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MSRP: $88,200 - 222,000

2018 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Review

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz SL finishes in the middle of our luxury sports car rankings. This is a luxury car first and a sports car second, and while this roadster is fairly athletic, many class rivals are far superior in the performance department.

Pros & Cons

  • Premium interior and outrageously comfortable seats
  • Strong engines
  • Cushioned ride
  • Some rivals have more intuitive infotainment systems

Is the Mercedes-Benz SL a Good Car?

Yes, the Mercedes-Benz SL is a good car. This retractable-hardtop convertible delivers strong performance thanks to its composed handling and solid lineup of powerful engines, but it isn't an ultra-agile speed demon like many of its competitors. Instead, the SL provides an extremely comfortable ride and a fairly engaging drive. Inside, the SL may not have the most cutting-edge technology in the class, but its seats are extremely spacious and comfortable, and its materials quality is second to none.

Should I Buy the Mercedes-Benz SL?

The SL is a bit of an outlier among luxury sports cars since its primary focus is not on how fast it can go (though it goes really fast) or how agile it can be (many rivals have superior handling). But if you're OK with a car that's merely athletic – as opposed to absurdly athletic – then the SL is a solid buying choice. If you're exploring other options, a nice alternative is the BMW 6 Series, another luxury car available as a convertible, while the Porsche 911 is a pure sports car that might suit driving enthusiasts a little better.

Compare the SL, 6 Series, and 911 »

Should I Buy a New or Used Mercedes-Benz SL?

The SL hasn't seen a redesign since the 2013 model year, so the 2018 model is similar to the past few models, though it does get a standard rearview camera. The 2017 model saw some improvements over the 2016 SL, however; it got a new base engine with 33 extra horsepower, updated exterior styling, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

A similarly equipped used SL could potentially net you thousands in savings compared to a new 2018 model. If you're interested in a used model, be sure to visit our overviews of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL and 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 SL »

We Did the Research for You: 32 Reviews Analyzed

Our car reviews include everything you need to know before heading to the dealership. We combine the opinions of the automotive press with quantifiable data like crash test results and reliability ratings to form a complete picture of every vehicle we rank.

This review uses applicable research and data from all the model years of the current generation, which runs from 2013 through 2018.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. Our car reviews are objective. To keep them that way, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Mercedes-Benz SL Cost?

The SL is one of the most expensive cars in the class. Only a handful of rivals have higher starting prices than the SL's $88,200, and even fewer have high-end price tags that climb above the $222,000 starting price of the SL's top trim, the AMG SL65.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mercedes dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mercedes-Benz deals page.

Mercedes-Benz SL Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz SL or BMW 6 Series?

We categorize the BMW 6 Series as a luxury large car, but it makes a solid alternative to the SL for some buyers. The 6 Series is offered as a sedan or a convertible, and the convertible is comparably priced to the SL roadster. However, the BMW comfortably seats four people, whereas the SL only seats two. The 6 Series has a larger trunk and a more user-friendly infotainment system as well.

Like the SL, the 6 Series offers several higher trims with more-powerful engines, but they are far less expensive. The 621-horsepower AMG SL65 costs $222,000, while the 600-horsepower BMW Alpina B6 (not available as a convertible) costs about $124,000. Both cars ride comfortably, but the SL may be a little more adept on winding roads. These are both high-end luxury cars that – despite their differences – make great buying choices. Choosing the right one will depend on your individual needs and how you feel after a test drive.

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz SL or Porsche 911?

The SL is something of a cruiser, whereas the Porsche 911 is all about hustle. It’s one of the best cars on the market when it comes to handling precision and track-worthy performance. There's also a much wider range of body styles for the 911, including hardtop, convertible, and retractable-roof targa. The 911 also diversifies its lineup with the option of all-wheel drive and manual transmissions, two things you won’t find in the posh SL.

The 911 has more engine choices than the SL, with horsepower ratings from 370 to 607. In other words, the 911 delivers plenty of power to go with that off-the-charts handling. Inside, the 911 has a stylish cabin and plenty of standard and available features. The 911 also earns a higher predicted reliability rating than the SL. However, this Porsche has less cargo space than the SL, and it costs substantially more, even at the top end of the range. Choosing between these cars will come down to what you want out of your vehicle.

Compare the SL, 6 Series, and 911 »

SL Performance

SL Engine: 4 Trims, 4 Engines

Each SL trim has its own powertrain, ranging from the 362-horsepower twin-turbo V6 that powers the SL450 to the 621-horsepower twin-turbo V12 that comes in the AMG SL65. All four engines are powerful, and from a practical standpoint, the base engine has more than enough juice. But the two high-performance AMG models are enticing because of their breathtaking acceleration; both will go from zero to 60 mph in four seconds or less.

SL Gas Mileage: Higher Trims Get Pretty Thirsty

The SL450 gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Those are typical ratings for a luxury sports car. Fuel economy gets worse as you go up in trim level. The AMG SL65 gets the worst ratings of the bunch, earning just 13 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

You'll spend about the same amount on gas each year driving the SL as you would a rival like the BMW 6 Series, but you'll spend more than you would in the Porsche 911.

SL Ride and Handling: Smooth and Solid

The SL isn't designed to go toe-to-toe with uber-athletic rivals like the Porsche 911, and it can't. Instead, this Mercedes prioritizes a comfortable ride – a goal it certainly achieves. Still, the SL has strong brakes and handles well, and you needn't shy away from having fun on curvy roads.

