After a lengthy round of Friday press releases, wrapping up the day comes an early-weekend Review Roundup installment looking at a total of three new Mercedes models. The 2009 SL550, the CL63 AMG and the SLK-Class - this is the superb triumvirate scrutinized for your reading entertainment, hopefully giving those of you in the market for a new roadster or AMG-powered coupe some idea how the models fare in the real world. As is the case with all our Mercedes Review Roundups, you can find links to each review as well as excerpts from each immediately below.
Mercedes-Benz SL550 (via Winding Road)
"This past weekend, I had the pleasure of taking our SL into the heart of Detroit as well as off the beaten path northeast through many of our area’s smaller towns. After driving it over some of Motown’s most ridiculously pothole-ridden roads and along Lake Michigan to blend in with Grosse Pointe’s Beautiful People, I’ve come to appreciate both its rigid structure and its gravitas. In fact, I was a bit surprised as to how much attention the car attracted, seeing as how it isn’t aesthetically that far removed from the previous-generation car.
First off, let me say that I’m definitely not this car’s target market. While it feels distinguished, substantial, and powerful, on an everyday basis I actually prefer the markedly cheaper SLK350 we had in the fleet recently. Yes, the SL is the longer-legged tourer and has much more useable space, but the smaller, lighter SLK is the more enjoyable driver’s car, as it feels significantly more tossable and engaging. As the SL is more of a classic GT, this isn’t the fairest of comparisons, but it’s surely worth mentioning—especially considering the SLK is just as quick under most circumstances, and the latter’s smaller size and lighter weight makes it more confidence-inspiring on twisty roads.
Having said that, the SL is an illustrious piece of kit, with a velvet-smooth 5.5-liter V-8, a boatload of creature comforts, great seats, wonderful build quality, and a fast-acting roof (something that we came to appreciate when a storm bearing tornado-force winds unexpectedly rolled in).
I did, however, find a few things to gripe about on the ergonomics front. The flip-out cupholders are located just below the nav screen, and when in use they block access to key buttons and the screen. They also don’t feel terribly secure with larger beverages. Thankfully, there’s plenty of covered storage: the center console (which locks with the key fob—great for quick stops when you want to leave the top down), a pair of beautiful lidded door bins, and the glove box. Uncovered storage, however, is tough to come by. Finding an open spot to put one’s cell phone, for instance, is a real challenge, as is easily accessed coin and keycard storage."
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Mercedes-Benz SL550 (via European Car)
"Even though money can't buy happiness, it sure gives a shot of its flavor. The SL550 and the 650i Convertible are in their element when they waft past Beverly Hills' premium shops, or cruise along Pacific Coast Highway, even when challenged up and down the rocky canyon roads above Malibu.
The BMW 6 Series has received several body retouches (mainly in the controversial rear end), improvements on the dashboard and some hocus-pocus in the powerplant, with the stated aim to give it better performance and lower consumption. The SL has been through a similar process, although the aesthetic changes are definitely easier to identify at the front end, but we also find new cooling vents and engine upgrades. The SL offers the 550, the 600, plus the two AMGs (SL 63 and SL65), against the 650i and the M6 from BMW.
If there is one segment where looks count, this is it. There is no more emotional decision than to buy a luxury open-top. The slimmer overall design (mainly the profile and rear) of the Mercedes once again catches the eye, even though this is all a matter of taste. Clearly more objective is the SL's advantage as far as the roof is concerned (which now takes 16 seconds to retract, four seconds faster than before, thanks to new hydraulic pistons and software). Because it's a hard top, there are benefits both in terms of acoustic and thermal isolation. And, at the same time, it improves the torsion and bending stiffness of this car with the chameleon personality.
One of the main improvements the new SL has is in the engine, which now has a 5.5-liter displacement and generates 382 hp, and 391 lb-ft of torque available from 2800 rpm. Despite the 26-percent power increase, fuel consumption has decreased very slightly. But there is still a more progressive and prompt response than with the previous SL550. The new seven-speed transmission (with a Sport program which makes shifting 30 percent faster) allows greater exploitation of the car's performance while lowering carbon dioxide emissions (which nevertheless are higher than the BMW's). "
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Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG (via Automobile)
"How much is this car, anyway? Never mind, I don't care: I want one. Much more so than the S63 AMG sedan we had a couple of weeks ago, the sleek and purposeful CL coupe seems like the perfect repository for Mercedes-Benz's 518-hp, 6.2-liter, AMG-tuned and -built, superstar V-8 engine. Maybe it's because, at 42, I'm easing into middle age (as much as I hate to admit it), but I prefer a powerful, sybaritic luxury coupe to a pure sports car most of the time. I want power and torque on demand, and I want to access it by burying the throttle, not by fiddling with shift paddles or gear levers. Call me lazy, if you will; I call myself contented. (For the record, the CL does offer manual controls for the seven-speed automatic; they're mounted behind the steering wheel.)
It's not like I'm looking for a plush-o-matic experience, folks. Wheeling the CL63 AMG from the sixth floor of our parking structure last night, I noted with satisfaction its ability to whip itself around the concrete poles with calm and aplomb, with not a whiff of tire squeal or body roll. With 518 hp (at 6800 rpm!) and 465 lb-ft of torque on call, you can launch yourself across the entire city of Ann Arbor in no time, or at least to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz. When the dreaded Ann Arbor Police come into view, front brake discs that are 15.4 inches in diameter and a hefty 1.4 inches thick will scrub off speed more quickly than you can say "Mercedes-Benz see-sixty-three eh-em-gee." (If any members of the Ann Arbor Police are reading this, rest assured, this is hyperbole; I don't actually speed within the city limits.)
So, other than the engine, why do I like this car? I like its size, the grand sweep of the sheetmetal, the utter excess of it. This is a grand touring coupe with a grandly luxurious air and an unapologetic attitude. Yes, it gets only 11 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. But there aren't too many CL63 AMG coupes running on the world's roads, now are there?"
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Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class (via European Car)
"Mercedes got it right in 2004. The body and powerplant received major upgrades and its suspension re-tuned for sport-minded drivers. While we were satisfied, Mercedes wasn't. For 2008, the SLK returns with more muscle, revised bodywork and a handsome new face.
Seated low in the cabin, the car feels exceptionally secure, even as 18-wheelers fly by in the opposite lane, mere inches away. As temperatures dip, I fire up the Airscarf neck-level heating system. A pair of backrest-mounted vents focus warm air up to my freezing face. Airscarf is an option-you want it.
The SLK350 has terrific power-most of it available at 2000 rpm-and its 7G-Tronic seven-speed sport transmission with paddle shifters keeps in the meat of the torque curve with instantaneous response. According to Mercedes, the 350 is quicker than the Audi TT and BMW Z4 and will go toe-to-toe with a Boxster S. Mercedes has designed the SLK 350 with a new intake and valvetrain and raised compression to 11.7:1. Although the engine has a 6800-rpm redline, it can spin to 7200 rpm for brief periods, sorta like 'hyper-boost.'
Whereas the SLK350 is quietly refined, the SLK 55 AMG feels wild. Just leaving the parking lot creates a haze of white smoke as 360 hp and 367 lb-ft of twist get busy. The 5.4-liter AMG V8 seems to have had the same voice coach as every other AMG car. Mercedes should sell it (the noise) to movie studios. This is how a high-performance V8 should sound."
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