Mercedes fires up the 600
Mercedes 12-cylinder SL 600 breaks cover
The SL 600's twin pipe system is lovely
5.5-litre V12 gets boost from 2 x turbochargers
Sydney Opera House inspired dash
The SL 600 is a supercar - with added comfort
2001 SL 600 made 'only' 290kW and 570Nm
When Mercedes unveiled the latest SL model in its burgeoning
range in Detroit, it was an indirect swipe at its primary
competitor, Bavarian Motor Works.
While there is much talk about the all-new V10, which will
promote the 2005 BMW M5 to one of the company's most powerful
four-door sedans, Mercedes has unleashed an absolute beast
in the form of the SL 600, taking away much of BMW's thunder.
Indeed, even without the tuning know-how of sister-company
AMG, Mercedes has delivered an absolute killer, which eclipses
the supercharged AMG SL55's power output - but not performance.
The SL 600 is now the flagship model in the SL range, and
the reasoning behind such a model, in Merc-speak, is simple:
"Performance, refinement, luxury."
In the world of non-PR mumbo-jumbo, Mercedes admits that
the 5.4-litre V8-engine AMG SL55 is still the sportiest model
The new SL 600, however, is geared towards those who want
power, but also all the bells and whistles of a luxury grand
tourer - something with a more relaxed character, if you will.
Visually, both the SL55 AMG and SL 600 would look identical
to the casual observer, but take a closer look and there are
The front spoiler, for instance, is a much happier-looking
face on the new 600, while the AMG model gets a more aggressive
and almost F1-like front end.
Other features, such as a radiator grille with discreet chrome
elements and silver-painted brake callipers differentiate
this V12 beast from other SL models. At the rear, twin oval
exhausts look awesome, while the standard SL tail lights round
off a finely sculpted rump.
There's also V12 emblems on the side air intakes, bi-xenon
headlamps and the light-alloy 18-inch wheels are distinguished
by their exclusive rim design.
At the front, the drop-top Merc is equipped with 255/40 R18
tyres, while the rear wheels have 285/35 R18 tyres.
Showed for the first time at the Detroit Motor Show (2003),
the SL 600 is based on the SL 500, with similar interior detailing.
It also packs more gizmos than your average James Bond-mobile,
with things like the electronic stability program and electronic
brake assist affording drivers with the confidence to push
the car hard.
It also packs Mercedes-Benz innovative 'active body control',
which makes use of fast-acting hydraulics at each wheel to
virtually eliminate pitch and body roll.
Controlled by advanced software, the ABC ensures that the
SL 600 stays level during braking, acceleration and particularly
At the business end of the car - that is, under the bonnet
- the new SL packs a ferocious punch.
While it can't quite match the SL55 AMG's 4.4 second 0-100km/h
sprint time, we think that 4.7 seconds is still seriously
quick - even more so when you consider that Merc's bad-boy
weighs in at a stately 1950kg. That's a lot of weight to be
As a result of this extra bulk, Mercedes has gone down the
popular forced induction path, favoured by Japanese marques
such as Nissan and Toyota. The 5.5-litre V12 comes with twin-turbochargers,
both fed by a single air/water intercooler, and diverts power
to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission.
The 12-cylinder mill has 3-valves per cylinder (2 intake,
1 exhaust), twin-spark AC ignition and a low compression ratio
of 9.0, thanks in large part to the forced induction. This
masterpiece of engineering translates to a gargantuan 368kW
of power @ 5000rpm, with a 6000rpm redline, compared to the
AMG's 7000rpm redline.
Meanwhile, peak torque of 800Nm is simply gobsmacking, moreso
when you realise maximum torque is on tap from just 1800rpm.
This massive amount of twist gains momentum at just over
1000rpm, peaks @ 1800rpm and stays at that magic 800Nm mark
until 3600rpm. We are talking one seriously flat torque curve
here, which provides the SL with more tractability than almost
any other car on the road today.
Such a colossal glut of power and torque would probably allow
the SL 600 to break the magic 200mph mark, roughly 320km/h,
but, as is the case with most Merc's these days, it is electronically
limited to 250km/h. Some say it's possible to de-restrict
them, but you didn't hear it from us....
Rumours from the Detroit Auto Show would suggest that the
new Merc will be one of the most expensive, costing more than
even the AMG-tuned SL55. Still, for Mercedes it's an issue
of offering more power, displacement and of course refinement,
than any of its rivals, with BMW seen as enemy # 1.
And, if first impressions are anything to go by, Mercedes
may have done just that with its new fire-breathing twin-turbo
Some are saying it's simply a quick-fix model to try and
deflect hype from the upcoming M5, but we would tend to disagree.
The SL 600 is a hard-top convertible aimed at a slightly
different demographic than that of the new M-tuned 5-series
Beemer. In essence, it's more likely a case of Mercedes saying
to other German automakers: You wanna play with the big boys?
800Nm or no entry, thankyou very much.
It's also interesting to note that Mercedes hasn't really
dabbled too much with turbochargers lately; its favoured means
of forced indcution the supercharger, aka the 'kompressor'.
Is this a sign of things to come?
At the end of the day, the new SL 600 will appeal to those
who want a supercar with 12-cylinders, but something that's
not a hassle to simply sit in or drive. While there are exotics
out there with better power-to-weight ratios, few of them
offer the style and comfort of a Mercedes, and something that
will really light up if pushed.