The new SLS AMG roadster encroaches on the SL’s territory, but that doesn’t make this topless tourer any less fabulous. It is available in two flavors, the very fast SL550 and the effortless SL63 AMG with its 518-hp V-8. Both cars use a seven-speed automatic transmission, but the AMG car has a clutch in place of the usual torque converter to create the feel of sportier, snappier shifts. The optional AMG performance package raises the top speed to 186 mph and adds a limited-slip differential; larger, two-piece front brake rotors; and a track-focused tune for the Active Body Control system. Active Body Control is standard on all SLs and uses hydraulic cylinders to continuously tweak the suspension and eliminate any trace of unwanted body motions. Unfortunately, electronic brakes greatly reduce pedal feel, and the SL550’s variable-ratio steering does it no favors. Still, SLs are well-built, comfortable cruisers with stunning performance capabilities–especially given their heft. Standard equipment on the convertibles includes a panoramic roof, parking sensors, and Airscarf, which titillates the back of your neck with warm air for comfortable cold-weather, top-down cruising. For an extra $2010, the folding hard top can be fitted with a panoramic glass panel that lets the sunlight in even when it’s too cold to lower the roof.

Drive: Rear-wheel

Trim levels: SL550, SL63 AMG

Body style: Convertible, 2-passenger

Engines: 5.5L V-8, 382 hp, 391 lb-ft
6.2L V-8, 518 hp, 465 lb-ft

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Passenger volume: 50.5 cu ft

Cargo space: (top down/up) 7.2/10.2 cu ft

The twelve-cylinder SL65 AMG has been dropped, and the two eight-cylinder cars are unchanged for 2012. Mercedes has an all-new SL in the works that is set to be released in the first half of 2012, likely as a 2013 model. Details are scarce, but don’t count on the twelve-cylinder engine returning. Until then, Mercedes-Benz will continue to sell the current-generation SL as a 2012 model.

ABS; dual-stage front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; and traction and stability control are standard. Options are limited to parking sensors and adaptive cruise control with a collision-warning feature.

All: 12-14 mpg city/19-22 mpg highway

  • Great V-8 engines
  • Brilliant Airscarf feature
  • Surprisingly capable
  • Variable-ratio steering plagues the SL550
  • Numb brake pedal

Elegant, effortless top-down motoring.

  • Aston Martin V8 Vantage
  • Bentley Continental GTC
  • Jaguar XK
  • Maserati GranTurismo

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