- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 8, 2004

It seems as though buying a supercar has become very similar to buying a new computer with all the bells and whistles — as soon as the acquisition is made, invariably, something better appears upon the scene. You know, lighter, faster and with greater capabilities.

If you fell in love with the Mercedes-Benz SL500, you will no doubt be able to relate, because the new SL600 leaves it in the dust, not only in terms of sheer, beauteous visual appeal, but performance-wise as well. It’s the Teutonic way.

The SL600 is both a coupe and roadster in one with its retractable hardtop blending the pleasures of open-air motoring with the luxury and security of a coupe. It is powered not by a fire-breathing V-8, but rather by an even more potent 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine that cranks out a stunning 493 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and an unbelievable 590 foot/pounds of torque on tap over a broad range from 1,800 to 3,500 rpm. These figures are increases respectively of 30 percent and 50 percent over the normally aspirated previous-generation SL600.

The twin turbocharger system incorporates two intercoolers placed downstream from the turbos, and the valve train employs three-valve-per-cylinder technology with two intake and one exhaust valve each.

The powerful V-12 mates to an electronically controlled, five-speed adaptive, automatic transmission with Touch Shift — a manually shiftable program for drivers who wish to take command of changing gears. Braking chores are handled by the same system found on the SL55 AMG, in keeping with other performance parameters and featuring massive 14.2-inch rotors with silver-painted eight-piston front calipers and 13.0-inch rotors aft with four-piston calipers.

The SL600 joins the V-8-powered SL500 and SL55 AMG in the SL lineup, each with a distinctive character of its own. The SL55 AMG and the SL600 share the same horsepower rating. A marvelous showcase of technology, the new coupe/roadster comes with features such as ABC active suspension, ESP stability control and the world’s first electronic brake system.

Visually, the SL600 is absolutely gorgeous — a true work of art that is comparable to meticulously crafted, classic sculpture. It truly takes one’s breath away. It is an immeasurable and understated exercise in elegant expression. Subtle is the word for distinctive cues identifying the SL600 — items such as the five-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels shod with staggered-width performance rubber; the chrome grille; discreet “V12” badging (also appearing on embroidered headrests and floor mats); exclusive Nappa leather interior in a choice of five colors; bi-xenon headlamps; active vented, multicontour seats; and an integrated Motorola V60i digital, voice-controlled telephone.

The SL600 plays host to a most impressive array of features and equipment that comes as standard fare. The retractable hardtop comes with an “Easy-Pack” sensor tray, the climate control provides dust and pollen filters, the steering wheel is stylishly executed in wood and leather, the steering column adjusts electrically, both tilting and telescoping — the inventory goes on and on, and on, ad infinitum.

The base price of the test car was $125,950, while extras such as the Panorama Roof with sunshade, tire-pressure monitoring system, Keyless-Go, destination and delivery charge, and gas guzzler tax elevated the final total to $132,800. Not a paltry sum, mind you, but the car is certainly worthy of such a figure.

The SL600 is the “complete supercar” for those of discriminating taste, who desire a healthy dose of performance to go hand-in-hand with the luxurious ambience and style of their personal transportation.

Mercedes-Benz SL600 Roadster

Price as Tested: $132,800.

13 mpg city / 19 mpg highway

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