For 2009, the SL models feature a whole new look, though underneath they retain the same basic platform. Also new is the 2009 Mercedes SL63 AMG, sporting a powerful normally aspirated V8 engine.
Speaking of which, each of the four models that comprise the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is designed around a different engine. Each has its own character. Each has its own charms, but all are fast. There’s no such thing as a slow SL, not in the current lineup.
The SL550 is plenty, trust us. Its 5.5-liter V8 engine emits an uncharacteristically barbaric growl for a Mercedes. Boasting 382 horsepower, it’s ready and willing to accelerate at all rev ranges, and it comes with the latest in transmissions, a seven-speed automatic with a manual shiftgate. Overall, the SL550 is a sporty roadster with quick steering and nimble moves.
The SL600 has a more immediate power than the SL550, yet the engine is considerably quieter. Our advice: Fast and comfortable, there’s lots to love here. Its butter smooth twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 is time-tested and produces 517 horsepower. More noticeable and oh so wonderful is its gobs of torque, a bottomless well of power available when cruising along: specifically, 612 pound-feet of torque from 1900 to 3500 rpm. The V12 comes with a five-speed automatic that can also be shifted manually. With its heavier V12 engine, the SL600 is less nimble and more of a tourer than a pure sports car. But as a touring car, say driving from L.A. to Vegas, the SL600 is pure joy.
Since the beginning, the SL’s laurels have been raised by performance models, and two AMG versions are available in the current lineup. The 2009 Mercedes SL63 AMG uses a normally aspirated 518-hp 6.2-liter V8 mated to a new seven-speed automated manual transmission called the AMG Speedshift MCT 7. The SL63 AMG is a meaner version of the SL550. It’s the sportiest SL and, arguably, the sportiest car Mercedes-AMG has ever built. The SL 63 AMG is brutally quick and fast when the throttle pedal is pushed into the carpet, yet it is still quiet enough, and docile enough to use as a commuter car in heavy traffic every day. Stand on the gas and it’s even louder than the SL550.
The SL65 AMG has a twin-turbocharged V12 that puts out 604 horsepower. It is a torquey beast that delivers a rush of power bested only by exotics and pro drag cars. It’s a lot of car, perhaps too much for an unskilled driver as its immense power can make it hard to handle. Like the SL600, the SL65’s V12 is quieter than the V8s. And like the SL600, the SL65 is heavy (it is the heaviest SL), so it isn’t as tossable as the V8 models. Tossable often equates to fun.
Not surprisingly, no SL gets good fuel mileage. The SL550 is EPA rated at 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, and it gets worse as you move up the model line. As a result, every SL is saddled with a Gas Guzzler Tax by the federal government.
Inside, the SL is a model of fine German luxury. Leather upholstery is standard, and the seats have plenty of adjustments to make just about anyone comfortable.