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2019 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 9.0

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz SL has three engines – one for each trim level. They're all quick and powerful, and the base engine gets decent fuel economy for the class. The SL stands out for its ride quality, but it also handles well enough to deserve the sports car label.

  • "The SL has slightly synthetic handling but is extremely capable. Midcorner bumps don't throw it off too badly. It's equal parts boulevardier and sports car, depending on your whims. Expect mega power, surprising grip, powerful brakes and good manners." -- Edmunds
  • "… the new Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is no sports car. It never has been. This is a grand touring machine. Oh, it can go fast when you want it to, extremely fast, but the new SL is as much about luxury and comfort as it is performance. This is the car you want to drive to Las Vegas for the weekend. At 100 mph. Top down." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • … the big convertible shouldn't be confused for a dedicated sports car." -- Left Lane News (2016)

Acceleration and Power

Each SL trim gets its own engine. The base SL 450 comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that puts out 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It has a good engine note and plenty of power and acceleration for most situations. Even though it's the weakest engine in the lineup, it'll still go from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds, according to Mercedes estimates.

The SL 550 features a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 that generates 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. The base V6 is quick, but this V8 is noticeably stronger and will really get your pulse pounding. The 550 goes from zero to 60 mph more than a half-second faster than the base trim.

Of course, neither of the lower engines can compare to the high-performance Mercedes-AMG SL 63, which comes with a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 engine that puts out 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. This is the beast of the lineup, and the AMG SL 63 will dash from zero to 60 mph in just four seconds.

The SL 450 and SL 550 come with a smooth-shifting, responsive nine-speed automatic transmission, while the AMG model comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

According to EPA estimates, the SL 450 is the most fuel-efficient SL model, earning 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. That's in the middle of the pack for the class. The SL 550's ratings drop to 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, while the AMG SL 63 brings up the rear at 15/23 mpg city/highway.

  • "The SL450's 362-hp twin-turbocharged V-6 pulls strongly through the rev range and emits a satisfying growl. Snappy shifts from the nine-speed automatic, especially when in Sport mode, make the SL feel responsive and quick. The V-8 SL550's extra grunt—and cost—strike us as unnecessary, even in a frivolous car like the SL." -- Car and Driver (2018)
  • "Even the 'entry-level' SL450 delivers smooth and potent power that will quicken your pulse, while the new nine-speed automatic is unobtrusive yet gratifyingly responsive." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "The nine-speed transmission earned high marks for being so finely tuned that we largely ignored it. … A squeeze on the accelerator unlocked a quick drop of two gears, and applying full boot got the transmission to descend three or four gears in a single leap." -- Autoblog (2017)

Handling and Braking

The SL may not deliver the other-worldly athleticism of some of its peers, but it has plenty of handling chops, a sporty, fun-to-drive character, and strong brakes. The SL comes standard with rear-wheel drive and an adaptive suspension that delivers an excellent ride quality. Mercedes' Dynamic Select lets you choose between four modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+) that alter the car's driving feel to your liking. An Active Body Control suspension is optional, and it improves the ride even further.

  • "The SL is composed thanks to the Active Body Control system. It is sure-footed on winding roads and has heaps of grip. Even though it's heavy, this car works surprisingly well at speed." -- Edmunds
  • "The modern SL has been more of a relaxed cruiser than a hard-core sports car, but its handling is confident and its engines are strong, making for a highly agreeable balance between comfort and performance." -- Car and Driver (2018)
  • If the razor-sharp reflexes of a racetrack-ready ride are your jam, then a Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type will be more to your liking. However, the more mature and versatile SL won't beat you blind in the day-to-day and it can provide an engaging driving experience when a twisty road calls." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
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