The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL has one of the most glorious heritages of any new vehicle. It's the direct lineal descendent of Mercedes' legendary 300SL Gullwing supercar from the 1950s and the 300SL convertible roadster that followed it. In fact that big roadster first appeared for the 1957 model year, making this the 60th anniversary of the SL two-seat drop-top. Cars don't get much more glamorous than the SL.
The styling has been significantly overhauled for 2017 with Mercedes' current themes and details adapted to the body shell first introduced for the 2013 model year. Often criticized as somewhat awkward-appearing, the revisions visually pull weight out of the car's nose and make it appear smoother and more sophisticated. New lower bodywork along the flanks and rockers add some voluptuousness to the look too. By any reasonable aesthetic standard, this is a significantly better-looking car than before.
But it's no smaller. This is a big, heavy roadster that densely packs in almost every piece of technology that Mercedes can imagine, including a retractable hardtop roof that folds back with the push of a single button. It's not a sports car in any meaningful way, but a spectacular touring machine that's powerful in any trim level and gloriously well mannered even when pushed harder than most of its owners will ever push. It's a luxury machine where the greatest luxury is its overwhelming competence.
Mercedes offers the SL in four varieties ranging from the new SL450 powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 362 horsepower, through the popular SL550 with its twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 coming in at 449 horsepower, and up into the more powerful, AMG-tuned SL models. That's the AMG SL 63 with a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 walloping out 577 horsepower and the slightly berserk AMG SL 65 with a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 knocking out an astonishing 621 horsepower.
The SL450 and SL550 both use a new nine-speed automatic transmission. The AMG models are fitted with a higher-capacity, seven-speed automatic gearbox. Though Mercedes offers its 4Matic all-wheel-drive system as an option in its sedans and SUVs, the two-seaters still use rear-wheel drive. Mercedes' Active Body Control system that hydraulically corrects for body roll under most circumstance is available on all SL models.
Fuel economy isn't usually a primary concern for buyers in this rarefied air, but the SL carries EPA fuel economy ratings ranging from the SL450's not shabby 23 mpg combined (20 city/28 highway) to the AMG SL 65's hungrier 16 mpg combined (13 city/22 highway).
Even with high-end cars like the SL, it pays to be a smart shopper. And that means using the tools available here on Edmunds to find the right car at a great dealer.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.