The biggest change for the 2013 SL-550 is its redesigned chassis. SL originally stood for "sporty lightweight" and Mercedes has taken those words to heart in its redesign. The biggest factor in this change has been the extensive use of aluminum in the chassis. Steel is still used in small quantities to keep the car stiff and safe, but for the most part the car is built from aluminum. The end result is a body shell that weighs 242 lbs. less than that of its predecessor, all while improving chassis rigidity and stiffness. This reduction of weight is highly unusual among car manufacturers and pays large dividends in vehicle performance.
Though it mainly has a reputation for luxury, the latest SL-550 is a seriously fast car. The engine is a V8 that displaces 4.7 liters and makes 429 horsepower. This engine is both smaller and more powerful than the one it replaces and combines with the new lightweight body to give the SL550 some pretty good performance numbers. 0-60 mph takes just 4.5 seconds, an improvement of nearly a second over the outgoing model. The only transmission available is an advanced 7-speed automatic.
Of course this wouldn't be a Mercedes-Benz without plenty of luxury and technology, and the SL-550 does not disappoint. For the last couple of generations the SL has featured a folding hard top that looks great up or down. For this new generation Mercedes has given the SL-550 two versions of this hard top, a glass version and an optional "Magic Sky Control" version. The Magic Sky Control roof is able to change its transparency at the push of a button; going from transparent to opaque at the whim of the driver. The whole roof is able to lower its self in fewer than twenty seconds.
The roof of the car is really just the tip of the impressive technology in the SL-Class. Adaptive headlights swivel to see around corners. An automatic trunk requires no hands to open or close; a simple wave of a foot under the rear bumper suffices. Washer fluid is distributed through small channels in the windshield wiper blade itself, preventing any splashing and ensuring occupants stay dry even with the top down. The sound system utilizes empty spaces in the car's chassis to enhance bass, effectively using the car itself as a speaker. The list goes on and on and its evident Mercedes-Benz spent a lot of time, effort and money on making this car great.
The emphasis on technology pays particularly large dividends when it comes to the safety of the car. All manner of traction control, stability control and ABS are standard. However the SL-Class also comes available with Mercedes' PRE-SAFE braking system, which will automatically apply the brakes if the car senses an incoming collision. Two stage airbags including head and thorax are also standards along with a couple of rollover bars. Active head restraints also help prevent whiplash, and in fact Mercedes claims that the new SL-550 is the world's safest roadster.
Top down or top up, the SL-550 delivers occupants to their destination in style, comfort and speed.