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2008 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Overview
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Following a design refresh in 2007, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class receives only a couple of minor updates for 2008. The SL-Class two-seat roadster has a long history, dating back to the mid-1950s, and remains one of the automaker's most popular and coveted vehicles. For 2008, the SL-Class consists of four trims, including the SL550, the SL600, the SL55 AMG, and the SL65 AMG. The SL550 receives a new 18-inch wheel design this year. In addition, Mercedes adds premium Nappa leather to the optional Trim Package for the SL550 for '08.
The SL-Class displays a low, sleek profile, with an elongated hood and a two-piece retractable hardtop, which folds down in just 16 seconds and stows in the 10.2-cubic-foot trunk, reducing cargo space to 7.2 cubic feet. The SL-Class's prominent nose, with the Mercedes-Benz three-point star firmly planted in the center of the grille, features a low front apron flanked by dual foglights. Hunky 18-inch and 19-inch wheels give the SL-Class an aggressive appearance.
A range of powerplants, including both V8 and V12 engines, drive the SL-Class roadsters to impressive levels of performance. The SL550 jumps out from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds, thanks to its 5.5-liter V8 engine, which generates 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. The engine links to a seven-speed automatic transmission with the Touch Shift manual shift feature, and posts fuel economy numbers of 13/21 mpg.
For the SL600 roadster, a 510-hp, 5.5-liter V12 bi-turbo engine provides exhilarating power. The V12 generates an impressive 612 lb-ft of torque, and drives the roadster from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds. It links to a five-speed automatic transmission specially designed to handle the increased torque. Paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel enable drivers to shift manually. The V12 posts fuel economy numbers of 11/18, according to EPA estimates.
At the top of the line, the limited-production AMG-tuned SL55 AMG and SL65 AMG roadsters come equipped with hand-built engines. The SL55 AMG sports a supercharged 510-hp, 5.5-liter V8, while the SL65 AMG houses a hefty bi-turbo 6.0-liter V12 generating 604 hp and an eye-popping 738 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most powerful convertibles available today. The V12 propels the SL65 AMG from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds. Like the V12-powered S600, the SL65 comes equipped with a five-speed manual transmission designed to channel all that torque and direct it to the rear wheels. The SL65 posts fuel economy numbers of 11/18.
The SL-Class delivers exceptional sports-car handling, thanks to such features as Active Body Control, which adjusts the suspension at each wheel to reduce vibration, dive, and squat, and uses a series of sensors and high-pressure hydraulics to minimize body roll during cornering. The AMG versions come equipped with tighter suspensions performance-tuned by technicians at the AMG shop in Germany.
The interiors of the SL-Class roadsters provide a wide range of creature comforts, including hand-fitted leather upholstery, Burl Walnut or Black Ash wood trim, 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats, premium Harman Kardon digital surround-sound audio systems, 6-CD/DVD changers, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth with enhanced voice control. A 40-gigabyte hard-drive-based in-dash navigation system also comes standard. In addition, the SL600 includes multicontour seats with triple lumbar support, heated and active-ventilated front seats, a panorama roof, and the Airscarf feature, which blows warm air down the necks of the driver and passenger to extend the top-down driving season. The SL600 also includes a 4-gigabyte Music Register, which enables owners to store digital music and rip CDs to the in-car hard drive. The SL55 AMG and S65 AMG include such unique features as AMG leather sport seats with side bolsters, an ergonomic sports steering wheel, an AMG sport-oriented instrument cluster, and AMG brushed stainless-steel sports pedals with black rubber pads for grip.
Standard safety features include side-impact head/thorax airbags, which protect the heads and upper bodies of occupants, and a driver's-side knee bag. Antilock brakes, traction control, an electronic stability system, and brake assist also come standard. The SL600 includes the Parktronic parking-assist system, while options for the SL-Class include the Distronic Adaptive Cruise Control system, which monitors the vehicle ahead and adjusts the speed of the vehicle to maintain a pre-set following distance.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.