it's a hoot. But really, this is plenty of power right here." -- AutoWeek
- "The engine makes a sporty but refined growl while accelerating. Some exhaust noise is always present, but it's never annoying." -- Consumer Guide
Handling and Braking
As you survey the luxury sports car class, you’ll notice two types of cars: ones that are designed with comfort in mind and ones that are designed for performance. The Mercedes-Benz SL falls into the comfort category. Most reviewers like its cabin space, but aren’t impressed with its handling and braking capabilities. They note that the SL’s brakes aren’t as responsive as they should be – especially at this price range.
If you’re in search of a model with impeccable steering control and precise brakes, try the Nissan GT-R and the Porsche 911 Carrera. Both cost considerably less than the Mercedes-Benz-SL. The GT-R costs about $90,000 and the Carrera costs about $79,000. They’re also the best performers in the class. Of the two, the 911 Carrera is the most luxurious option.
- "SL never feels truly agile, though it corners with linear steering and little body lean. Good stopping control is marred by soft pedal action." -- Consumer Guide
- "The ride/handling balance is probably the most impressive thing about it. There's little body roll and yet potholes and such are handled with no jarring through the steering wheel or the cockpit. The ride isn't soft and it isn't hard. It's as close to perfect as $114,000 will get you." -- AutoWeek