Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mercedes-Benz SL550? I'll be right there

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at

This review originally appeared in the April 2015 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California My conversation with my Bay Area buddy, and relentless horsepower freak, went something like this:

Him: “Hey, I’ve got a new car I want you to look at, maybe shake it down with me.”

Me: “I already have more cars than I can review right now, you know that.”

Him: “It’s a new Mercedes-Benz SL550”

Me: “I’ll be right there.”

These opportunities don’t come along every day, and really, how many more chances am I going to get to climb behind the wheel of a wondrous M-B convertible at my age?  Not many, let me assure you.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance.  But not too quickly.  Yes, the hardtop convertible show where the roof retreats into the back end of the car is still worth the price of admission, which is north of $105,000 new.

But this is a serious piece of machinery with 429 horsepower screaming out of the 4.7-liter V-8.  Fuel mileage is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, but that’s just a wager on a 10-foot putt at the country club in this high-flying buyer segment.

Still, I was wary.  I baby-stepped it up to 60 mph and then 70 mph.  What was I thinking?  The V-8 performed so smoothly that I was touching 80 in a heartbeat, yet not a quiver or quake from the car.

This is the kind buttery performance that can get you in trouble if you’re not prepared, like slugging down sweet-tasting White Russians at a Vegas bar and suddenly realizing the attractive lady you’ve been chatting with is actually a slot machine.

But I digress.

Once I mastered the rhythm of the tester’s accelerator from a standing start – following several incredibly embarrassing lurches into intersections – I was good to go. Once comfortable, I was able to enjoy the opulent, luxurious surroundings in this SL550.  Mercedes-Benz did not hold back in that department.  Ditto scores of safety features and driving-enhancement technologies.

Please note that this SL550 is a relatively low rider.  So if you get nervous motoring between large trucks on your commute, it’s probably not gong to be your cup of tea.  It’s best to unwind the SL500 on twisty Sierra Nevada foothills roads on a quiet afternoon.  Much more pleasure to be derived there, believe me.

The big gripe with Mercedes-Benz used to be glitches in the numerous on-board electrical systems.  Although my time in the SL550 was short, I sensed none of that this time around.  And I sampled about everything in the cockpit.  I’m assuming those glitches left the train station long ago.

In the end, I didn’t want to leave this luxurious, robust performer.  I was just getting comfortable with it.  It’s top-drawer all the way. If you have the bucks to buy this SL550, go for it.  And I salute you.

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