The 2020 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class drives off into the sunset with class and dignity. This will be the final year of the current generation. An all-new model is expected in 2021.
Which still leaves us with a superb machine. More than that, the SL is an archetypal Mercedes-Benz — an icon, a statement, a reward for hard work, a prized possession, 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.
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, plus impressive turbocharged engines that combine power with efficiency, the modern-day SL luxury 2-seater stays true to its traditional strengths of speed and comfort while providing satisfying dynamics when pressed. While other high-dollar convertibles have fabric roofs, the SL has a retractable hardtop, making a better year-round choice as well as cutting down on outside noise.
If ever an overall driving experience could be described as "gorgeous," the SL achieves it. This car can come with an adaptive suspension feature called Active Body Control, while its optional active seat bolstering amounts to an active human body control.
It isn’t just the visual and tactile senses that are stimulated. A standard audio setup designed especially for open-topped cars places a subwoofer at the underside of the passenger footwell so that bass lines aren’t lost to the boom of the road. 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 feeble computer speakers at home.
What’s New for 2020?
There are no AMG versions for this year. But this generation closes out with an SL Grand Edition package that includes graphite gray paintwork, 19-in alloy wheels up front, 20-in alloy wheels at the back and seats covered with Tundra Brown Pearl leather with diamond stitching. See the 2020 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models for sale
What We Like
A seemingly endless list of luxury features
A satisfying performance even with the smaller engine
Unbeatable heritage and cachet
What We Don’t
A sharper driving experience would have been nice
The 2020 SL range starts with the SL 450. Its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 makes 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it should return 20 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving.
Both models have a 9-speed automatic transmission sending power to the rear wheels only. And both engines have a fuel-saving stop/start feature.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is available in SL 450 and SL 550 versions.
The SL 450 ($91,995) includes 19-in alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlamps (with mirror logo), fog lamps, LED running lights and taillights, semiactive suspension, a power-folding hardtop with a panoramic glass roof and a powered wind deflector, heated wiper blades, a sport exhaust system, keyless entry/ignition, selectable driving modes, hands-free trunk operation, forward collision mitigation, an automated parallel and perpendicular parking function, leather upholstery (sun-reflecting), a power-adjustable steering column, 16-way power-adjustable/heated seats with memory, ambient cabin lighting, navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, twin USB ports, Bluetooth, an HD/satellite radio and a Harman Kardon 600-watt/11-speaker surround-sound system.
The SL 550 ($115,695) brings the 4.7-liter V8, ventilated and massaging seats with active bolstering and Airscarf (vents in the seats at neck level emitting warm air).
Both models can be ordered with a Driver Assistance package containing adaptive cruise control, steering assistance, active lane-keeping assist and active blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Other options include Magic Sky Control (turning the glass roof panel from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button), soft-closing doors, Active Body Control adaptive suspension and a Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker/1,000-watt audio system.
There are also 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.
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 some stowage space behind the seats as well.
Along with front-side, side-curtain and knee airbags, there’s a pop-up roll bar, driver drowsiness monitor and the company’s precollision 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 450 zips from 0-60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. The SL 550 needs only 4.3 seconds.
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
2020 Aston Martin Vantage — A 503 hp beauty with serious driver appeal.
2020 BMW 8-Series Convertible — Fitted with a soft top, yet still highly desirable.
2020 Jaguar F-Type Convertible — Smaller, stiffer and louder than the SL-Class. That might be a good thing.
2020 Porsche 911 Cabriolet — This 911 has a soft top just like the Jaguar and is also part of an iconic model range.
Used Bentley Continental GTC — A lightly used Bentley drop-top may be acquired for the price of a brand-new SL. Just make sure it comes with a warranty.
There isn’t a wrong choice here, but the SL 550’s V8 power and extra equipment is undoubtedly alluring. Either way, choose the Driver Assistance package — think of it as protecting an investment. Find a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class for sale