Mercedes-Benz’s iconic convertible rarely receives major redesigns, but the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class sees its first complete redesign since 2003. The purpose of the SL-Class has not changed with the redesign, as the intent of the vehicle is to provide a sporty yet luxurious ride with plenty of performance capabilities all wrapped up with a convertible hardtop. The SL-Class’s reputation for being a sporty convertible continues with upgraded engines and a new transmission.
New For 2013
Front to back, top to bottom, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is all brand new this year. A smaller engine produces greater output, but provides better gas mileage. The interior stays close to the same, but still sees some updates. The exterior gets remolded and gets a few new lines and curves, as well as a new front end.
The exterior of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is clearly different from the 2012 version from any angle. The rear has been tightened up a bit and the taillights have been redesigned for LED lighting. The side profile is similar to past models, still dominated by the lengthy front end. The front is vastly different, with taller fender vents that are split in half by chrome fins, and the grille is larger and upright, with two large headlights that are also upright, unlike the old L-shaped headlights that went along the upper fender. The overall look is more upright and masculine than the previous iterations with more lines. This is somewhat divisive, as it also seems less classic than the previous designs and less likely to stand the test of time.
Interior & Cargo
The inside of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is well appointed and comfortable for two, with plenty of leather, chrome and wood. The leather seats are incredibly comfortable, and one option treats the driver to specific zones in the seat subtly inflating and deflating to accommodate for curves to keep the passenger comfortable. Standard equipment includes cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a navigation system. The navigation system is also host to the SL-Class’s COMAND controller, a useful yet often confusing nerve center for many of the optional features. One really nice optional feature is the AirScarf, a feature that blows warm air on the back of the neck of occupants when the convertible roof is down. The trunk has a reasonable amount of space, ten cubic feet with the top up and an amazing seven cubic feet even with the hardtop stowed.
Mercedes-Benz has had a reputation for building extremely safe vehicles, and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class will do nothing to tarnish that. The long list of standard safety features includes front, side, and knee airbags that activate in an accident, as well as pop-up roll bars that activate when the SL senses a rollover incident. The SL-Class also has a number of accident avoidance and prevention measures that are standard, including anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, daytime running lights, active headlamps, Bluetooth connectivity, and Attention Assist, a system that senses when the driver becomes drowsy and signals them to pull over. While this is all standard, there are also some great available safety features, although one must wonder why they aren’t standard on a vehicle in the price range of the SL-Class. An available safety package also provides a rearview camera with parking sensors and park assist, which allows the car to essentially park itself. It also provides active cruise control with lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitors.
With the new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class model, the SL returns to the roots of the class name, which stands for ""sporty"" and ""lightweight."" The prior generation of the SL was sporty, but nowhere near lightweight, and the performance suffered. The new SL benefits from a number of major changes. To start with, the entire chassis is made of aluminum, allowing for a drop of nearly 300 pounds of weight, bringing the SL below two tons. Through recently introduced advanced methods of casting and welding, the aluminum is also able to provide a stronger structure that allows for better performance and keeps the convertible from the unfortunate mushy handling that they are apt to suffer from.
The new engine and transmission combinations make the experience even more entertaining, as Mercedes-Benz makes use of new technology. With a new 4.6-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 and a seven-speed, automatic transmission, the SL550 gets a massive boost in power while also getting better gas mileage. The 429-horsepower engine puts out 516 lb-ft. of torque and moves the SL550 from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, a full second less than the previous engine. The SL63 AMG model has a larger engine, the 5.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8, and puts out an additional 101 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque that cuts a little less than half a second off of the zero-60 time. Finally, the SL65 AMG packs a V-12 under the long hood and has an incredible 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque, and drops the zero-60 time under 4 seconds. The automatic manual dual-clutch transmission is nifty, providing good performance while allowing the driver to choose a number of different modes. The handling is spry, the steering is very responsive, and the suspension handles the bumps of the road with ease.
Key Competitors For The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
- Audi R8 Spyder
- BMW 6-Series Convertible
- Porsche 911 Cabriolet