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Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Performance

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class impresses reviewers with its poised handling, exemplary ride comfort and strong acceleration, especially the V8- and V12-powered models. Although most reviewers agree that the SL-Class is very satisfying to drive, they remark that the steering is numb and that the SL isn't as thrilling to drive as rival sports cars.

  • "Still, the big convertible shouldn't be confused for a dedicated sports car." -- Left Lane News
  • "While we have yet to drive the new SL400 model, we can say its SL550 sibling is among the most accomplished sports cars on the road, with an abundance of acceleration, powerful brakes and exemplary handling capabilities, especially when fitted with the available Active Body Control suspension option that all but eliminates body roll." -- Edmunds
  • "Put another way, you won't get the razor-sharp reflexes of a Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type. However, a Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type don't offer the kind of no-limits luxury that you'll find in an SL-Class roadster. Besides, even with its emphasis on comfort, the SL is still an engaging driving experience when a twisty road calls." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The new-for-2015 SL400 has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 329 horsepower. The SL550 has a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 with 429 horsepower. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines. Fuel economy in the SL400 is an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg city/highway, which is on par with similar cars' ratings.

There are two high-performance SL AMG models available. The SL63 AMG has a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 that produce 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. Mercedes-Benz estimates that the SL63 AMG accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. The SL65 AMG has a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 that makes 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, according to Mercedes. Both models come with a seven-speed dual-clutch (automatic) transmission.

Reviewers write that the SL400's V6 has ample power. They say the V8-powered SL550 is very fast and both AMG models deliver stunningly quick acceleration. Reviewers add that the seven-speed automatic shifts quickly.

  • "With a twin-turbo V6 engine, it gives up very little in performance compared to its V8 siblings, but costs more than $20,000 less." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Power is nothing short of awesome when the throttle is gunned, and the uprated brakes offer strong stops. The SL65 AMG's massive V12 delivers even more power, to the point where its thundering 738 lb-ft of torque triggers the traction control during seemingly innocuous maneuvers." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "But its torque is even more impressive: The twin turbochargers increase twist from 391 pound-feet (in the previous SL550) to 516 in this new one: Hard on the throttle, the new car feels as powerful and insistent as the SL63 AMG." -- Car and Driver (2013)
  • "In the SL550 this transmission proves responsive, is geared perfectly and it matches revs when you ask for a quick downshift with one of its plastic shift paddles. No complaints." -- Edmunds (2013)

Handling and Braking

The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has rear-wheel drive and is available with Mercedes' Active Body Control suspension, which uses sensors to make real-time suspension adjustments based on road conditions. Critics agree that the SL-Class rides comfortably and has composed handling. They add that Active Body Control makes the ride even more comfortable and keeps body lean in turns to a minimum. Reviewers note that the available carbon ceramic brakes on AMG models are especially strong. A number of test drivers remark that the SL's steering is devoid of feel and that the SL-Class isn't as engaging to drive as other sports cars.

  • "The SL's Active Body Control system - available on the SL400 and SL550, standard on AMG models - virtually eliminates body roll, enhancing handling. The brakes are very good as well, and can be upgraded to outstanding with the $13,000 carbon-ceramic setup available on AMG models." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The SL is fitted as standard with an adaptive suspension that strikes an excellent compromise between ride comfort and handling agility, while an optional active body control system - that's Mercedes-speak for adaptive dampers - turns up the wick even further." -- Left Lane News
  • "Move the steering wheel and there's a calm, confident action as the nose turns in, despite an artificiality to the actual feel (the bane of electrical assistance). This shortage of real sensation might cause the driver not to reach the speed the SL can surely achieve." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "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 (2013)
Review Last Updated: 4/29/15

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