Car of the Week - January 13, 2003

2003 Mercedes SL500

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This is still an exceptional driving experience. The 2003 SL 500 features a faster power hardtop and a brake-by-wire system. The new braking system combines the brake pedal and master cylinder and sends electronic signals to a microprocessor. The Sl's V8 engine creates 302 with a maximum speed far exceeding legal US limits - we cruised at 80mph while the engine purred at 2300rpm. It provides 295 pound-feet of torque from 2,000 to 2,700 rpm and 339 at 4,250 rpm. The 0-60 time is supposed to be about 6 seconds, but unless my diet is doing much better than I thought, my informal test hit 5 seconds.

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The handling characteristics are downright killer. The SL500's ABC active suspension system merely give you the experience of driving two distinctly different, yet outstanding cars. With the ABC off, you're cruising in a silky smooth sedan - the steering lightens up for long stretches of freeway and the ride feels more cushioned like the first class section of a jet. With ther ABC active, the car's combination of hydraulic, electronic and mechanical parts dance together to almost completely deny body roll - the steering tightens - and you devour mountain roads. int2

Everyone loves the retractable roof, which does its thing in 16 seconds. There is a whole element of entertainment value here as many folks simply love watching the ballet of lifting, folding, tucking, and sealing. "Hey Mister, do that again!" You hear a lot of that. The interior feels spacious for both driver and passenger and when traffic gets back, just enjoy the crystal clarity of the Bose sound system. Even the 95K price tag seemed reasonable when you consider that the SL500 can become three different premium rides. ext2

- Mark Fulmer

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