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2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Overview

A fixture in garages of the rich and famous for nearly 60 years, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Roadster gets a facelift, sheds a few pounds, and muscles up for 2013. Entering its sixth iteration, this 2-seat, 2-door coupe-style drop-top still boasts a lot of pop, a fully retractable hardtop roof and lots of the expected luxury features, but its once-svelte profile has been bulked up…to the dismay of some in the media and the unmitigated delight of others. It is, however, over 200 pounds lighter than the 2012 edition due to its all-aluminum construction, all while managing to tack on almost 2 inches in length and over 2 inches of width.

Some of the new-look exterior design changes gracing the latest version of this venerable roadster include a more vertical front fascia with larger headlight assemblies and state-of-the-art LED driving lights mounted closer to the road. In the rear, this next-gen roadster features a tightened taillight assembly, still keeping the traditional vaguely triangular shape, and a somewhat chunkier trunk with less rear-end overhang. Additionally, the new-look SL-Class will once more be available in two trims, the SL550, expected in mid-spring, and the SL63 AMG (from M-B’s racing division), due out this summer. Traditional competition yet again includes the Porsche 911, BMW 6 Series, Jaguar XK, Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Maserati GranTurismo—all classics, all luxurious and all just different enough for the wealthy to want one of each accompanying his or her latest SL.

With a 12% increase in horsepower and a 32% jump in torque for 2013, a direct-injected (DI), variable-valve-timed (VVT) 4.7-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (replacing last year’s non-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8) is expected to be standard in the rear-wheel-drive-only (RWD) SL550. Managed by the standard 7-speed shiftable automatic transmission, with its accompanying steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the new turbo V8 will pound down 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque for a 4.5-second 0-60 time, nearly a full second better than last year, according to the automaker. Touted as more fuel efficient and environmentally friendlier with its cylinder shut-down technology, this tweaked V8 turbo has no mileage figures yet available, but in traditional fashion, will burn only premium unleaded.

The 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that looks to grace the SL63 AMG replaces a normally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 and laps the old mill’s 518 ponies with 530 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. Again the 7-speed shiftable automatic is standard, again only RWD is offered, again no mileage figures are available and again premium unleaded is required.

Upscale appearance, comfort and convenience features are, as usual, the stock-in-trade of the SL-Class lineup. Expect 18-inch alloy wheels on the reworked 2013 SL550, with the amped-up SL63 AMG rolling on 19-inch alloys. Power-adjustable leather bucket seats grace the SL550, with sport seats, again draped in decadent leather, cushioning the SL63 AMG. Seats are heated and power-adjustable in both trims and, of course, will be complemented by power-adjustable lumbar support, driver memory features and telescoping tilt-wheel steering. Leather, wood and alloy cabin, steering wheel and shifter accoutrements drape both trims, while power features should include remote power door locks, heated reverse-tilt power mirrors and one-touch power windows that can be operated remotely. Further comfort and convenience needs are seen to by standard cruise control, dual-zone climate control and Sun Sensor automatic interior lighting and climate control adjustment, while a universal remote garage door opener ought to make life easier when arriving home after a hard day’s work or a round of golf. Entertainment, meantime, is expected to be provided by an 11-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with MP3-capable 6-CD changer and satellite radio, as well as a memory card slot and USB connector. Finally, look for an 80GB hard-drive-based navigation system to be standard in both trims, backed up by Bluetooth hands-free communications.

Options for both the SL550 and SL63 AMG are expected to run the gamut from seats that will give occupants a soothing message to Active Body Control (ABC) for greater ride comfort and steadier cornering. In between, there are such niceties as available upgraded and upsized wheels, sport brakes, a sport steering wheel and what M-B euphemistically calls Magic Sky Control, whereby the panoramic sunroof can be made more or less opaque at the push of a button. Then there’s Keyless-Go remote ignition, hands-free trunk opening/closing and a 900-watt Bang & Olufsen premium sound system that flaunts 12 speakers and 7.1 Surround Sound. Finally, there’s the available Airscarf headrest for those who may forget to bring a knitted scarf.

Safety has, needless to say, been taken care of with typical German thoroughness in the 2013 SL-Class. Along with standard 4-wheel antilock braking, as well as traction and stability control, owners can look for side-mounted airbags with head protection chambers, active headrests, turn-signal-integrated mirrors, LED daytime running lights and front fog/driving lights. Once again, xenon high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights are standard in the lineup, as are dusk-sensing headlights and Attention Assist, a system that monitors driver alertness. A remote antitheft alarm and post-collision safety system round out the more notable standard safety features, while a number of optional safety items, including a lane-keeping alert, blind spot warning system, rear-view camera and an advanced windshield washing system can also be delivered. Finally, available Active Parking Assist technology is expected to take much of the worry out of parallel parking.


Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.

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