2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Performance
This performance review was written when the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class was new.
Thanks to a new engine, the redesigned 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 is packing more power under its hood than it ever did before. While some critics dislike the SL550’s steering, most say that if you’re looking for a sports car that’s powerful and refined, as well as nimble and comfortable, the new SL550 is tough to beat.
- "What is it like to drive? Like a well-balanced, well-appointed rocket ship." -- AutoWeek
- "The car comes across as laid-back but unruffled on narrow winding roads." -- Car and Driver
- "The SL's smoothness will have you driving 20 mph faster than you think you're going on highways, while you check yourself at 6/10ths on winding roads." -- Motor Trend
- "We were on miles of narrow mountain roads with lots of scree spread about. What you love here is the ability to scramble along these nasty roads with confidence." -- Road and Track
Acceleration and Power
Just one engine is available in the 2013 Mercedes SL550: a 4.6-liter twin-turbo V8 that generates 429 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 to 3,500 rpm. The engine is connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and Mercedes estimates that the new SL550 will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. In general, auto writers report that the 2013 SL has more than enough power, but the SL550 also earns points for its smooth, refined transmission.
According to the EPA, the 2013 SL550 gets 16/24 mpg city/highway. That’s a 2 mpg improvement in both city and highway driving over the outgoing model. A stop/start feature has also been added to help the SL550 conserve fuel. One reviewer disliked this feature, saying he wished you could permanently disable it.
- "With the seven-speed automatic, ratio changes are extremely smooth, and the sounds tell you what you can't really feel since there are no abrupt changes of thrust as the car accelerates -- smoothly, to 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds." -- Automobile Magazine
- "It is strong from launch thanks to the healthy dose of torque served up between 1,800 rpm and 3,500 rpm. This is serious twist, the kind you feel in your seat as the car shoots forward." -- AutoWeek
- "The familiar seven-speed automatic splits up the engine's torque well, offering comfort and sport modes in addition to a manual mode for changing gears via shift paddles." -- Car and Driver
- "We can complain, however, about the SL's annoying stop/start feature, which turns off the engine to save fuel at red lights and when the car stops moving in thick traffic. It can be disabled with the push of a button (marked ECO), but it must be manually disabled every time you jump behind the wheel. This is also annoying. Sorry, but we don't want to be annoyed by our $100,000 roadster." -- Edmunds
- "The engine pulls ferociously enough to make me wonder why anyone would want/need the next SL AMG." -- Motor Trend
- "Mercedes says the 2013 SL hits 62 mph in 4.6 seconds. The car feels that fast, pausing just a hint before the turbos come in and you're off again...hard to not do that every so often just for the fun of it." -- Road and Track
Handling and Braking
Reviewers agree that the new SL550 has a super-comfortable ride, but it’s also extremely agile if you throw it into a corner. However, some say that its steering lacks the connected road feel of rivals like the Porsche 911 Carrera.
- "The ride is amazingly comfortable, worthy of a limousine yet dead flat and free of any hint of wallow or sogginess." -- Automobile Magazine
- "Toss it into a corner? The SL is game." -- AutoWeek
- "The optional adaptive suspension never firms up to metal-bushing levels, which is as it should be, though load changes in fast corners provoke as much body roll as in a Jaguar XK or Aston Martin Vantage." -- Car and Driver
- "The SL's steering ratio is spot-on and road feel is good, but the consistency and levels of assist are not. It too often feels synthetic. And there's the occasional moment when it feels video game-y." -- Edmunds
- "Its electric-assisted power steering, which Benz somewhat cynically calls Direct-Steer, is a speed-sensitive system that on occasion did some funky speed sensing in its transitions. Otherwise, it's too seamless, providing no feedback in virtually every condition." -- Motor Trend
- "Handling? Let's be honest: There's no way anyone short of a professional race driver could exercise the SL550 on public roads without being a nuisance." -- Road and Track