2009 Mercedes Benz SL Class Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Dramatic new exterior look

  • Two high-performance AMG models offered

  • Standard AMG body styling on all models

  • Upgraded interior appointments

  • Refined COMAND (COckpit MANagement and Data) system

  • North American sales start in Spring 2008

Introduction

The Mercedes-Benz SL, the flagship roadster from the German automaker, is a direct descendant of the legendary Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" of the 1950s. Traditionally configured as a luxurious and sporty 2-passenger vehicle, early SL models were available in either coup_ or convertible body styles with a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines. The coup_ versions featured a fixed steel roof while convertible models offered a soft top (supplemented with a bolt-on hardtop, if optioned). Now in its fifth generation, the current convertible-only body style has been on sale in North America since the 2003 model year. With a choice of powerful 8- or 12-cylinder powerplants, Mercedes solved the 4-season convertible question with an electric-powered folding steel "Vario Roof": standard equipment, and a first for the SL-Class. For 2009, Mercedes has significantly updated the interior, exterior and technology on the 2-door coup_.

Design

More than just a mild exterior freshening, the updates to the 2009 model are unmistakable as they align the appearance of the SL with its larger sibling, the 2009 CLS-Class. The front end has been significantly altered with a new bumper, single-bar grille, and sleek headlamps. The hood has been redesigned to incorporate twin power domes, and the gill-type air outlets on the front quarter panels stylistically altered as well. According to Mercedes, the changes make a symbolic visual connection to the famous 1954 300SL. The changes continue to the larger side mirrors, a new air diffuser in the rear, and new trapezoidal exhaust tips. The cockpit has been upgraded with a new 3-spoke steering wheel in front of a restyled instrument cluster with gauges designed to swing through their arc when the ignition is started. The seats have been upgraded, and now include an improved version of the AIRSCARF system.

Hardware

Four different SL models have been announced for the 2009 model year; all models are rear-wheel drive. There are two 8-cylinder models. The standard 8-cylinder model is the SL550, featuring a 5.5-liter V-8 engine rated at 382 hp and 391 lb.-ft. of torque. Mercedes also offers the SL63 AMG, a high-performance variant with a 6.3-liter V-8 rated at 518 hp and 465 lb.-ft. of torque. There are also two 12-cylinder models. The standard 12-cylinder model is the SL600 model with a twin-turbo, 5.5-liter V-12 engine under the hood. It is rated at 510 hp and 612 lb.-ft. of torque. The flagship SL65 AMG offers an AMG-built twin turbo 6.0-liter V-12 rated at an astonishing 604 hp with 738 lb.-ft. of torque. The SL550 shifts through an electronically controlled 7-speed automatic transmission. The 12-cylinder SL600 and SL65 AMG are both fitted with a modified 5-speed automatic transmission specially designed to handle the high torque from the larger powerplants, Mercedes says.

Mercedes is offering a unique Performance package on the SL63 AMG model in 2009. Already distinctively styled to differentiate it from the other SL models, the Performance package on the SL63 AMG is designed for the true driving enthusiast, according to Mercedes. The package includes vented ceramic front disc brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, high-performance suspension tuning, a smaller AMG sport steering wheel, and 19-inch, twin-spoke, forged light-alloy wheels.

Technology

Mercedes upgraded their COMAND infotainment system for the new model year. The multimedia interface, featuring a 6.5-inch color display, has been refined to make it easy to connect an iPod or USB memory stick. In addition, a 4-gigabyte hard drive has been added to store and play about 1,000 MP3 tracks supplementing the integrated 6-disc CD-DVD player. The Bluetooth receiver is designed to work hands-free, and the audio is automatically muted when a call is made or received.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster features AIRSCARF, an extra heating system built into the driver and passenger seats designed to extend the open-top driving season into the cooler months. Testing revealed to engineers at Mercedes that warming a relatively small area around the neck dramatically improved comfort in cold weather. With that in mind, the engineers designed a small heating element to be fitted inside the seatbacks of the SL. With a small fan and a 3-speed switch with an electronically controlled thermostat, warm air is blown from vents in the headrests to act as an invisible scarf around the passenger's neck and head. The system is designed to automatically adjust the fan speed based on vehicle speed and outside air temperature. AIRSCARF is optional on the SL550 and SL63 AMG, while it is standard on the SL600 and SL65 AMG models.