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New Car/Review


Mercedes-Benz SL600 (2002)

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price             $ 128,950
     Price As Tested                                   $ 136,195
     Engine Type             DOHC 48-valve 6.0 Liter V12 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 365 cid/5987 cc
     Horsepower                                   389 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               420 @ 3800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.0"/71.3"/177.1"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4512 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  21.1 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                  275/45ZR18 (F) 275/35ZR18 (R)
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            13/19/16
     0-60 MPH                                        6.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                              N/A
     Top-speed                  (electronically limited) 155 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(There's no such thing as a dull Mercedes says Matt Hagin, but its '02 Silver Arrow Limited roadster is exceptional. Bob Hagin notes that first Silver Arrow had only one seat, 650 horsepower and went 190 MPH.)

BOB - The Silver Arrow name hasn't been attached to a Mercedes-Benz vehicle for a long time. The first ones were the all-conquering single- seater race cars that literally monopolized international Grand Prix racing in the '30s. The second Silver Arrows were racers that the German company developed to again dominate international racing in '54 and '55.

MATT - That may be where the name came from, Dad, but the new Silver Arrows are almost totally on the other end of the scale. They're actually special editions of the Mercedes SL500 and SL600 luxury roadsters. Basically, the two cars are the same, but they differ in lots of important details. The SL500 is powered by a 5.0-liter, 90-degree V8 engine that uses a single overhead cam on each bank along with three valves per cylinder. Our test car, the SL600, is a 6.0-liter, 60-degree V12 that has two cams on each head and four valves per cylinder. Both engines are all-aluminum. The 302-horse V8 is the more up-to-date of the two and uses advanced technology to get more specific horsepower out of an engine that uses less "gadgetry." The V12 is more powerful, putting out 389 horsepower and a whopping 420 pound-feet of torque.

BOB - The SL600 can go from 0-to-60 MPH in just over six seconds and has a top speed of 155 MPH. It would go faster except that the prudent Mercedes engineers put an electronic limiter on it to keep the speed down. For a 4500-pound car that has such an enormous engine, its fuel economy of 13 MPG around town and 19 on the highway is remarkable. The transmission is an automatic, as would be expected, but it's very sophisticated. The engine is so powerful that it could easily spin the wheels uncontrollably on ice or in the snow, so the transmission has a "winter-mode" that's to be used in inclement weather conditions. It has an adaptive computer system that tailors itself to the driver's performance parameters and it can be shifted manually through the gears for maximum use of all that power.

MATT - The rest of the road-going controls are equally sophisticated, Dad. On a curve, if the car goes into an oversteer situation where the rear end is coming around or an understeer situation where the front end is "plowing" towards the outside of the turn, the system applies braking to a single wheel to help straighten it out. It can also instantly reduce engine power to further get in line. If the driver applies the brakes during a panic stop and it's not enough to engage to anti-lock braking system, the computer will automatically apply full braking power just short of locking them up. The brakes on the SL600 are 12.6 inches in front just under a foot in diameter in the rear. The four brake calipers have four pistons each.

BOB - There's lots of inside gadgetry for the driver, too. The Tele Aid system not only gives directions to the driver, but takes over in an emergency. If an air bag goes off and the driver fails to respond with a voice or switch-controlled command, the system summons local police and other emergency response organizations and gives the location of the car. If the car is stolen, it tracks it and sends information back to the Mercedes Tele Aid center so it can be intercepted by the police. It can also be called on to help the driver get hotel and restaurant reservations, arrange for golfing tee times and in short, act as a personal assistant. I hope the driver is required to pull over while all this is going on. The Silver Arrow is very sophisticated but it can't drive itself.

MATT - All the trim as well as the color of the car is polished silver and isn't it ironic that the reason that the original Silver Arrows of '37 acquired the name was so practical. Mercedes race mechanics had to spend the night before a particular event removing the white paint from the aluminum car to trim off five pounds. It was overweight that much and would have been ineligible to race the next day.