Car Review: Mercedes SL450 Roadster, a mix of sport and luxury for 2017

WTOP car guy Mike Parris calls the 2017 Mercedes SL450 Roadster “a luxury treat for two” that doesn’t compromise the driving experience.

 WTOP car guy Mike Parris calls the 2017 Mercedes SL450 Roadster “a luxury treat for two” that doesn’t compromise the driving experience. (WTOP/Mike Parris)

 I have been an admirer of the SL Roadster for years, but the high horsepower AMG versions have insane power and prices near $200,000.
 New for 2017, all the SL models get fresh and modern exterior styling — more in line with the rest of the Mercedes line up. The front end looks sleek and gives the appearance of a stand out high-dollar roadster. And that Mercedes badge is front and center on the grill, just so you don’t forget. Large 19-inch wheels are standard this year and look great with 10 spokes, but cleaning them will be a chore for the do-it-yourself owners. I like the side vents behind the front wheels, which add more visual appeal to the side view of the car.

The SL450 has a folding hard top, so it looks like a regular sport coupe when the top is up. The lines flow nicely, something that’s not easy to pull off with a hardtop convertible. It looks equally good with the top down. The top folds away in less than 15 seconds and, they say, at speeds less than 25 mph; but I had to stop for it to work for me.

Since the AMG versions with mega power from twin turbo V-12s had my interest in the past, I hadn’t really paid attention to the other versions. When the new SL450 showed up with a Biturbo V-6 good for 362 horsepower, I was surprised by the performance. It’s not overwhelming like the AMG, but vastly usable and engaging. The engine is willing to rev when pushed or be a near silent partner when cruising. It has more power than the old SL400, so look for a quicker entry SL than before. There is a new 9-speed automatic this year that is well behaved in all driving conditions.

Going into this, I thought it would be just a boulevard cruiser, but the SL450 likes making turns as much as it coddles you at 35 mph. The ride is geared more toward comfort, but the lighter SL450 comes alive when pushed; it handles very well for a luxury roadster. The brakes are also very strong and stop the car quickly when needed. Fuel economy is 23 mpg combined, and I managed 22 mpg with a high dose of spirited driving; so 23 or more would be easy to achieve for normal driving.

On the inside, the SL450 excels with top quality material such as ash wood trim and the optional saddle brown and black Nappa leather, which looks and feels great. I was surprised by the space inside: two people of any size should have no problem getting comfortable. I really enjoyed the elegant gauges that are also easy to read; you don’t have to use virtual gauges. Mercedes proves that sometimes simple is best.


The tester had two big option packages that pushed the base price quickly toward $96,000, and I see why. The Premium package adds Active Ventilated and Multicontour seats with massage. They are splendid and keep you in place during turns. The massage is very calming. You also get a rear view camera and parking pilot, meaning it will park and pull out of a spot for you at the push of a button. The COMAND hard-drive navigation and control unit takes a bit of time to get used to but it’s nice to use once you learn.

The 2017 Mercedes SL450 Roadster is a luxury treat for two. With new styling and an elegant interior, the SL is a special car for those who want to see more and not compromise the driving experience. The SL450 is the bargain of the SL lineup and still plenty of fun for under a six-figure price tag.