A look inside the new-generation SL shows what Mercedes designers mean when they talk about the "balance of sportiness and comfort". The integral seats, the new-look three-spoke leather steering wheel and the completely restyled instrument cluster immediately make it clear that this is a thoroughbred sports car. Everything fits perfectly, all the controls are easy to see and within just as easy reach. The speedometer and rev counter sport a classic chronometer design with new-look dials that promise unerring precision.
As soon as the ignition is switched on, the cockpit instruments grab the driver's attention: the red speedometer and rev counter needles are aroused from their "six o'clock position", rotate once around the dials to their maximum values and then revert to their zero positions. The message these needle movements convey to the driver is unmistakable: "start your engine".
A wide range of colours and materials allows Mercedes customers to design and appoint the interior of the new-generation SL to their individual tastes. There are two types of leather to choose from, as well as six different aluminium or fine-wood trims and five leather colour variations.
The SL 600 underlines its top billing in the SL line-up even more clearly than before. Inside the passengers are cosseted by extremely soft Exclusive nappa leather and trim elements in elegant Burr Walnut wood. V12 emblems on the seat backrests, on the centre steering wheel spoke and on the door sills, as well as the uniquely designed interior door panels round off the refined twelve-cylinder ambience perfectly. On the outside, the flagship SL model is distinguishable by its exclusive 18-inch ten-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels and discreet yet highly effective detailing such as the matt-silver-painted louvres of the side air outlets and the centre divider in the trapezoidal exhaust tailpipe trims. Mercedes Benz has upgraded the already extensive standard-equipment package by adding the KEYLESS-GO system and a remote-locking boot lid.
AIRSCARF: Mercedes invention extends the open-air season
The long list of systems that help to provide an outstanding level of comfort in the roadster includes a further innovation in the new-generation SL. AIRSCARF – the neck-level heating system developed and patented by Mercedes engineers – is so called because it distributes air at just the right temperature through the head restraints, forming a warm, invisible "scarf" around the driver and front passenger.
This Mercedes Benz invention allows the occupants to enjoy open-air driving pleasure for longer and even more often than before. The roadster season lasts until well into the winter months as AIRSCARF provides the SL occupants with all the warmth they need.
The optionally available heating system, which celebrated its world premiere in the SLK Roadster in 2004, has been modified by the Mercedes engineers for the new SL generation. Now the blower and heating are incorporated in the head restraints of the integral seats: two small ventilators suck in air behind the head restraints and channel it through the electric heating element to ensure rapid heating. The temperature-controlled air then flows out of special openings on the front of the head restraints and warms the occupants' head and neck areas. Both driver and passenger can select the heating temperature using a three-position switch in the door lining; the system then controls the desired temperature automatically depending on the speed at which the car is being driven.
Infotainment: latest multimedia technology in the centre console
The new-generation SL is also fit for the future when it comes to information, entertainment and communications: Mercedes Benz has further modified the standard-fit COMAND system, equipping it with additional functions. The result is infotainment par excellence: the multimedia device combines a car radio including a dual tuner with telephone controls, a CD/DVD changer and a slot for SD memory cards. Further new additions include a Bluetooth receiver, which connects a mobile phone to the standard-fit hands-free system wirelessly, and a large colour display (6.5"), which enhances user-friendliness and serves as a high-resolution screen for playing DVD films – although not whilst the car is being driven, for obvious safety reasons.
COMAND also features include a Europe-wide navigation system whose data are stored on a hard disc and therefore allow extremely fast route calculations. For playing music, there is an integrated six-disc CD/DVD changer and a Music Register for around 1000 MP3 tracks. A saved database enables automatic recognition of the music tracks and their artists. This information is then posted on the colour display.
The standard COMAND APS package also includes the latest-generation LINGUATRONIC voice-operated control system, which controls the navigation, telephone and audio systems based on its ability to recognise entire words. This system is of great benefit as drivers no longer need to spell out their commands. Instead, they simply say what they want, whether it be a destination for the navigation system, a radio station or a name in the stored phone book.
For the first time, it is also possible to connect an iPod, USB stick or other external audio device to the COMAND system thanks to a newly developed, universal media interface in the centre console (optional). This UCI (Universal Consumer Interface) is more than just an electronic "socket", however; it also includes an ECU that links the external music memory to the SL's on-board electronics and control system. In this way, the iPod music tracks can also be indicated on the instrument cluster and on the COMAND display in the centre console. Plus they can be called up easily using the buttons on the multifunction steering wheel. The audio device's battery is charged for as long as the portable music memory is connected to the car via the UCI.
For a complete in-car music experience, Mercedes Benz can equip the new-generation SL with the Harman Kardon "Logic7" sound system (optional extra), which is also used in the S-Class and whose performance has been confirmed in numerous tests. The sound system has an output of 510 watts and converts the SL interior into a mobile concert hall – whether the vario-roof is up or down – courtesy of ten high-performance loudspeakers and state-of-the-art surround technology.
The new-generation SL-Class will make its public debut in March at the International Motor Show in Geneva. It will then appear at Mercedes Benz outlets and dealerships in the UK from mid-April, 2008.Published 31 January 2008