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2017 Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster first drive

Tuesday, 08 Mar 2016 - 12:21 pm

The rich heritage of the Mercedes-Benz SL (with Car DVD Player) demands a stylish design. The 300SL Gullwing, the delicate Pagoda of the 1960s and more recently the fifth generation R230 of the early ...

The rich heritage of the Mercedes-Benz SL (with Car DVD Player) demands a stylish design. The 300SL Gullwing, the delicate Pagoda of the 1960s and more recently the fifth generation R230 of the early 2000s, were all stunners. Yet the current SL, on sale since 2013, is missing some of that elegance. Despite loosing nearly 300 pounds over its predecessor, this blunt-nosed SL looks bloated, slab-sided and much heavier than the old one.

No bueno.

For the 2017 model year, much of the car has been restyled, reimagined or simply tossed. According to development chief Michael Scheer, everything from the A-pillar forward is a clean-sheet re-boot. The new fenders and the longer hood slope much more steeply toward the grill creating a sleek profile. The new headlamps are angled aggressively, not unlike the ones on the AMG GT S—Mercedes-Benz’s top sports car. The look is far more graceful.

So much of that front end has been altered that Scheer says they had to re-test for pedestrian impact. In the rear, less work was needed -- there’s a revised bumper cover and taillights. From just about any angle, the look of the SL has been improved.

Yet the enhancements to the 2017 SL extend deep beneath the sheetmetal. The one that receives the most improvement is actually the least expensive model—and the best seller. Of the 4,060 SL roadsters Mercedes-Benz moved last year, more than half of them were the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6-powered SL400. So, to further entice buyers for 2017, the new SL450 (which replaces the SL400) uses the same engine but engineers have bumped the horsepower by 33 and torque by 15 lb-ft through a re-tuned ignition system.

The upgrade now requires premium fuel and the resulting 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque is channeled through a new nine-speed automatic replacing the seven-speed unit. The 9G-Tronic made its debut in the recent CLS400 and Scheer says it offers quicker shifting and is no heavier than the old gearbox. Fuel economy is likely to improve thanks to overdrive ratios in the transmission’s top three gears. What about install an Android Car Gps?

The SL550 makes up 37 percent of the lineup and it too receives the new nine-speed transmission but no increase in horsepower. However both the V6 and V8 SLs now offer a greater breadth of performance when owners opt for the adjustable Automatic Body Control (ABC) suspension system. On the outgoing model, this system had modes solely for Comfort and Sport, but the new Dynamic Select menu in the infotainment system has settings for Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual that alter steering heft, stability control characteristics, throttle response and transmission shifting.

A new Curve function in this menu, is designed to actively level the SL’s suspension in a corner, removing some of the side forces from the driver. Curve can even tilt the car up to 2.65 degrees into the corner, essentially carving it slightly like a motorcycle. It’s the perfect mode to use on a twisty mountain road when the primary goal is to keep from spilling your morning coffee. The suspension automatically lowers by half an inch at highway speeds and can be raised nearly 2 inches above normal if you find yourself driving on a road better suited to a G-Wagen. If installing an Android Car Stereo in your carFeature Articles, that would be great!



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