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Photos: 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL550

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL550 is a big, expensive roadster with some nice aesthetic touches. It has practical features here and there, but this car is more about the statement it makes when you roll up to a restaurant or movie premiere.

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CNET Reviews staff
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Mercedes-Benz made minor updates to the SL550 for 2009, including some exterior touches, such as the gills on the front fenders, intended to invoke the legendary SL 300 Gullwing of the 1950s. The cabin electronics have also been updated, but not the switchgear.
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The SL550 is a fairly large roadster with a very aggressive look. The plastic bubble over the tri-star badge on the grille covers a radar, used for the car's adaptive cruise control.
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The SL550 gets a 5.5-liter V-8 Mercedes-Benz has used in many models since its development for the S-class a few years ago. This engine puts out 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque.
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The car's long nose gives the SL550 a somewhat retro look, accentuated by the gills in the fenders. The roll bar behind the seats is also retractable.
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The SL550 features a retractable hard top, which stows in the trunk. Unfortunately, it limits trunk space substantially. When up, it gives a nice, rounded appearance to the roofline. This hard top also has a sunroof.
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The car's suspension uses Mercedes-Benz's Active Body Control system, which incorporate hydraulics and electro-mechanical elements to reduce body roll, dive, and squat.
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To put the top down, this internal cover in the trunk must be in the down position. It makes sure any cargo doesn't interfere with the tops automatic operation.
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The white leather in the cabin looks good, accentuated by wood trim. But plastic on the instrument panel and climate controls feels a little cheap.
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This compartment, and another one just like it, sit behind the seats, offering a little extra storage space. The cabin is much less cramped than in other roadsters.
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This SL550 came with what Mercedes-Benz calls Multi-contour seats. These controls can pulsate the lumbar support, kind of like a massage, and adjust the bolsters.
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Mercedes-Benz does a very good job with steering wheel controls, artfully insetting them in the horizontal spokes. The controls on the left let you change the instrument cluster display, and select trip display, phone number to call, or audio.
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The SL550 uses Mercedes-Benz's well-refined seven speed automatic. It has programs for Comfort or Sport shifting, and can be switched over to manual mode.
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The SL550 gets Mercedes-Benz's new hard drive-based navigation system. The maps looks good and refresh quickly, but there are no advanced features, such as traffic.
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The maps can also display a 3D perspective.
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This screen shows the iPod integration, which works very well. You can select artists, albums, genres, songs, and playlists.
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The six disc changer also reads MP3 CDs, although browsing music consists of merely choosing folders.
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The Logic 7 Harmon Kardon audio system uses eight speakers, including a subwoofer and center fill, doing a good job of filling the relatively small cabin space.
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Mercedes-Benz includes Bluetooth with its new bundle of cabin electronics, offering excellent cell phone integration.

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