From the August 2006 challenge of Automobile and Driver.

It’s spring eventually, the Dow is flip-flopping, and—in the event you’re in the best bracket and the rattling market goes again up—the Bushies might be supplying you with nearly sufficient of a tax reduce to purchase an costly convertible. For certain, there’s nothing like a shiny new convertible to scoop up the thrill of spring and blow ’em proper into your face. And we’ve got some fairly blossoms within the bunch this yr.

For one, the brand new Jaguar XK convertible, with an all-aluminum physique, is now mild sufficient in naturally aspirated kind to run inside a half-second of the earlier technology’s supercharged model. Launched near the debut of its coupe equal, the XK convertible advantages from having been part of the unique engineering job. Which suggests it’s inherently stiff and durable by design—Jaguar says 50 % extra so than its predecessor, which was identified for shivering and shuddering its method throughout tough surfaces.

The brand new XK convertible is powered by a 300-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 through a six-speed ZF transmission with a specifically massaged manumatic system for super-fast shifts. Traction management, dynamic stability management, and Jaguar’s CATS variable-damping shock-absorber management are normal. The material convertible high is absolutely computerized, in a position to stow itself in about 18 seconds, and as we’ve change into accustomed in Jaguars, the inside is a welcoming mix of burl veneer and gentle leather-based.

Much more welcoming—significantly on this costly grouping of convertibles—is the XK’s as-tested worth of $85,200. That makes it the least costly bloom within the bunch.


Additional alongside the value spectrum is one other latest addition to the convertible clutch. It’s Cadillac’s $100,000 XLR-V, powered by Common Motors’s supercharged Northstar V-8. This blown four-cam jewel produces 443 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque, with 90 % of that torque on faucet between 2200 and 6000 rpm.

Accompanying the large energy enhance is a full spherical of suspension and gear upgrades over the usual XLR, together with bigger brakes, recalibrated Magnetic Journey Management, the addition of a rear anti-roll bar, distinctive badging, polished stainless-steel exhaust suggestions, and particular wooden and leather-based inside surfaces. However what makes it eligible for this explicit spring-break bash is its absolutely computerized retractable hardtop, bringing coupe-like insulation and refinement to the droptop realm.

Targas apart, Porsche’s 911 has had a full convertible model within the lineup since 1983, and that is true of the latest-generation 997 fashions, too. For this take a look at we ended up with a 3.6-liter Carrera mannequin in an effort to have computerized transmissions in all of the vehicles. It’s attainable to specify the more-powerful Carrera S cabriolet at lower than $100,000 and keep inside our price range for these vehicles, however Porsche couldn’t provide one with an computerized.

What may need occurred to the rankings had we examined the three.8-liter Carrera S should stay the topic of conjecture, however we’ve got to say that the 325-hp Carrera appeared to us a properly balanced automobile, even when that determine represented the second-lowest energy output of the group.


No droptop shakedown could be full with no Mercedes-Benz SL. In spite of everything, an SL hardtop convertible gained an analogous contest in our October 2003 challenge in opposition to three of the manufacturers you see right here, and it has since benefited from a face raise and an essential engine transplant. The SL550 debuted on the Geneva auto present earlier this yr with a freshened face and a new-generation four-valve 5.5-liter V-8 punching out a good 382 horses. With a long-running fame for astonishing stickers, the Benz SL clocked in at a dizzying $102,375. We’ll see if it’s value it.

If there’s a Mercedes within the combine, there needs to be a BMW close by, and the 650i brings a 4.8-liter V-8 to the occasion for 2006, producing 360 horsepower, 35 greater than the previous 645Ci, and with 30 extra pound-feet of torque. New wheels distinguish the automobile from final yr’s mannequin, and the energetic steering function that troubled many people has been dropped from the non-obligatory Sport package deal and is now obtainable as a standalone merchandise.

Regardless of boasting the bottom base worth within the group, the 650i wore a $1000 head-up show amongst its non-obligatory extras (the Cadillac has one, too, included in its worth) and a stunningly dear energetic cruise-control system ($2200) that helped bump the sticker to $87,640. As examined, solely the Jag was cheaper, if that’s the best phrase right here. Taking part in on this league is clearly the privilege of the well-heeled.

