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Photos: 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL

The hugely successful Mercedes-Benz SL roadster gets a refresh for the 2009 model year. In addition to minor exterior styling updates, the cabin tech is improved with a hard-drive-based navigation and music storage system as well as a hot-air neck-warming device for cold-weather open-air driving. While engine choices remain unchanged, performance is enhanced with a variable-ratio steering system.

Kevin Massy
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The most pronounced external styling change on the updated SL is its new front grille and headlight arrangements. In place of the previous model's bubblelike dual headlamps, the 2009 SL gets a more integrated headlight casing, while the triple-bar grille of the present SL gives way to a more understated single-bar design found on the smaller SLK roadster. The new SL also gets two new creases on the hood, which Mercedes label as "power domes."
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Like the updated C-Class and Mercedes' high-end S and CL-class models, the SL gets the Music Register audio management system, which gives drivers the chance to store and select up to 1,000 MP3 tracks on the car's hard drive. According to Mercedes, the system new SL's audio system will be compatible with iPods, USB sticks, memory cards, and other media storage devices.
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In the cabin, the 2009 SL gets a number of tech upgrades. While Mercedes sticks with the tacky plastic-trimmed in-dash LCD for the SL's as-standard navigation system, the COMAND multimedia interface gets an upgrade with a built-in 4-gigabyte hard drive for navigation data and media storage.
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Also new for the 2009 SL is the availability of Airscarf, a proprietary system from Mercedes that blows warm air around the necks and shoulders of both passengers to permit open-air driving in colder conditions. Controlled by a three-speed switch, and relying on fans and vents in the headrests, Airscarf can also adjust the temperature of the air according to external temperature and vehicle speed. The system is option on the V-8 SL550 and standard equipment on the V-12 SL600 and SL 65AMG.
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In profile, the new SL differentiates itself from its predecessor with redesigned air outlets aft of the front wheels and larger side mirrors. Minor tweaks to the rear end include new trapezoidal exhaust outlets and a new rear taillight arrangement, including the integration of LED brake lights for the first time.
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The retractable-hardtop 2009 SL offers the same engine choices as the outgoing model in the shape of a 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V-8, a 510-horsepower 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-12, and 604-horsepower AMG-tuned V-12. One notable performance addition to the new model is variable-ratio power adjusted steering, which increases the rate of steering angle increase during a turn to tighten up handling and decreases the amount by which the driver has to turn the steering wheel. Carry-over performance features include Mercedes' ABC active suspension system and a 7-speed automatic transmission for the SL550. The car is to be officially unveiled at next month's Geneva auto show and will be on sale in the United States in May 2008.

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