On any list of iconic roadsters, you'll likely find the SL class from Mercedes-Benz. For 2013, the sixth-generation SL550 gets a slightly bigger body that's 90 percent aluminum, which Mercedes says makes it almost 300 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The car also gets a more powerful engine and chassis tweaks.
Appearance: Classic roadster: long hood, short rear deck. The hood's chrome-trimmed cosmetic air scoops are echoed in the side intakes that highlight the car's sculpted character lines that run on the door panels. Up front, the wide black-mesh grille, which has a single-bar chrome trim with a large three-point Mercedes star, recalls the classic SLs. The grille is flanked by angled Bi-Xenon cornering headlamps with LED "eyelids." Combined with the high hood, the overall effect strikes some as clumsy. Count Lyra in that camp: She likened the front end — nerd alert — to that of the Star Wars character Admiral "It's a trap" Ackbar. Whatever your opinion, the SL550 is an eye-catcher.
Performance: The SL550 isn't quite the performance car like its AMG sibling, the SL63, but there's no shortage of get-up-and-go. Mercedes has increased both torque and horsepower with a new 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8 that produces 429 horsepower. The power gain is particularly notable in torque; there's 516 pound-feet from a low of 1,800 RPM up to 3,500. That's a lot of thrust. Also making for an exhilarating ride: 0 to 60 comes in about 4 1/2 seconds. The 7-speed automatic shifts flawlessly and has paddle shifters for manual mode (there are multiple modes for the transmission and suspension settings). There's also a fuel-saving ECO-start/stop engine system, which engages and disengages quickly and smoothly. The 3,935-pound SL550 stays planted in turns but lacks the all-out agility of a true sports car. Consider this more of a top-down cruiser or grand tourer.
Interior: As you'd expect, the cabin is flawlessly luxurious with premium leather seats, dash, door panels and burl-walnut trim. Our tester had an astounding amount of technology courtesy of the pricey Driver Assistance ($2,950) and Premium ($4,900) packages. The convertible top retracts in less than 20 seconds and tucks away cleanly in the trunk. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the Magic Sky Control in the glass roof. Mercedes' tech wizards came up with a way to alter the light-blocking crystals embedded in the glass with electrical charges, which lightens the glass and makes it transparent. Turn the feature off, and it goes back to a dark roof.
Our 3 favorites
Hugs: Dynamic seat bolsters react to turns and inflate to keep you in place.
Pamper: The optional Airscarf system under the head rests blows warm air on your neck and shoulders.
Engine: Torque, horsepower, fun.
Massaging seats: Makes the commute relaxing.
Headlights: The lamps glitter with jewel-like LED.
Gadgets: Long list of safety and driver-assist features. Plus the ingenious Magic Sky Control.
The bottom line: The Mercedes-Benz SL550 Roadster is for people who like to be seen driving a fine automobile. It's a cruiser's dream that's perfect for weekend getaways.