Fifth Place: Cadillac XLR-V

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Our 5 testers agreed that the XLR-V made a significantly better on a regular basis driver than the Corvette with which it shares its primary structural structure. With a smoother, adaptable journey, an clever computerized transmission, and comparatively straightforward ingress, we might see ourselves commuting on this automobile with little discomfort. The retractable hardtop provides appreciable utility, too, offering a quiet and insulated setting for when you’ll want to keep away from that wind-in-the-hair expertise.

Highs: Refinement, efficiency, versatility.

However that’s not saying a lot. For $100,000, one expects some razzle-dazzle past the function of on a regular basis driver, and also you actually get a few of this with the XLR-V. The sheer ferocity of its supercharged V-8 is unquestionably on the sensational aspect of the joys ledger. Simply the quickest automobile right here, the XLR-V rips off sub-five-second sprints to 60 mph and 13-second quarters. Not unhealthy from a automobile with an computerized transmission.

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That it might do this after which resume a clean and tranquil freeway cruise is likely one of the XLR-V’s sturdy fits. However the automobile isn’t with out its downsides. Not everybody likes the flat planes and sharp creases of its bodywork, or the aggressive leer of its wire-mesh grille. Two of the 5 take a look at drivers are greater than six toes tall and located the inside lodging on the tight aspect. The seat was criticized by one tester as being agency beneath the butt however squishy beneath the thighs—“like a really shallow water mattress,” he wrote.

Regardless of the Bulgari involvement indicated by its emblem, the cockpit itself isn’t very hot and welcoming. The vertical console and the angular moldings are tidy and symmetrical however lack the complexity and subtlety required for long-term aesthetic appreciation. A number of testers commented on the overlarge steering wheel, and a few complained a couple of primitive gear-selector really feel. We’d prefer to see steering-wheel buttons or paddles for the manumatic management, too.

Lows: Excessive worth, cramped quarters, questionable styling, attenuated driver involvement.

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Though the XLR-V is undeniably quick out on the roads of the sports-car world, with among the best stability-control methods within the enterprise, Cadillac’s efforts to retain a modicum of civility have clearly blunted the automobile’s communications abilities. It simply isn’t transmitting the entire efficiency image to the driving force via the wheel and seat. Apart from the unequivocal engine response at full throttle and an occasional vibration via the steering wheel and rear suspension when encountering tough spots, the automobile is considerably numb.

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With smaller tire footprints than its bow-tie brother, the XLR-V was liable to some lurid slides whereas negotiating our lane-change take a look at with the StabiliTrak system turned off. This tail-happy conduct is stunning in mild of the automobile’s practically equal weight distribution, nevertheless it’s mitigated by the good dynamics offered by StabiliTrak in full management, which allowed the automobile to barter the lane change on the second-fastest pace within the group.

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It’s largely within the area of tactile high quality that the XLR-V disappoints. The Magna-Steer variable-assist steering stays comparatively lifeless in your palms. The Caddy takes the longest distance to cease from 70 mph, and the brake pedal is fairly wood underfoot. And though the six-speed transmission is situated in the best place for weight distribution—simply forward of the rear axle—and is provided with all probably the most up-to-date elements and electronics, it was usually tardy in dishing up a downshift.

The Verdict: A sensible choice in the event you should be seen in a home automobile.

Lest readers assume that is only a litany of grievance, it should be remembered that the XLR-V will attraction strongly to drivers whose tastes and intentions are in step with its sturdy fits. It is a quick, putting, well-equipped automobile with the large benefit of a hardtop convertible. With out its friends to highlight its numerous shortcomings, this automobile could be thought of extremely fascinating. With that in thoughts, it was principally the excessive worth that confined the Cadillac to fifth place.

