The all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 is gearing up to hit dealer showrooms this spring after a world debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show in January. It features a new body, refined chassis and a new engine that's both more powerful and more efficient.
In advancing its iconic sports car, Mercedes-Benz has found a way to increase the luxury quotient as well, with a number of small intuitive changes that add up to a brand-new high-end experience.
New Body Design and Composition
The most recent SL-Class models were a step in the masculine direction silhouettewise, and solid sales indicate that it was a move in the right direction. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 continues that design trend but adds some polish to the coupe's look with a wider rear stance, a shorter overhang in the back and a slightly elongated nose harkening back to classic SLs of old.
The biggest change for this SL is one you can't see on the outside. For the first time in a series production car, a Mercedes-Benz will have an all-aluminum body shell. Along with other weight-saving materials, the new structure weighs some 309 pounds less than its steel predecessor.
The weight loss promises to make this new SL a more engaging drive as well as more efficient (fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 29 percent). This, despite the fact that this SL is a bigger car overall. Compared to the current car, the 2013 SL is 2 inches longer and 2.2 inches wider. Mercedes says it specifically tailored the production processes of body components according to their functions, and claims that this attention to detail will result in a more rigid, comfortable sports car than the previous SL-Class.
Greater Power and Improved Performance
Mercedes appears to be striving for performance to match the price tag in this new SL — providing greater high-end "go" for the high-end dough you'll have to shell out for it. Powering the light aluminum roadster is a 429-horsepower version of Mercedes' 4.7-liter V8. With 516 pound-feet of torque, it should be plenty fast for those who are into that kind of thing.
The twin-turbo V8 is hooked to Mercedes' 7G-Tronic automatic transmission. The seven-speed gearbox is said to have been optimized for reduced fuel consumption and improved comfort. That said, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 will still be faster than just about everything on the road, though. Mercedes claims a 0-62-mph time of 4.6 seconds for the SL550.
Keeping control of all that power will be your choice of two different suspension systems. There's the standard semi-active dampening or optional Active Body Control, both of which are paired with a bevy of aluminum suspension componentry in an effort to reduce unsprung weight.
Regardless of how you choose to suspend your Mercedes, you'll turn the wheel through a new "Direct-Steer" electric steering system. Direct-Steer controls both the ratio and the assist of the power steering according to the speed of the car, stabilizing the SL at straight-line highway speeds and decreasing both the effort and the turn-in required during low-speed maneuvers.
New Luxuries Create a New Experience
It's not the sheer number of new innovations and features that impress in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL, though there are many. It's the way they all add up that promises a refinement of the luxury roadster that should make it so satisfying.
One such feature is what Mercedes is calling Magic Sky Control. Essentially, you can get one of three versions of the SL's folding hardtop: a painted version, a glass-roofed version or the "vario-roof" with Magic Sky Control. Basically, at the push of a button you can magically make the glass go dark or transparent. This offers a wealth of possibilities, not the least of these being the option of having a fully transparent closed roof during the winter.
More magic can be found in the windshield wipers of all places. Magic Vision Control threatens to be the next big luxury car feature that everyone scoffs at until they experience it: Via channels running through the wiper blade itself, the windshield cleaning fluid is delivered in a perfectly smooth manner (across both directions of blade travel, mind you), cleaning the windscreen without even momentarily obscuring the driver's line of sight.
It may sound like a needless, frivolous knicknack, but that's half the reason you buy an SL, no? Mercedes even has a new system called FrontBass that uses the aluminum spaces in the front footwells as resonance spaces for the bass speakers, claiming clearer and more powerful output from the stereo, even with the top down. You certainly can't say Mercedes doesn't know its market.
The all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has all the usual bells and whistles, too, most of them standard. There's a system to keep you in your lane; a system that brakes automatically for you in emergencies (and can even warn cars behind you with flashing signals); a system that can automatically park the car for you if you like; and of course Mercedes' now-ubiquitous COMAND system, because heaven forbid a car should come without a laptop built into its console.
It's easy to chide these technologies or point out how much unnecessary weight they may add to the final product, but Mercedes knows its clientele. Today's luxury buyer expects everything for their dollar — every trick in the book better be in that car and it better go like stink or so help me, etc.
It's hard to have final thoughts when we haven't seen the full complement of models. As of yet there's no official word on an AMG model for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, but it's bound to come along at some point. In the meantime, there will be an "Edition 1" model offered for a short period for the early adopters and non-waiters. The Edition 1 comes with treats like the vario-roof, a sport suspension, 19-inch wheels and some swanky interior upgrades (special leather, radio upgrade, etc).
We'll all have to wait and see how it feels on the road, but the emphasis on performance capability and new features may just make the new 2013 Mercedes SL-Class more than just another pricey roadster.