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2020 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Performance Review


Performance: 8.9

The base 2020 Mercedes-Benz SL comes with an energetic V6 engine and offers an even more powerful V8. Both deliver plenty of punch and sound great. Though it handles decently, the SL is more of a comfortable cruiser than an athlete that can match the likes of its Porsche rivals. Fuel economy ratings are subpar for the class.

  • "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 (2019)
  • "… 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. This engine delivers plenty of power, and the 450 has impressive acceleration, going from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 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. This engine is noticeably more powerful than the base variant, and it makes the car much quicker. With the V8, the SL does the zero-to-60 sprint in just 4.3 seconds.

The SL 450 and SL 550 each come with a responsive and smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission.

According to EPA estimates, the SL 450 gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Most other luxury sports cars get better gas mileage, though several of them come with four-cylinder base engines instead of a V6. The SL's numbers are in line with those of V6-powered rivals. The SL 550 isn't as efficient, with ratings of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

  • "Whether you choose the SL450's turbo V-6 or the SL550's turbo V-8, you'll enjoy effortless power and refined performance. Of course, with the V-8, you'll get more of that effortless power. Even if the 362-hp SL450 is not the quickest SL model, its acceleration is snappy and satisfying – it reaches 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, fast by any measure – with crisp responses from the nine-speed automatic transmission. We love the V-6's exhaust note, too, and its performance is good enough to make the significantly more expensive SL550, with its extra 87 horsepower, seem unnecessary." -- Car and Driver
  • "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

Though it's fun to drive and handles well, the SL can't match the incredible athleticism of some other luxury sports cars. It's better thought of as a sporty touring vehicle than an aggressive track car. The SL comes standard with rear-wheel drive and an adaptive suspension, and it generally provides a cushioned ride.

Mercedes' Dynamic Select, which also comes standard, 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 not as agile as true sports cars such as the Porsche 911, but it's still fun to drive quickly. The well-weighted steering is precise and satisfying, and the adjustable suspension firms up nicely in the Sport and Sport+ driving modes. Leave it in Comfort mode for a mostly cushy ride quality, although some harsh impacts from the road enter the cabin, owing to the large wheels and low-profile tires." -- Car and Driver
  • "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 (2019)
  • "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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2020 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

MSRP: $91,000 - $114,700

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