2006 Cadillac XLR-V

443-hp V-8, 6-speed computerized, 3860 lb

Base/as-tested worth: $100,000/$100,000


60 mph: 4.6 sec

100 mph: 11.0 sec

1/4 mile: 13.0 @ 109 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 173 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.83 g

C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 14 mpg

Fourth Place: BMW 650i

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The 650i convertible is the product of an intensive growth train meant to provide unprecedented ranges of refinement, and it’s as subtle in that regard as one of the best of the Lexuses. Sadly, the painstaking effort expended within the seek for seamless luxurious appears to have eradicated many points of the BMW character that we and so many Bimmerphiles admire.

Highs: Nice engine, usable four-seat house, wealthy demeanor.

BMW’s press package tells us the physique of the convertible—with its numerous reinforcements and gussets—is barely stiffer than the 650i coupe earlier than glass is added. (The coupe is stiffer with all its glass in place.) But right here’s what the C/D logbook says: “Noticeable cowl shake over tough stretches. Doesn’t really feel as strong as many of the others.”

However the truth of the matter is that the 650i is very quiet, steady, and supple in its on a regular basis dealings. That cowl shake was most likely the one noticeable manifestation on the time. The BMW recorded the bottom decibel readings within the three sound classes we measure. It by no means felt as if it had been doing something dramatic, nevertheless it pulled the second-highest lateral-acceleration quantity within the group. And its last-place end within the lane-change take a look at most likely had extra to do with the dearth of chassis suggestions than the rest.

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Let’s be charitable and name this automobile refined. Extraordinarily refined, requiring an extended relationship with its proprietor than a half-hour within the seat between automobile swaps on a take a look at drive. Then we would come to phrases with an exhaust word so quiet it’s quickly dispelled by wind noise. A broad unfold of torque from the 4.8-liter V-8 means the automobile isn’t continually shifting gears. That’s an excellent factor as a result of the kickdown isn’t notably responsive within the 650i.

And let’s say we don’t need fixed information from the chassis disturbing our relaxed grip on the totally becalmed steering wheel. Don’t fear, there isn’t actually a lot of that. Nonetheless, on the opposite aspect of the wall of isolation is a well-engineered automobile going about its enterprise. It’s simply that a lot of it’s evidently none of our enterprise. This automobile is so inert there’s not rather a lot to be gained from studying the drivers’ logbooks.

Lows: Anesthetic isolation, a heavyweight, controversial styling, bland character.

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But the BMW is loaded with high-tech devices, and never all of them are related to the annoying iDrive mechanism (which will get a little bit gentle pad on its management knob this yr, in case you care). The automated softtop—it was not universally thought of good-looking—raises in about 25 seconds, draping itself over 5 home windows within the course of.

The quick, vertical rear glass may be left in its upright place to behave as a draft excluder for the rear-seat passengers. The BMW was finest on this group at transporting rear-seat passengers (the Benz and the Cadillac don’t have any rear seat in any respect), however not behind the 2 six-foot-something testers on this journey. Their seating positions had the entrance backrest firmly in touch with the rear cushion.

If the BMW is about cruising, then it has all of the playing cards: a terrific stereo, a navigation system, computerized local weather management, stability management, and a number of particular brake-related applications from wet-weather clearing methods to one thing known as consolation cease, which alleviates that sudden snap cease practiced by unhealthy drivers. For quick, daylong cruising, the 650i is in a league of its personal. Need to do 1000 miles as we speak? Go proper forward.

However it feels a tad heavy on California’s goat tracks, even when it negotiates them gracefully. We had studies of surprising understeer from one driver and sudden snap oversteer from one other. It’s most likely their very own fault for misinterpreting the corners, however a scarcity of immediacy and readability within the automobile’s controls is undoubtedly a co-conspirator.

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The Verdict: Tremendous luxurious, however the sufferer of a BMW-ectomy.

Including to the workforce’s doubts in regards to the 650i’s sporting credentials was a singular concern over its look. We thought it odd-looking with the highest down and arguably ugly with the finned high up. All issues thought of, the BMW 650i is fortunate it didn’t end fifth.

