Returning to a fast, sexy sports car

One of the landmark cars in automotive history was the Mercedes SL sports car of the 1950s. It was clearly a timeless design with its gorgeous shape, gull-wing

doors, a three-pointed star centered in the grill and tremendous racing history. None of the later versions of the SL, although attractive, was as dramatic a breakthrough.

More recently, one could fairly state that Mercedes has returned home with the latest fast and good-looking SL sports car.

Styling is reminiscent of the 1950s version, including the same grill with more of a rearward slant and a smaller version of the side grills, maintaining the overall general shape, albeit with some modern flair.

Not left out in the process is the engine bay with three super engine choices. Starting with the 5.5 liter, 382 horsepower V-8 in the SL 550 as the “base” model is only the beginning. Next up to bat is a V-12, 5.5 liter powerplant with two turbochargers developing 510 horsepower. Finally, the all-around killer edition, our test car, is the SL 63 AMG with a 6.2 liter hand-built V-8 with 518 horses and more torque than a Caterpillar tractor. Pushing all of this power to the rear wheels is a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

Of course, every luxury feature imaginable is found. The attractive power seats can be adjusted 12 ways and can be either heated or cooled depending on the weather conditions. Need to relax more? How about pushing the pulsing button? There is even a little vent built into the back of the headrest to blow warm air on the back of your head and neck when the top-down conditions call for it. A large 6.5-inch video screen is centered in the dash, which provides stereo, navigation and telephone details in a beautifully laid-out fashion. Want to hear from your iPod, you say? In the center console is a true direct iPod connector to the stereo system.

So much for the inside – now let’s get on the road. First, the top is a fully automated hardtop. Pull a lever, and it’s gone in 16 seconds.

Twist the key fob and the big V-8 roars to life with a deep, throaty sound from its four exhaust pipes. Now that you are moving forward, there are multiple performance and handling choices to make depending on your mood and road conditions.

With a spin of a dial, you can choose the shift swiftness from cruise to sport, to sport plus or manual. The latter is done by shift paddles on the steering wheel. Likewise, the suspension and shock system, with the push of a button, can hunker down for greater cornering capability.

But the best part is the sound of the engine when given a little gas – it just has a feeling and sense of power. And boy, does it have clout. Simply stated, it is spooky fast. There is no hesitation, and you are instantly thrown back into the seat. Zero-to-60 time is in the race-car realm of 4.5 seconds.

With the big 19-inch wheel and tire combo and sophisticated suspension and shock system, cornering is tight and controlled. Yet the ride, even on our less-than-smooth roads, is completely accommodating.

All you can say is, “Thank you, Mercedes Benz” for returning to your sports-car racing roots with the latest versions of the SL.

Mercedes Sl 63 Amg

Engine: 518 hp, 6.2 liter, V-8
Acceleration: 0-60 in 4.5 seconds
Braking:Four-wheel AMG enhanced four-circuit electrohydraulic, 14.2-inch front discs, 13-inch rear discs Sound system: harmon/kardon LOGIC7, six-disc CD player with a direct iPod connection.