Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Overview
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Mercedes roadsters have a particular drool factor that can put the driest of salivary glands into overdrive. In the case of the big SL, you might want to take a bib along for your first test drive, simply out of common courtesy to your dealer.
For those of you who have achieved sufficient success in life to afford a new SL, you are about to enter the world of the supercar. Supercars are those vehicles that don't have to be reliable or efficient or even comfortable; they simply have to inspire lust in the eyes of anyone who views them. Which brings us to the subject of this article: the Mercedes-Benz SL 500. Certainly this car has the power to seduce even those who wouldn't normally look twice at a car, but there is something more here; in very un-supercar fashion, the Mercedes roadster is reliable, efficient, comfortable and extremely safe. The SL 500 is more than just pretty, it has a personality, brawn and brains as well.
The styling of the new SL is so magnificent it is almost beyond words. Pictures work so much better so of course we've included some here for your viewing pleasure. Rather than describe a car you can clearly see with your own eyes, we'll tell you a bit about what it is you're looking at. Let's start with the roof, because by now, you've probably noticed that one picture looks to be that of a hardtop coupe and the other an open-air roadster; it's no mistake, the SL is both. The SL designer's have given the big roadster a hinged roof panel that retracts back into the truck area in less than 20 seconds; so clever is the execution of the roof's design that even when stowed, there is still 8 cu-ft. of cargo room remaining in the trunk area. With the roof out of the way, you will enjoy countless hours of open air driving, night or day, and when you've had your fill of fresh air, the top can be ordered back into place. Once locked down, the fixed roof creates a cabin as quiet and secure as any Mercedes hardtop.
It wouldn't surprise us that after the roof, the second thing you notice are the massive wheels and tires the SL rides upon. Like the proverbial iceberg, the SL's wheels only hint at the massive underpinnings-in this case the amount of engineering and electronic wizardry-that lay beneath. So controlled, so perfectly balanced is the SL that all other engineers must simply take their hats off in homage every time one drives by. Balance and control and maneuverability are nothing new for small sports cars, but to pull it off in a vehicle of this size is nothing short of brilliance.
As you drive the SL, you'll feel that exactness we are referring to in the steering wheel and brakes and in the way the car corners and copes with emergency situations. What you won't feel is the army of computers monitoring, controlling and adjusting every facet of the SL driving experience. Mercedes-Benz has equipped the SL with such innovative marvels as Active Body Control suspension that helps to keep the car level in sharp turns and can also detect when a rollover is eminent, activating the pop-up rollover bar. The SL features a new electrohydraulic braking system that adjusts pressure to the brakes depending on the driving situation; the system can also detect an emergency stop by monitoring the speed at which your foot first touches the brake pedal and quickly activate the brakes full stopping power. All of these systems are designed to heighten the driving experience without requiring any input from you; your job is to simply drive.
The SL series now offers three choices. The SL 500 (which we've tested here) combines both power and price into a very desirable package. Powered by a 302-horsepower V8, the SL 500 rockets from dead stops like a stone leaving a slingshot. Believe it or not, as fast as the SL500 is, there are still two even more powerful versions above it: the supercharged SL 55 AMG and the all-new, 500-horsepower bi-turbo V12 SL 600. For 2004, the SL 500 receives an all-new seven-speed automatic transmission that features a faster 1-2 gear shift for quick off-the-line starts; the tall 6 and 7 gearing improves fuel efficiency at cruising speeds.
Last but not least, there is the luxury side of the SL that pampers every one of your five senses. Slip behind the wheel and feel the marvelous contour of the orthopedic seats. Everything inside the SL is automated, meaning you set it once then forget about it; we should point out that some of the controls-like the COMAND system-are a bit complicated and take some effort to master. Standard features include dual-zone automatic air conditioning with memory functions, heated and cooling seats, the COMAND system that integrates controls for phone, audio and navigation into a single control center, Bose audio unit, auto dimming rear and side-view mirrors, leather-wrapped power tilt and telescopic steering wheel and real leather and wood everywhere you look.