2006 BMW 650i

360-hp V-8, 6-speed computerized, 4300 lb

Base/as-tested worth: $79,495/$87,640


60 mph: 5.5 sec

100 mph: 13.4 sec

1/4 mile: 14.0 @ 102 mph

Braking, 70­–0 mph: 161 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.91 g

C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 15 mpg

Third Place: Jaguar XK

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This new XK convertible is a simple automobile to underestimate. At first acquaintance it appears docile, mellow, and under no circumstances prone to get in your face. Additionally onerous to neglect is that at 300 horsepower the XK is the least {powerful} automobile on this take a look at. Within the first couple of minutes after you begin the automobile and drive off, the impression of a mellow and quiet grand tourer is strengthened by a pliant journey, clean computerized upshifts, a properly weighted however calm steering wheel, and seats that appear too softly padded for aggressive driving.

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Highs: Secure chassis, wonderful ride-and-handling compromise, responsive transmission.

Then, because the miles pile on and the tempo picks up, the XK appears to amp up its suggestions till, at loopy pace—whenever you’re braking onerous right into a flip, tugging on the paddles, and listening to the twin exhausts bark their baritone track as the pc matches revs—driver and automobile are abruptly dancing in exact rhythm.

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That occurred as soon as we’d taken to the hills, however first there have been some surprises on the take a look at monitor.

After declaring the automobile “a cruiser” in his first logbook notes, tech editor VanderWerp discovered himself shocked by the automobile’s good acceleration, regardless of its not having considerably extra energy than earlier Jags. “The load loss and the quick-shifting tranny should assist rather a lot,” he wrote. Then we moved to the lane-change train, the place the XK reduce effortlessly via the cones. We held down the stability-control button, as instructed, to boost the intervention threshold and will detect no multiple temporary brake software to settle the automobile throughout runs that had been greater than 2 mph higher than the second-quickest automobile.

Out within the hills the XK continued to impress. The automobile tackles the twisties with actual poise but by no means appears to stiffen its journey or responses to the purpose of severity. The paddle-directed quick upshifts and blipped-throttle downshifts lend actual sporting character, and on a number of events we discovered ourselves drawing to a cease and pulling on each paddles to search out impartial, the way in which it’s accomplished in Ferraris and Lamborghinis. That’s how genuine the expertise is.

Lows: Poor softtop match, some digital glitches.

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The XK supplies loads of room within the entrance seats, even when full deployment of accessible house negates the entire thought of rear seating. The phrase occasional hardly covers it, however at the least these rear seats—nonetheless vestigial—present further baggage house for people who prefer to journey with the highest down. (The Caddy has a bulkhead immediately behind the entrance seats; the Mercedes has a small parcel shelf.)

Like the opposite vehicles on this take a look at, the XK’s high motors routinely into its personal bin and is then tidily lined by a panel that integrates neatly with the automobile’s physique. There isn’t a draft-deflecting equipment on the Jag, however wind-flow administration is nice, and the automobile may be pushed comfortably with all of the home windows down. And when you’ve heard the V-8 trumpet throughout downshifts within the canyons, you’ll solely put the highest up when it rains.

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The extra cynical amongst us took challenge with the inevitable burl veneer and leather-based inside, accusing Jaguar of resorting to its clichéd picture when designing the cabin. For patrons who really feel the identical method, there’s a brushed alloy remedy that banishes any sight of timber. However for individuals who just like the Jaguar look, the leather-based and the wooden have been fastidiously crafted.

The controls are straightforward to search out and function, too, though the identical cynic complained in regards to the new touch-screen info and navigation show, saying the buttons had been small and onerous to function and it took lengthy intervals of staring to get what you need. Maybe this is the reason many producers forestall use of the nav show with the automobile in movement, Robinson.

There have been a few considerations about high quality. Together with some unexplained warning-light illuminations, we observed incomplete climate sealing on the XK’s high. A niche on the passenger aspect produced whistling noises at pace and allowed a trickle of water via throughout our car-wash take a look at.

The Verdict: A formidable new Jaguar.

We hope all XKs don’t endure this drawback, as a result of it is a good automobile, and it deserves to do nicely.

