2017 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class first drive review Page 3

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Top down, you can power up an air deflector that, with the side windows up simultaneously, is one of the most effective in any convertible made, creating a zone that lets you be relatively soft-spoken at 70 mph. Power up the top, and the SL truly turns into a tight, vaultlike coupe; a passenger might have no idea that this moonlights as a convertible.

About the only feature we’re not convinced about on the SL is what’s front and center—its COMAND interface. Compared to the rival high-end versions of iDrive or MMI, it feels limited and too dependent on remembering text-based menus. While it’s more excusable in a $35k CLA, being in a $150k+ SL 63, otherwise a tour de force of technology and engineering, underscores that point.

A heavy helping of safety tech

At the base SL450 level, these models include Keyless Go with Hands-Free Access, Parktronic Parking Assist, a Harmon Kardon surround-sound system, and a Collision Prevention Assist Plus feature with active brake assist. A Driver Assistance package heaps on more active-safety items onto the SL, including Distronic Plus advanced cruise control with steering assist, an Active Brake Assist system with cross-traffic functionality, Active Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist, and Pre-Safe Brake, which will help actively brake at up to 40 percent power, while sounding an alert, if traffic is stopped ahead. The moment the driver does touch the brake pedal, 100 percent of braking power is delivered.

Other key options on the SL include softer Nappa leather upholstery, ambient lighting, and the Active Body Control with Curve Tilting function. And there’s Magic Sky Control, which makes much of the roof glass, with the capability to adjust light transmission with the touch of a button.

Additionally, on the AMG models you can get a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system.

Taking a step back, the SL is peerless. The Maserati GranTurismo Convertible, Aston Martin V8 Vantage Convertible, and Porsche 911 Cabriolet all sacrifice just a bit more quiet, long-legged road-trip comfort, while, perhaps, delivering a little more edginess at those times when you're pushing the limits. 

Collectively, the revised SL lineup goes farther, employing some technological tricks, as well as some serious engineering, for more seat-of-the-pants thrills, all to full advantage—pushing the limits between what defines a racy roadster and a downright luxurious convertible. Expect no less.

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