With all the hubbub regarding Jesus as consumer, no one has yet asked, “What would Zeus drive?” Being something of a hedonist, the king of the Greek gods would need speed, style, and exclusivity–something to impress the nymphs. Zeus would be wise to consider the Mercedes-Benz SL600.
The primary difference between the new SL600–a mere 500 of which will come to the States next year–and the rest of the SL range is the new, twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter twelve-cylinder engine borrowed from the Maybach sedans (albeit mildly detuned). In the 4500-pound SL600, acceleration is fierce; neck and abdominal muscles flex to resist the surge of 493 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Power output is identical to the supercharged SL55 AMG’s, but torque is greater by 74 pound-feet. Compared with the SL55’s extroverted V-8, the V-12 is a silver-tongued devil, softly goading you to partake of its massive power but never fully revealing itself until the scenery starts to move by at an astonishing pace. Arresting the V-12 rush are colossal disc brakes clamped by eight-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear governed by Sensotronic Brake Control, an electrohydraulic setup that modulates brake pressure at each wheel.
Keeping the SL600 in contact with the earth is the fifth-generation roadster’s superlative chassis, complete with Mercedes’ Active Body Control system. Grip is prodigious, but with this much torque, even drivers with lightning reflexes will find the skid control a welcome safety net. Cornering and accelerating without it requires a judicious foot to avoid lurid oversteer and wheelspin, yet when driven with restraint the chassis is supremely neutral. The SL600, drama-free one minute and supercar fast the next, will tolerate the whims of most any driver. Fickle Zeus would approve.