Mercedes-Benz's SL is the definitive luxury roadster. At home at the country club, blasting down an autobahn, or touring Italian switchbacks, the big Benz drop-top offers the joys of open-air motoring without compromising on refinement and luxury.
While the SL has always been a timeless modern-day classic, it isn't immune to the passing of time. And while the SL was hardly out of date, Benz felt it necessary to give its big roadster an update for 2017.
Changes to the new SL's styling are subtle but noticeable. Thinner headlamps with dual LED beams and a pointed front end have a far more aggressive look. AMG body accents now come standard and include a heavily sculpted front fascia, side sills and a rear bumper with integrated diffuser. Bigger side vents and redesigned wheels also add a sporting flair. An optional Night Package adds gloss black trim to the mirrors and diffusers for greater visual contrast. All SLs also get a logo projector, which beams the Mercedes-Benz crest from the side mirrors when locking and unlocking the vehicle. It was cool when the Evoque and Mustang offered it a few years ago, but it's a touch kitsch today.
After a lengthy hiatus, a six-cylinder powerplant option returns to Canadian-market SLs. The new base trim level, dubbed SL 450, features a twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 362 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque. One step up, the SL 550, uses a turbo'd 4.7-litre V8 that makes 449 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to Benz's new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission for improved performance and efficiency. Despite its "base" status, the V6 SL is hardly a slouch; Benz claims a 0-100 km/h time of 4.9 seconds, with the SL 550 shaving a further six-tenths off its time.
Buyers desiring more power can opt for one of two full AMG versions. The SL 63 AMG gets 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque, while the SL 65 AMG uses Benz's flagship 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged V12. The latter engine makes 621 horsepower and a prodigious 737 lb-ft of torque. Both use an AMG-tuned seven-speed Speedshift automatic transmission; new tuning produces faster shifts.
While the SL has always offered effortless performance, Benz continues to make operating the SL even easier. Dynamic Select allows drivers to switch between one of five different driving modes that adjust parameters for steering, engine, and transmission. The available Intelligent Drive Package - standard on the SL 65, optional on others - now receives semi-autonomous driving abilities. Benz has even automated the trunk divider, which electronically and automatically moves the divider up and down when the trunk is unlocked for easier access to cargo.
With its power-operated air deflector, available adjustable-tint panoramic glass folding roof, and heated and ventilated seats, the SL is one of the most cosseting open-air experiences around. Benz saw little need to change the two-person cabin; new instruments, a new steering wheel, LED interior lighting, and an analogue clock sums up the changes. The infotainment system has also received an update, featuring new graphics, and Apple CarPlay, but the screen itself remains 7.0 inches -- it's on the small side for the segment.
Pricing for the SL 450 starts at $104,900, with the SL 65 AMG selling for $244,400.