I have been fortunate through the years to own a lot of premium sports cars and the SL was not one of them or even on my "Top 5" list. This time around, my "wants" changed, with comfort, amenities and room as a top priority. Because of the new SL's aluminum construction and bi-turbo V8, it was added as a possibility. After driving everything else out there, I finally drove a new SL. It's agility, raw power and amenities were surprising, but the exterior lines seemed disjointed. UPDATE 11/2016 This car has not disappointed me in any way. It has been problem free, and its performance limits are beyond anything I had expected. I replaced the wheel and tire package with aftermarket 20" wheels and non run flat tires. I also added the factory rear spoiler. I hate run flat tires which come with the car, and the new wheels and spoiler give the car a more performance look. I have owned many nice cars in the past, but this car has definitely exceeded my expectations. I bought the SL, added custom wheels and the rear factory spoiler and I am very pleased. These additions seem minor, but they changed the entire look of the car and I am pleased.
I own the 2013 SL550 with basically all options ( except the Bang & Olufsen sound system upgrade). My car has the Harman Kardon standard sound. To be honest the sound is mediocre at best, I was expecting much better from a 6 digits car. I like to drive and enjoy a good sound and the Harman Kardon seem to missing bass response, the subwoofer seems under powered and all the sound comes from the front of the car. I even took the car to Mercedes to have a sound check and they told me my system was up to specks. Except for the sound, however, I am quite happy with the car. The torque is fantastic! Steering is not as precise as a 911 but the car does not want to be a sport car, it is a very conformable cruiser and is quite enjoyable even at slow speed. I had a 2010 M3 before and that car was no fun at everyday speed. UPDATED REVIEW 6/19/2017 I took the car to Mercedes dealer to figure out if there was something wrong with the sound. After checking the car for 2 days they told me the car sound system was fine. (Actually I had the impression they treated me as I was crazy! ) At that point, I tried on the internet if there was an explanation. I found this explanation "The sound is surround sound and the rear speakers don't produce much sound unless listening to a DVD-Audio disc and there is no front to back volume adjustment. Without a DVD-Audio disc ( a defunct system) I the sound is unacceptable, with too much volume coming from the front speakers. " So I realized the sound was tuned to DVD Audio : I follow the remedy I found on the web and added a separate rear speakers amplifier and a subwoofer and the sound is now great. But it was really disappointing that Mercedes tuned the sound of one of their flagship cars so poorly and without giving guidelines for a remedy.
The strength of the SL is that is sort of like a 2 passenger GT Touring luxury vehicle. Compares with Maserati, Jaguar XK, & BMW 650. This car is the peak of technology and easy to learn. Holds two tour golf bags in trunk with top up and one with top down. The negative is that the look is getting a little boring. Even though it is different from the 2012, it is only slightly different. Inside is major, outside is not. I ding the value on this car, not because it is not the best of its competition, which it is, but because they lose so much money the first year. Outside of that, the car does so much more than its competitor and does the more excellently.
I was approached not long after purchasing the SL by a gentlemen who has owned a good number of exotic and sports cars. In his words, "the SL is what all cars want to be when they grow up". I could not agree more. You may find a sportier car or two, a better looking luxury car, or a car that covers great distances in extreme comfort; but the SL does all of that, and more. This car loves to eat road, top up is like a coupe; solid and silent. Top down is like, well, a high performance convertible. The SL has become our grand touring car and it has proven itself to be most worthy in every instance. We went the CPO route, which lessens the pain of the check book, but provides solid Mercedes warranty and support. Drive the other contenders, then drive an SL. It continues to amaze with it's power, torque, ease of operation, and rock solid build quality. And while the looks may be contentious to some, this car draws admiring looks in even the most discerning crowds. It does not disappoint.
If you are a Mercedes enthusiast and considered buying an SL550 for your retirement years, don't hesitate but choose the 2013 or newer. The improvements with this new redesign starting with the 2013 are well worth the extra it costs. It is a fantastic car and worth every penny. I have no regret purchasing mine and plan to keep it as long as I can drive, and then park it in the garage and just look at it.