Used 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class roadster provides a beautifully executed blend of luxury, technology and performance, even if its styling may be an acquired taste.
What's new for 2016
Like a high-dollar diamond, you'll have to look long and hard to find flaws within the 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. It's certainly not perfect, and definitely not as pretty as a girl's best friend, but it shines so brightly from every imaginable facet that any issues worth mentioning seem reduced to mere quibbles.
For starters, there's this Mercedes-Benz roadster's three-piece retractable hardtop that offers your choice of a snug refuge from the world outside or al fresco motoring at the touch of a button. Either way, you'll find a surprisingly roomy two-passenger cabin dressed up in the finest materials and available with an abundance of features designed to pamper and delight you, from the active multi-contour seats and AirScarf neck-level heater to the Bang & Olufsen sound system and Magic Sky panoramic roof that can be turned from clear to opaque with the flip of a switch.
Then there are the SL's four available powertrains, ranging from a robust 329-horsepower V6 to a mind-blowing 621-hp V12. There's no lack of impressive technology here, too, including a set of adaptive dampers known as Active Body Control that can virtually eliminate body roll even in enthusiastic cornering and provide a pristine ride the rest of the time. And indeed, "the rest of the time" is when the SL is really meant to excel — it's ultimately more of a grand tourer than a sports car.
Not surprisingly, there is any number of different but equally appealing automobiles from which to choose in this price range. Buyers who'd like their luxury served up with a heaping helping of performance would do well to add the 2016 Audi R8, 2016 Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 911 to their must-test-drive list. For the price of the top-of-the-line SL65 AMG you could even consider the Bentley Continental GT.
Even up against this lust-worthy and diverse competition, however, we think you'll find the 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is as near-flawless as an automobile can get.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is a two-seat, retractable-hardtop convertible offered in four trims: SL400, SL550, AMG SL and AMG SL65.
The SL400's list of standard features includes 18-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, adaptive xenon headlights, automatic high-beam control, front and rear foglights, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers and power-folding hardtop with a full-width glass roof panel. Inside you'll find dual-zone automatic climate control, sun-reflecting leather upholstery, heated eight-way power seats, four-way lumbar adjustment, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a power-operated wind deflector, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control.
Technology features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the COMAND electronics interface, mbrace emergency communications (see Safety section), a navigation system and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a CD player, satellite and HD radios, and a media player interface.
The most notable option on the SL400 is a Premium package that bundles a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, a hands-free power trunk closer, an automatic parallel-parking system, the AirScarf neck-level heating system and 12-way "active multi-contour" seats (include ventilation, massage and adjustable side bolsters and shoulder supports).
The SL550 includes all of the above, and adds a V8 engine and front and rear parking sensors.
Both the SL400 and SL550 are also available with a Sport Wheel option package that includes 19-inch alloy wheels, larger front brakes with painted calipers and drilled rear brake discs, plus a sport steering wheel accented with perforated leather trim and shift paddles.
The high-performance AMG SL features an even more powerful V8 engine, a limited-slip rear differential, 19-inch alloy wheels, a more aggressively calibrated adaptive suspension, upgraded brakes, a sport exhaust, a higher top-speed limiter and special styling elements. The cabin gets upgraded leather upholstery, a sport steering wheel, an IWC "Ingenieur" dashtop clock, carbon-fiber interior trim and an AMG Performance Media system that can display G-forces and other related information.
Available on the SL400, SL550 and AMG SL is the Driver Assistance option package that includes adaptive cruise control, an active blind-spot warning/assist system and a lane-departure warning/intervention system. Other options include "Magic Sky Control" (darkens the roof's glass panel tint at the touch of a button), soft-closing doors, a night-vision infrared camera system, a split-view front entertainment system and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
The top-of-the-line AMG SL65 gets a V12 engine, 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels and the above optional content.
Both the AMG models can also be optioned with an exterior Carbon Fiber Trim package that includes a carbon-fiber front airdam, mirror covers and rear spoiler. The AMG High-Contrast Styling package includes distinctive 19-inch front and 20-inch rear alloy wheels, a gloss black hardtop and rear spoiler, black chrome exhaust tips, and unique interior trim. Carbon-ceramic high-performance brakes are also available on the AMG models.
