It may not be the most expensive model in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, but the SL is a car that will always stand out as one of the automaker’s best. The SL is Mercedes’ big grand tourer convertible but its name actually derives from the German words “sport leicht”, which translates to sport light. It was first applied to the 300SL Gullwing model and has since gone on to appear on five different generations.
The current generation Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, the R230 series, was given a major facelift in 2009 which brought it to its present design. It is a luxurious two-seater convertible with an automated folding hard-top roof and in the U.S. is available with either V-8 or V-12 powertrains.
The base model comes with a 5.5-liter V-8 engine that develops a peak output of 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. This model would suit you if you like a comfortable ride with adequate performance when required.
The more interesting models are the SL63 and SL65 models from AMG. The SL63 features a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 and 518 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, while the SL65 gets a sledgehammer twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V-12 with 604 horsepower and a monster 738 pound-feet of torque on tap, the latter coming on from as low as 2,000 rpm.
The most extreme, however, is the limited edition SL65 AMG Black Series model. This bad boy delivers 661 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque, and will probably give wheelspin in all five of its gears.
You may be wondering why the V-12 models get an older five-speed automatic while the less powerful V-8s get a seven-speed. That’s because of the force-fed V-12s’ monumental torque, which only the five-speed can handle despite being electronically limited to 738 pound-feet.
You’ll easily spend more than $200,000 on the V-12 models in the SL lineup, but our favorite is the V-8 powered SL63 AMG, which offers impressive acceleration and a host of luxury amenities for a relatively reasonable price of $139,050.
Inside, there’s plenty of leather trim and wood or carbon fiber paneling. The cabin is also rather roomy for a two-seat convertible but like most others, the carry-on space gets beaten by a single overhead bin on any passenger jet.
Note, a brand new model is being readied for launch in the 2013 model year. You can spy shots of the car by clicking here
For a full review of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class’ styling, performance, comfort and quality, safety and features, check out TheCarConnection's more detailed report