SL Evolution, Part 7: Mercedes SL Class Loaded with Electronic Wizardry

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The Mercedes-Benz SL Fifth Generation: R 230 (2001-2012).

The fifth generation SL was unveiled in July 2001, presenting its unique variant of the automaker's then double-rounded-headlamp configuration theme. The transverse stripes were increased in size and reduced to three. However, the most notable exterior design change was the new bulbous roof, as opposed to the angular build of the previous generation. It accentuated the elongated hood along with the short and compact trunk and decorated the car with an energetic look.

The interior design was also changed as the cluster of three gauges was replaced with two separate round gauges. The SL 500, with an output of 306hp, was the first model to arrive on the market. It was later joined by the SL 55 AMG with a supercharged V8 engine and 476hp. In 2002, the SL 350 featuring a 3.7-liter V6 with 245hp engine followed. And in January 2003 Mercedes-Benz finally introduced the 600 SL with the powerful 500hp 5.5-litre V12 biturbo engine as their new flagship model. The standard equipment included leather-upholstered seats plus a memory function for the electric seat and steering wheel adjustment.

Other standard features included a multifunction steering wheel, automatic climate control, and stereo car radio. As optional extras, innovative assistance systems like the DISTRONIC proximity control, the automatic emergency call system TELEAID, the control and display system COMAND or the electronic tire pressure monitoring system were available. A facelift was done for 2008. From the side view the air intakes in the wings are prominent (though there were also similar air intakes in the previous model), as they were a typical feature of the first 300 SL. The headlamps became less prominent and better integrated into the body work.

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The hood was also beautifully shaped with two elongated bulges. The steeply raked windscreen emphasises the sports car character and accentuates the low, wedge-shaped silhouette. Unlike its predecessors, the R 230-Series SL always carried its hardtop build around a vario-roof system. At the push of a button the roof opens or closes in a 16-second process. An extremely complex swivelling mechanism ensures that the three roof components disappear into the upper part of the trunk. Editor's Note: This was the final portion of our featured Mercedes-Benz SL series. We hope everyone enjoyed it.


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