I just read that New Hampshire’s Mount Washington set a record for the coldest wind chill ever recorded. It was -108 degrees Fahrenheit.
And the National Weather Service warned the good people of Duluth, Minnesota, last weekend that dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes.
Here in the Sunshine State, I’ve just dropped the top on the new Mercedes-AMG SL 55 Roadster and I’m feeling toasty-warm rays of sun on my face.
To car lovers, February in Florida can only mean one thing: It’s officially Convertible Season. And, without doubt, one of the most perfect drop-tops on the market right now is Mercedes’ brand new SL.
Those two little letters—SL is short for Sport-Leicht, or Sport-Light—have been gracing the trunk lids of low-slung Mercedes sportsters since the legendary 300SL from 1952.
And while in recent years the oh-so-classy SL did lose some of its mojo and became a little, shall we say, milquetoast, this newest version is back to being a true, thoroughbred sports car.
Redesigned and re-engineered from top to bottom, it now features standard all-wheel-drive, rear-wheel steering for sharper handing, and thundering V8 power.
It also goes back to having a canvas top in place of an overly complex metal roof, and once again offers two-plus-two seating so the kids can come along for the ride.
Perhaps the biggest change was Mercedes’ decision to hand-over the complete development of the car to the performance wizards at AMG. Hence the two-seater’s fancy new name: Mercedes-AMG SL.
Two versions are currently on offer. Take your pick from the new SL 55 powered by an AMG-massaged 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 cranking out 469 horseys. Or step up to the muscled-up SL 63 with a 577-hp version of that turbine-smooth V8.
On this crisp, zero-humidity Florida morning, I’m trying out the SL 55 version, priced at $137,400, or $158,535 with a boatload of pricy options.
Climb behind that salami-thick AMG wheel, slide a finger across the new iPad-like 11.9-inch tilting center touchscreen, and that new canvas top powers back in just 15 seconds. Ahhh. The sun’s shining, so it’s time for some fun.
But just take-in this truly gorgeous cockpit for a second. The quality materials, stunning design, body-hugging comfort of the seats, and clever, though complex technology, turn every drive into an occasion.
My only complaint? That iPad-sized tablet in the center (it’s the same one you see in the new S-Class flagship) looks just a little too big for the cabin. Like having an 80-inch flat-screen in a teeny den.
While Mercedes is all about electric these days, thankfully they haven’t given up on internal combustion and the mighty V8 just yet.
Press the “start” button and that twin-turbo 4.0-liter fires-up with the soundtrack of a small explosion. Whooomf. Click the 9-speed automatic shifter into “drive,” squeeze the throttle, and the car lunges away like a Learjet on takeoff.
Want more action? Select “sport” on the steering wheel drive-mode selector, stomp on the gas, and the car will catapult forward. From standstill it can hit 60 mph in a mere 3.8 seconds.
It’s a surge of power that’s totally intoxicating, and accompanied by a lovely deep, throaty, bellow from the quartet of exhaust pipes at the back.
Rocket ship performance isn’t, however, the 55’s only party piece. The way the car scythes around ridiculously tight curves—thanks to its new, all-wheel-drive system, rear-axle steering, and a supercomputer’s-worth of bytes and bits—gives it an agility that’s little short of astonishing.
Yet it delivers this on-rails cornering with a smooth, bump-absorbing ride that adds a level of sophistication never seen before on an SL.
This is one truly remarkable sports car and to me, the best SL ever. And a perfect antidote to all those Arctic blasts, Polar Vortexes, and big chills.