Any SL-Class can also be equipped with Designo special-order paint colors and leather upholstery.
Performance & mpg
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL400 is propelled by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels. An automatic engine stop-start system to help save fuel is also included. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway), while we achieved an impressive 26.5 mpg on the Edmunds evaluation route. In Edmunds performance testing, the SL400 went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 4.9 seconds.
The SL550 gets a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 that puts out 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. It has the same transmission and auto stop-start system as the SL400. The SL550's EPA numbers are a still decent 20 mpg combined (18 mpg city/25 mpg highway), and in Edmunds testing, it accelerated from zero to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.
Powering the SL AMG is a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that pumps out 577 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a specialized seven-speed automatic with quicker shifts than the standard version. The EPA rates the SL at 19 mpg combined and we achieved 19.9 mpg on the Edmunds evaluation route. It hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds.
Finally, the SL65 AMG comes fitted with a turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 that's rated at an impressive 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, mated to the same specialized seven-speed automatic transmission. In Edmunds testing, the SL65 AMG sprinted to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. EPA fuel economy ratings drop to 17 mpg combined.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class include antilock brakes with automatic brake drying, stability and traction control, head- and thorax-protecting side airbags and knee airbags. Also standard are automatically deploying roll bars and a driver inattention warning system. A rearview camera is optional on the SL400 and standard on all others. Also standard is mbrace2 emergency communications, which includes automatic collision notification, an SOS button, stolen vehicle location, alarm notification and remote door lock/unlock.
The main safety option on SL models is the Driver Assistance package (standard on the SL65 AMG) that includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, active lane-departure intervention and active blind-spot intervention, both of which can automatically intervene if the driver fails to act.
In Edmunds brake testing, every SL-Class stopped from 60 mph in between 108 and 114 feet. This is excellent, but expected for high-end cars with summer tires.
While the long list of techno-gadgetry and top-quality materials go a long way to bolstering the Mercedes SL-Class' "yes, you can have it all" image, driving this luxury roadster seals the deal.
To say the SL400 provides sufficient acceleration would be an understatement. Hitting 60 mph in fewer than 5 seconds is quite impressive for something deemed "entry level." The added torque and refinement of the V8-powered SL550 are still worth considering, however. Regardless of engine, the SL rewards you with powerful brakes and exemplary handling capabilities, especially when fitted with the available Active Body Control suspension option that all but eliminates body roll. Perhaps more remarkable is the fact that in normal everyday motoring, the SL's smooth ride and sophisticated transmission give it an air of relaxed refinement that is decidedly uncommon in cars with this much performance potential.
As for the two flagship AMG models, there's no question that their racier profiles and epically powerful engines make them more desirable in an over-the-top kind of way. But because of their size and weight, neither offers the same degree of agility and engagement offered by other similarly priced high-end sports cars. As such, we think the non-AMG models better encapsulate the SL's grand touring mission while still offering all the performance anyone could ever make use of in normal street driving.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class interior offers generous head- and legroom, which is something that can't be said for most two-seat convertibles. The seats offer a wide range of adjustability and only get better with the available multi-contour seats that add a cushion extender and adjustable bolsters. Plus, sun-reflective leather and available ventilation will keep your backside cool on warm days, while heated seats and Mercedes' clever AirScarf that blows warm air across the back of your neck will keep you toasty on cool nights.
The SL is also a study in efficient use of space. Case in point is the plethora of gee-whiz gadgetry that's been shoehorned into the cabin without drowning the interior in a sea of buttons and switches. Instead, most settings are accessed via the COMAND system's console-mounted knob, which is used to scroll through feature menus on the 7-inch screen. Note, however, that although the SL has the latest COMAND software featured in more recently introduced models like the C-Class, it lacks the added functionality of its touch-sensitive control pad. That's coming to next year's SL-Class.
The trunk offers a respectable 10.2 cubic feet of cargo room with the roof up and 7.2 cubic feet with it lowered. Both are very good for a convertible. For items you'd prefer to keep close at hand there's also a good amount of storage space behind the seats. One practical touch is the trunk's power opener that can be activated even if your hands are full simply by waving your foot beneath the rear bumper.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.