2006 Jaguar XK

300-hp V-8, 6-speed computerized, 3880 lb

Base/as-tested worth: $81,500/$85,200


60 mph: 6.0 sec

100 mph: 15.3 sec

1/4 mile: 14.7 @ 98 mph

Braking, 70­–0 mph: 163 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g

C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 16 mpg

Second Place: Porsche 911 Carrera

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My, how issues have modified. In bygone instances Porsche’s 911 could be the recent rod in nearly any comparability with equally priced rivals. On this group, solely the aluminum-bodied XK has fewer steeds in harness. However energy isn’t the measure of total automobile excellence. Generally stability performs an equally essential half.

Highs: Sporty character, intimate driving place, quick high operation.

The 911 Carrera we drove on this comparability disillusioned at first, primarily due to the way in which its five-speed Tiptronic transmission appeared to melt and sap the automobile’s energy supply, significantly when making second-gear begins, because it usually does. With an exhaust word significantly milder than what we recall from 911 cabriolets of the previous, the general impression was of a cream-puff convertible geared toward prosperous metronauts.

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On the drag strip, the 911’s 325-hp flat-six produced outcomes that put it slap in the course of this group, with zero-to-60-mph and quarter-mile instances that had been precisely common. However with the lane-change take a look at got here an perspective change. Even with the automobile’s stability-management system switched off, the 911 negotiated the course with exceptional composure.

It appears the 997-series vehicles have made significant enhancements to chassis efficiency. The 996-series 911 Turbo S cabrio we examined only a yr in the past in August was downright scary within the lane-change take a look at, even with an all-wheel-drive system. This newfound stability within the newest automobile translated to large enjoyable within the mountains, too, the place the well-known 911 car-to-driver relationship reemerged in full colour. Through the use of the steering-wheel-mounted manumatic management buttons, we might eradicate a few of the computerized’s “gooey” reactions (as described by one tester) and spotlight the automobile’s dynamic responses.

“Undoubtedly the sports activities automobile within the bunch,” famous one in every of our take a look at drivers, who then added, “Glorious driving place with a commanding view of the street forward.” Nonetheless, this didn’t blind us to some proof of steering-column shimmy and cowl shake when the roads acquired bumpy, or to the truth that the tautly suspended 911 hops and bounds when traversing tough floor at excessive pace and produces rubbing noises from the left entrance wheel in onerous proper turns. Nonetheless, as they are saying, there may be no pace with out management.

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Lows: Sluggish transmission, bouncy dealing with, just-adequate energy.

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The most effective factor in regards to the 911 cabrio is its natural nature, its capacity to commune with its driver. It doesn’t harm that the rear-engine format is extremely uncommon amongst orthodox designs, setting the automobile other than the norm. Or that every one mechanical noises come from again there someplace and are at shut vary when the highest is down.

Since driving open-top vehicles at very excessive pace isn’t all that gratifying or confidence-inspiring, attraction is an enormous a part of the section’s attract. This the Porsche has, and it steadily seduced our workforce into writing hotter and hotter logbook feedback and finally onto ballots that lofted it into second place.

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A few of our motor noters expressed appreciation for points accomplished merely however nicely. The highest, for instance, operates sooner than all the flowery gadgets on the opposite vehicles. Though it has a motorized panel on the rear of the roof to safe its trailing edge, that panel doesn’t kind a boot in the way in which it’s accomplished on the opposite vehicles. The roof itself kinds a tidily contoured a part of the boot when the highest’s down. This association retains the legendary 911 mini–again seats regardless of a beefy aluminum bulkhead added to deal with the twin pop-up roll-protection hoops.

The Verdict: Not a hard-core 911, however good.

Add nice seats, an clever ride-and-handling compromise, and a excessive gear stage with out pointless complication of the automobile’s inside, and it’s straightforward to see why Porsche simply reported the all time 911 month-to-month gross sales determine in its U.S. historical past.

