Mercedes Benz SL450 – The Worst Or The Best
Mercedes Benz SL450
Like a record player with a Bluetooth connection, the Mercedes-Benz SL is a relic from a bygone era with a modern twist. The SL has been part of the company’s lineup for more than 60 years with the same basic philosophy: a stylish, luxurious two-door with presence befitting its rich price tag. The current, sixth-generation SL was introduced in 2012 and received a facelift for the 2017 model year.
Mercedes Benz SL450 Video:
After getting our kicks in the over-the-top, V-12–powered AMG SL65 last year, we’ve now spent some time with this bottom-rung SL, the SL450. Replacing the previous SL400, the 2017 model gets more grunt to correspond with its badge uptick‚ an extra 34 horses from its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 for a new total of 362 horsepower. More cylinders are available in the 449-hp V-8 SL550, the AMG-fettled V-8 SL63 with 577 horsepower, and the top-dog AMG SL65 with 621 horsepower. But the six-cylinder SL450 moves well enough to make these higher-powered versions seem overly indulgent—which, of course, is exactly why they exist.
Mercedes Benz SL450:
Regardless, this blown V-6, which mates with Benz’s latest nine-speed automatic, is plenty special. It produces a nice exhaust burble at idle and a pleasant metallic rasp as it revs. There’s a strong swell of torque in the midrange, and the nine-speed is both intelligently programmed and quick to shift. Sixty mph arrives in a reasonable 4.5 seconds, 0.1 second ahead of the SL400 and only 0.8 second off the pace of the SL65 that boasts twice the number of cylinders and exactly twice the pound-feet of torque—for twice the price. And, not that it matters much in a high-end roadster, but the Mercedes Benz SL450 impressed us with its efficiency, achieving a miserly 31 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test.
The lighter weight of the V-6 in the nose—this 3850-pound SL450 weighed nearly 300 pounds less than the last V-8–powered SL550 we tested—also does wonders for the handling. Although it’s certainly not as nimble as a Porsche 911, the SL turns in sharply, feels supremely balanced, and carries its mass well through corners. The steering is accurate and confidence inspiring, although we wish for more road feel. Riding on Bridgestone Potenza S001 run-flat tires, staggered 285 millimeters wide in the rear and 255 in the front, the SL450 gripped the skidpad at 0.93 g and stopped from 70 mph in 159 feet—not quite sports-car territory but similar to the Lexus LC500’s numbers.
Best to Relax
Then again, we don’t expect the SL to turn in sports-car-like performance because, as always, this Benz’s prevailing character is that of a leisurely cruiser. The ride is compliant, and, with the retractable hardtop raised, the cabin is quiet and serene. Various driving modes are available, including a sharp-edged Sport+ setting that brings sharper shifts from the transmission and additional damping stiffness. But we preferred to stay in the more relaxed Comfort and slightly tauter Sport modes to preserve the plush ride quality and the powertrain’s refined behavior.
Even with its updated design, the SL deals in subtlety, lacking the flash and pizazz of cars such as the Jaguar F-type and the Lexus LC (and Mercedes-Benz’s own AMG GT). We’re divided on the freshened face, which looks more up to date than before but includes some strange shapes, while the droopy rear seems to emphasize the car’s large scale in an unflattering way. In this price range, too, we’d prefer more sumptuousness from the SL’s cabin, which looks dated and staid even compared with lower-end yet newer Benzes such as the C- and E-class. The central infotainment screen also is on the small side, although it’s easy enough to operate with the console-mounted control knob.
Finding Its Place
As much as we enjoy the SL with this entry-level V-6 engine, its price isn’t quite low enough to justify it as a bargain in this segment. Our well-equipped test car, with a $5050 Premium package and a $2250 Driver Assistance package, stickered just below the six-figure mark, at $96,075. V-6–powered F-types can be had for less, and the considerably snazzier Mercedes-AMG GT roadster, with 469 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, starts at $125,325—a realistic proposition when shopping in this price stratosphere.
The Mercedes-Benz convertible lineup is crowded, including cabriolet versions of the C-, E-, and S-class, the smaller SLC roadster, and that top-dog AMG GT. The SL, while aging gracefully, is hardly a standout among those. But current rumors suggest that there will be a next-generation SL with a four-seat layout that will effectively replace the S-class convertible, which is expected to be discontinued. Clearly, the SL is one vestige of the past that Mercedes feels is worth preserving.