The 2018 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class keeps the magic alive. Over the years, the SL has always had a presence, something special about it that distinguished it from other cars. By offering a rich list of standard features, an impressive array of turbocharged engines that combine power with efficiency and a power-folding hard top to keep out the elements, the modern-day SL stays true to its traditional strengths of speed and comfort, while providing satisfying dynamics when pressed.
If ever an overall driving experience could be described as "gorgeous," the SL achieves it. The car may come with an adaptive suspension feature called Active Body Control (ABC), while its optional active seat bolstering amounts to an active human body control. Attack a corner with some speed and these bolsters hold their occupants in place. Turn hard right and the left side inflates; turn hard left and the right side inflates.
It isn’t just the visual and tactile senses that are stimulated. The SL features an audio system designed especially for open-topped cars. It places a subwoofer on the other side of the passenger footwell, so bass lines aren’t lost to the boom of the road. And the other speakers are located so that high frequencies retain their sheen against the whistle of the wind. It’s worth going for a drive just to hear music through a quality system instead of the usual tinny computer speakers at home.
Ultimately, the SL is so much more than a mere car. It’s a statement, a reward for hard work, a prized possession, an automotive icon, and the latest in a long and illustrious line of fabulous roadsters. Earlier generations might be considered prettier, but none have been so crammed full of technology, luxurious details and fine materials.
What’s New for 2018?
Mirror logo headlamps are now standard, along with a rearview camera. The SL 450 and SL 550 become eligible for silver or red seat belts. See the 2018 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models for sale near you
What We Like
Bulletproof construction with a seemingly endless list of luxury features; satisfying performance across the lineup; unbeatable heritage and cachet
What We Don’t
Not even the AMG versions can provide the absolute sharpness a real driver’s machine should have
Non-AMG SL models employ a 9-speed automatic transmission. The AMG cars have a 7-speed automatic transmission with faster shifts. All engines have a stop/start fuel-saving function, and all versions use rear-wheel drive.
The 2018 SL range starts with the SL 450 and its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 making 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it should return 20 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
The SL 550 has a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8, 449 hp and 516 lb-ft. Fuel consumption is estimated at 17 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined.
The AMG SL 63 features a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that develops 577 hp and 664 lb-ft. Fuel economy is 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.
At the top of the range is the AMG SL 65, with a massive twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 generating 621 hp and 738 lb-ft. It achieves 13 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/16 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is available in SL 450, SL 550, AMG SL 63 and AMG SL 65 versions.
SL 450 ($89,195) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlamps (with mirror logo), fog lamps, LED running lights and taillights, adaptive suspension dampers, power-folding hardtop with panoramic glass roof and power wind deflector, keyless entry/ignition, hands-free trunk operation, forward-collision mitigation, automated parallel/perpendicular parking function, leather upholstery (sun-reflecting), power-adjustable tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 12-way power-adjustable/heated seats with memory, ambient cabin lighting, rearview camera, plus a Comand infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, twin USB ports, Bluetooth, HD/satellite radio and a Harman Kardon 600-watt/11-speaker surround sound system.
SL 550 ($113,295) brings the 4.7-liter V8, 19-in alloys, ventilated/massaging seats with active bolstering and Airscarf (vents in the seats at neck level emitting warm air).
SL 63 AMG ($153,845) involves the 5.5-liter V8 along with styling, handling and interior upgrades appropriate to its AMG status. Highlights include 19-in wheels, special dampers with active roll resistance (known as Active Body Control or ABC), big brakes, sport exhaust, limited-slip differential, performance telemetry and an IWC analog clock set into the dashboard.
Before we get to the bells-and-whistles model, these three versions may also be specced with a Driver Assistance package. This contains advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, steering assistance, active lane-keeping, and active blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Also on the options list are Magic Sky Control (turning the glass roof panel from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button), power-closing doors, Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker audio system, infra-red night vision, and an enhanced infotainment display with a driver/passenger split view. And there are various special paint finishes as well as choices of leather upholstery. An SL can be personalized to a high degree if one is willing to splash out.
SL 65 AMG ($222,995) features the only V12 in the lineup, plus 20-in rear wheels to go with the 19-in wheels up front, and the majority of those extras previously listed.
Options for the AMG models include carbon fiber trim (exterior and interior), black chrome trim and carbon-ceramic brake discs.
The trunk is pretty roomy by roadster standards, measuring 10.2 cu ft. with the top up. Folding the top reduces that to 7.2 cu ft. There’s also some stowage space behind the seats.
Along with front, side and knee airbags, there’s a pop-up roll bar, driver drowsiness monitor and the company’s pre-collision system (which tightens seat belts and primes the brakes).
Behind the Wheel
Construction is so robust that there’s hardly a hint of body flex when driving over rough surfaces; the SL feels as rigid as a fixed-roof coupe. Acceleration is rapid yet refined. Even the V6-powered SL 440 zips from zero to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. The SL 550 needs only 4.3 seconds; the SL 63 and SL 65 require 4.0 and 3.9 seconds respectively.
Thanks to wide tires and ingenious suspension engineering, handling is virtually foolproof. However, this isn’t a car that tempts you to push the limits. SL roadsters have always been about brisk-yet-composed progress as opposed to true sports-car action. That holds true for the current model. Although the optional ABC suspension gives the impression of invincibility with its eerily flat cornering, the truth is that the SL remains more boulevard cruiser than canyon carver. Keep that in mind and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by its athleticism through the bends.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Aston Martin Vantage — A new generation debuts for 2018, with greater enthusiast appeal than the previous model, so more of an AMG rival than anything.
2018 BMW 6 Series Convertible — Features four seats and a vinyl roof rather than a hard top, but it’s comparable to the SL in terms of power, technology and driving experience.
2018 Jaguar F-Type Convertible — Smaller, stiffer and louder than the SL-Class. That might be a good thing.
There are no bad or wrong choices here. The SL 550 is a nice middle ground with plenty of V8 power. Do add the Driver Assistance package.