2006 Porsche 911 Carrera

300-hp flat-6, 5-speed computerized, 3460 lb

Base/as-tested worth: $82,195/$95,615


60 mph: 5.2 sec

100 mph: 12.5 sec

1/4 mile: 13.8 @ 105 mph

Braking, 70­–0 mph: 150 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.92 g

C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 16 mpg

First Place: Mercedes-Benz SL550

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The ’07 Mercedes-Benz SL is powered by the new-generation four-cam 32-valve V-8 additionally seen within the redesigned S-class vehicles. Within the SL550 it produces 382 horsepower—absolutely 80 horses up on the earlier mannequin. The brand new engine additionally permits set up of a seven-speed computerized transmission with manumatic override that’s able to gearshifts 30 % faster than earlier than.

Highs: Massive torquey engine, good transmission, strong construct, lucid steering really feel.

The steering was retuned with sooner response and revalved help for higher really feel, and the active-body-control (ABC) system was recalibrated to be 60 % stiffer in roll within the sport driving mode. These are upgrades you possibly can really feel at each tactile interface with this automobile, they usually present higher suggestions to the driving force with out hurting the SL’s distinctive refinement. The superb retractable hardtop required no revisions.

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However simply as with the Porsche 911, the hearts of our unemotional drivers needed to be gained over throughout the course of the take a look at. Preliminary feedback slated the SL for numb steering, hard-to-read brake-pedal really feel, and a normal sense of weightiness. One politically incorrect man even had the effrontery to recommend that the SL was “like dancing with a fats woman. She will be able to do it, however you gained’t win any prizes.”

At 4180 kilos, the SL is the second-heaviest automobile within the group (crushed solely by the porky BMW 650i), and its lane-change efficiency conformed precisely to these rankings. Its skidpad grip, too, got here in second to final, at 0.84 g. However the SL’s stability system can’t be disengaged, and that undoubtedly performs an element.

Out within the wiggly bits of asphalt laughingly known as the freeway, none of this appeared to matter. In truth, the exceptional transformation was greeted with these phrases: “Very entertaining for a automobile so aloof within the metropolis. Actually comes alive.

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Certainly, it does. The SL bit into curves with steering suggestions that made many of the different vehicles really feel like video video games. We hardly bothered with the manumatic buttons, as a result of the adaptive facility within the full-automatic mode is so clever—psychic, even—that it appeared to sense our each want. When you’ve been tramping alongside, the tranny will maintain gears for high-rev shifts, even at lower than full throttle, and it’ll allow you to again off for a nook entry with out an upshift so you possibly can nail it onerous on the exit.

Lows: The sticker (as normal).

Even the brake-by-wire system felt vigorous throughout sporty driving, with loads of chew and simply learn modulation. And better of all, that 5.5-liter V-8 feels as if it had been tweaked by the AMG magicians, able to sturdy low-rev thrust together with a hearty rush to the redline. And did we point out that the sound results are music to the ears?

For a relatively massive and heavy automobile, the SL appears to shrink at a fast tempo in difficult terrain. Its cockpit is snug and roomy, even because the windshield, dashboard, and controls are all at an intimate proximity. The seats are glorious, with agency cushioning and supportive contours, and the active-body-control system is so efficient you’re feeling g-forces as pure lateral thrust.

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This Mercedes is deceptively fast, so quick it led us down Route 58 via California’s Kern County at such a brisk tempo that the automobile acquired air over a whoop we’d by no means negotiated so quick earlier than. It wasn’t that top, and the automobile greased the touchdown like an airline skilled, however the onboard security sentinels noticed suspensions at full droop and popped the roll-protection hoop. That was the extent of the drama.

The Verdict: Convincingly superior in so some ways.

While you add these vigilant (however not intrusive) security methods to on a regular basis refinement, a transcendent high-performance character, complete gear ranges, and unimpeachable solidity, you’ve a class-leading mixture. Amongst high-end convertibles, this one instructions the very best foreign money.

2006 Mercedes-Bens SL550

325-hp flat-6, 5-speed computerized, 3460 lb

Base/as-tested worth: $82,195/$95,615


60 mph: 5.2 sec

100 mph: 12.5 sec

1/4 mile: 13.8 @ 105 mph

Braking, 70­–0 mph: 150 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.92 g

C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 16 mpg

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