Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz SL spans a wide territory from well-equipped luxury convertible cruiser to powerful and poised amusement machine. It also has a heritage that spans six decades to become an automotive icon. We’re witnessing the tail end of the current generation, but it wears its years well.
You'll Like The 2019 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class If...
Relaxed cruising is preferable to taut apex-clipping. In other words, despite having a 2-seater car with decent power and maybe an optional adaptive suspension, you’d sooner leave the extreme cornering exploits to those with stiffly sprung sports cars. It’s a mature approach.
You May Not Like The 2019 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class If...
Your inner enthusiast leans more toward another German automotive icon, the Porsche 911. At this price level, both cars are within reach, while the 911 remains a purer sports car, yet still perfectly bearable for long trips. You’d just have to decide whether to go with a soft-top convertible or a fixed-roof coupe.
Within the scope of this review, nothing has changed for 2019. But the Mercedes-AMG SL65 has been discontinued. The remaining high-dollar, high-power AMG SL63 variant is reviewed separately.
The 2019 SL-Class doesn’t have the futuristic interior design of newer Benzes. But its roomy interior oozes class and quality, with fine leathers, deeply comfortable 16-way power-adjustable seats with memory settings, and a Harman Kardon sound system with a subwoofer located on the other side of the passenger foot-well. It’s possible to hear music with perfect clarity even when the roof is down. We recommend the Airscarf system that blows warm air through neck-level vents in the seats. It makes dropping the top on a chilly, starlit evening more compelling. There’s some storage behind the seats, but trunk space is good: 10.2 cubic feet with the roof up, 7.1 (maybe enough for a couple of golf bags) when it’s retracted.
It’s a rare convertible that looks good regardless of whether the roof is up or down. We’d argue that the Mercedes-Benz SL is one of them. The advantage of a retractable hardtop is better insulation from noise and weather, plus greater security. It still feels airy, though, thanks to the panoramic roof panel. The profile traces a beautiful classic silhouette of long nose, low cabin roof and tidy tail. Some generations of SL might have been more attractive, but this one carries the necessary elegance.
The ingredients might suggest one thing. The SL-Class has a long, low shape. It seats two and packs either a turbocharged V6 or V8 to drive only the rear wheels. Surely a recipe for an out-and-out sports machine. Hmmm, not exactly. This is more about eating up the miles in style and luxury. That’s not to say it doesn’t have control. The 2019 SL has its fair share of poise, especially when the optional adaptive suspension is fitted. Then virtually all trace of body roll is eliminated, yet it never becomes uncomfortable. The standard 9-speed automatic transmission is extremely refined. A 4-mode Dynamic Select system modifies responses of the throttle, gearshift points and steering. We’d be inclined to keep it in Sport most of the time, click into Comfort on occasion or get mischievous with Sport Plus. There are definite differences.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz SL450 starts with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $89,150. Add the $995 destination charge and it comes to $90,145. The 2019 SL550 begins at $114,545. Add some options to either car and the final tally could be thousands more. A soft-topped Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet is priced from $104,650. The Maserati GranTurismo Convertible is about $50,000 more. For a more modest sum, the 380-horsepower Jaguar F-Type S Convertible starts at $83,845 and there are cheaper versions below that. Or perhaps the Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class, from $49,945, would be sufficiently prestigious. It even has a retractable hardtop. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Mercedes-Benz SL. Resale values aren’t that strong and even a small percentage of depreciation is a considerable amount at this financial level.
The 2019 SL450 kicks off the range with many standard features. For example, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, keyless entry/ignition, active parallel-parking assistance, heated/power-adjustable seats, dual-zone climate control, sun-reflecting leather upholstery, ambient cabin lighting, power trunk lid, navigation, 600-watt surround-sound system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, Bluetooth, and two USB ports. On the safety front are automatic emergency braking, driver-fatigue monitoring and pop-up roll-over protection. The 2019 SL550 comes with V8 muscle, ventilated/massaging seats, Airscarf, hands-free trunk operation and soft-closing doors.
Mercedes-Benz offers many tempting ways to spend more money on a new SL. The aforementioned Magic Sky Control joins a glorious Bang & Olufsen audio system on the options list, as well as Active Body Control with Curve function, Wi-Fi, wood/leather steering wheel, and a Driver Assistance Package (recommended) that includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, active lane keeping, active steering assistance and cross-traffic braking. Some standard features in the SL550 (like massaging seats and Airscarf) are available as options in the SL450.
BITURBO V6 ENGINEThe words “bargain” and “Mercedes-Benz” rarely occur in the same sentence, but the turbocharged V6 in the SL450 is 87 horsepower shy of the V8, which isn’t much when there’s already 362 horsepower to play with. Yet the SL450 is $24,400 less than its V8-powered SL550 sibling.MAGIC SKY CONTROLIt’s a $2,500 option, but it’s too cool not to have. At the touch of a button, Magic Sky Control turns the glass in the panoramic roof either transparent or opaque.
Under the Hood
A twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 motivates the Mercedes-Benz SL450 with 362 horsepower, sending it from standstill to 60 mph in a highly respectable 4.9 seconds. If there’s one engine synonymous with traditional automotive luxury, though, it’s a V8. The SL550 obliges with a forceful twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter version, developing 449 horsepower and shaving 0.6 second from the sprint to 60 mph. Both engines have a stop/start function that saves some fuel while idling (which is easily disabled). The sole transmission is a perfectly refined 9-speed automatic, sending engine power to the rear wheels. There’s no all-wheel drive option for the SL-Class.3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (SL450)362 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm369 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg4.7-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (SL550)449 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm516 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-3,500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 mpg
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz SL continues a grand tradition of grand touring. For more than 60 years, the SL has represented grace, luxury, engineering, design and desirability. It’s transcended mere transportation to become a cultural touchstone, a symbol of fine living and fine driving. And there’s nothing else quite like it. A Jaguar F-Type or Porsche 911 might come close, but they have their own characters. In 2019, this generation of SL approaches its twilight. But it’s still packed with useful technology, luxury features, welcome safety equipment and a retractable hardtop, so it can be a coupe and a convertible in one. Which makes the $90,000 or so entry price easier to bear.