Read more about performance »

SL Interior

How Many People Does the SL Seat?

The SL seats two, and those two can consider themselves lucky. The seats have plenty of head- and legroom and are among the most comfortable in the class.

SL and Car Seats

There are no LATCH car-seat connectors in this vehicle, and carrying children in a two-seater is not recommended.

SL Interior Quality

Some people may argue that, with five years since the last redesign, the SL's cabin doesn't look as modern as those of some rivals. Whether you agree with that or not, there's no denying that the SL's interior is incredibly upscale and features an abundance of top-notch materials.

SL Cargo Space

Luxury sports cars aren't known for their cargo space, but the SL's trunk is large by class standards. With the top up, it has more than 13 cubic feet of space, which is room for about 10 pieces of carry-on luggage. Put the top down, and you still have 8.5 cubic feet. That's enough room for two golf bags, and it's more space than some other roadsters provide.

SL Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the SL include a power-retractable hardtop, a panoramic center roof panel, a 7-inch display screen, Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB ports, satellite radio, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Optional niceties include a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and Magic Sky Control, which electronically adjusts the tint for the panoramic center roof panel.

The COMAND infotainment system isn't as user-friendly as some competitors' systems. The 7-inch touch screen is on the small side, COMAND makes you slog through many steps to change settings, and the interface takes time to master.

Read more about interior »

SL Reliability

Is the Mercedes-Benz SL Reliable?

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz SL has a predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power. This is slightly above average.

Mercedes-Benz SL Warranty

Mercedes-Benz covers the SL with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty. Many luxury vehicles have similar warranty terms.

Read more about reliability »

SL Safety

SL Crash Test Results

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2018 Mercedes SL.

SL Safety Features

Standard driver assistance features in the SL include a rearview camera, driver drowsiness monitoring, and Mercedes' Pre-Safe, which automatically tightens the seat belts and rolls up the windows if it detects an imminent collision from the front of the car. Available features include front and rear parking sensors, parallel and perpendicular park assist, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and Pre-Safe Plus, which readies the vehicle for a rear collision.

Read more about safety »

Which Mercedes-Benz SL Model Is Right for Me?

There are four Mercedes SL trims to choose from: the base SL450, the SL550, the AMG SL63, and the top-of-the-line AMG SL65. All feature a powerful engine and an automatic transmission. While the higher trims have a few more standard features, you can get almost every feature the SL offers in any trim, as long as you're willing to pay extra.

The SL450 should satisfy most buyers. The engine has ample power to energetically move the SL, and you can add plenty of features without approaching the SL550's starting price, which is about $24,000 higher. The price gaps between the 550 and the two AMG trims are even larger, so if you want more power, you'd better be willing to pony up a good chunk of change.

Mercedes-Benz SL450

The SL450 has a base price of $88,200. It features a 362-horsepower V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Other standard features include a power-retractable hardtop, heated seats, a rearview camera, driver drowsiness monitoring, a 7-inch display screen, Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB ports, satellite radio, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

There's no shortage of available features, including upgraded interior materials, the Airscarf neck warmer, a hands-free power trunk lid, massaging seats, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, lane keep assist, and more. Some of these features can be added individually, while others are part of option packages.

Mercedes-Benz SL550

The SL550 has a starting price of $112,300. The 550 comes with a 449-horsepower V8. In addition to the SL450's standard features, the SL550 comes with parallel and perpendicular park assist, ventilated front seats, Airscarf, and a hands-free power trunk lid. As with the base trim, several more features are available, both individually and as part of a package.

Mercedes-AMG SL63

The AMG SL63 starts at $152,850. This performance trim features a 577-horsepower V8 and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It comes with some performance and styling upgrades and massaging seats. Many features are optional.

Mercedes-AMG SL65

The AMG SL65 has a starting price of $222,000. The SL65 features a 621-horsepower V12 and a seven-speed transmission. It also comes standard with almost every feature you can get in an SL.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mercedes-Benz dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mercedes-Benz deals page.

See 2018 Mercedes-Benz SL specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz SL delivers German luxury in an athletic package. Though designed to be a luxury cruiser, this Mercedes performs well enough to earn a spot in our luxury sports car class, and it has one of the nicest interiors in the class to boot. It's not perfect, and rivals surpass the SL in some areas, but this is an excellent car, and it's worth a look for shoppers who want a fun-to-drive car that doesn't sacrifice luxury.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Calling the Mercedes-Benz SL-class a sports car is only telling half the story. This car offers a compelling blend of passenger comfort and driving excitement. It's more than competent on a twisty road, and both of its available powertrains … provide plenty of forward thrust. Drop the top, select Comfort mode, and switch on the optional massaging seats; it's a luxury car that just happens to resemble a low-slung sports car. … Even though it's aging, it still looks as good at speed as it does when parked at the front of the valet line, and its dual personality makes it perfect for a glamorous night out." -- Car and Driver
  • "Few if any cars are better-suited to luxury top-down touring than the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. With its comfortable ride quality, capable handling, superb engines, classy interior, and ample standard and available features, the current SL is an outstanding car in virtually every respect." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Speed, luxury and style are backed by six decades of excellence and international prestige. This sixth generation of the iconic SL is all that and more. More than a car, the SL is a statement of success that coddles its occupants with amenities like massaging seats and neck heaters." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
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