10.23.2008

Mercedes-Benz SL550 Review


A lot of cars wind up on people's want lists....but only a handful inspire awe. For more than 50 years...all the way back to the original drop top version of the legendary 300 SL Gullwing, the Mercedes SL has been one of those cars.
It's difficult to imagine improving on any one of them, until the next one comes along. The jump from the 2008 SL500 to the 2009 SL550 gets you a much more aggressive front-end styling treatment, 382 horsepower (good for a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds) a seven-speed automatic transmission, multilink suspension, a huge glass moonroof (taking up virtually the entire top surface) and a new COMAND audio/nav system with Bluetooth.
The SL550 rolls on 18-inchers now...and the experience of driving one is nearly as heady as the attention you get on the street, in parking lots....well, everywhere. Within hours, I was fielding (and fulfilling) requests for demonstrations of the retractable hardtop mechanism (very, very fun to watch)...and comforting the inadequate feelings of the lady who parked next to me in a New Beetle ("It's all German engineering", I said, hoping she bought it).
Nobody buys them for this, but I'll mention that the seven-speed automatic is a gas saver...I averaged 22 miles per gallon in a mix of city street and freeway driving over the course of a week...making it the most economical (in terms of fuel consumption) near-supercar I've ever tested.
Base price? Um...$96,775. Good luck getting one out the door for less than $100,000. But if you can...it's a car that lives up to the price tag.

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