Drive Time: Biturbo V-6 powers Mercedes SL
July 22, 2017
Every three or four years, Mercedes-Benz offers to send an SL roadster my direction; I never decline the opportunity to drive one, for it's long been a favorite of mine.
The 2017 model, finished in cardinal red, is of added interest through its 362-horsepower, 3.0-liter biturbo V-6 engine. Those I've reviewed in past years have been of V-8 power.
The new Mercedes SL450 (V-6) showed up with a price tag of $108,385; that's $20,000 below the sticker on an SL550 (V-8). Pricing tops out at $200,000 for the AMG SL65 (V-12).
After a midweek drive to Denver, I added miles over the weekend with a short drive to the south Friday night for the first Taste of Johnstown, then on Saturday to Strasburg for the sixth birthday party for great-granddaughter Ava Zink.
On our return drive Saturday, heading north on Strasburg Road, heavy rain washed over the roadway and, at one point, the roadster's message center read, "Radar sensors dirty," and the Mercedes' Distronic cruise disengaged on its own.
So at the intersection of Strasburg Road and East 144th Avenue, with only light rain falling, I pulled off the highway, got out and walked to the long-hooded front of the SL. With a handkerchief, I wiped off the two front eye sensors, got back in the car, headed down the road, and the cruise worked just fine.
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The SL450 and 550 are equipped with nine-speed automatic transmissions, which can be driven in modes from comfort to sport to sport plus to individual to eco. The 450 can't match the powerful pace of the 550, though with the V-6 in sport mode and use of paddle shifters, it is quick to respond and fast enough.
The rear-drive roadster, as I've written in past SL reviews, corners exceptionally well and is strong in braking from 14.2-inch front rotors and its Brake Assist boost. Lane-keeping assist is in its fifth year of added safety for the SL.
The weekend's highway drives boosted the Mercedes' overall fuel mileage to 26.3 mpg. The EPA estimate for the two-door is 20/28.
The distinctive SL look — long hood and short rear deck — is complemented with a new front grille that is a throwback to the SL300 Gullwing coupe of the mid-1950s. The first roadster was added to the SL line in 1957.
The 2017 model's retractable top can be precisely dropped in 18 seconds, and a power windblocker raises behind the two seats with push of a button. Also at the push of a button, with the top in place, a MagicSky system allows the darkly tinted glass roof to turn clear.
With top down on a cooler day, an AirScarf vent in the headrests will blow hot air onto the necks of driver and passenger.
An interior highlight, in addition to the deep white nappa leather, is the $5,400 Bang and Olufsen BeoSound audio system with two front bass subwoofers raised and lighted at the corners of the dash.
A split infotainment screen can provide navigation mapping for the driver while entertaining the passenger with a movie.
Last, and probably least, there is a removable ash tray rolling around in the glove compartment; if needed, pull it out and drop it into a cupholder and the cigarette lighter will be found beneath a lid of the center console.
— Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.