Perfection has its price. From my experience, that price tag reads about $130,775 -- the cost of the
2008 Mercedes Benz SL55 AMG.
It's not difficult to be won over by this car, no matter who you are. Design aficionados will take pride in the carbon-fiber trim -- "virtually the most expensive man-made thing they could put into the car," according to AMG product manager Robert Allan -- and the exclusive leather interior.
Those with a need for speed will squeal over the supercharged V8 engine and the various aerodynamic designs; those looking for glamour will swoon over the sleek body, convertible top and pampering luxury features. For couples, forget temperature troubles: With dual-zone climate control, ladies can leave their sweaters at home and guys can feel free to turn up the AC.
This car exudes style and class, as is a Mercedes trademark, but the AMG title vaults it to another level.
"What makes the AMG model so much better is things like a hand-built, super-charged, five-and-a-half liter V8 compressor engine, which in essence, delivers 500 horsepower under your right foot," Allan explains. "To that, we add a completely revamped suspension system, brakes, wheels and tires, all developed by AMG.
The company does things even to the extent of modifying the bodywork
and the aerodynamics of the car, and the entire interior is built for performance."
When I was lucky enough to have that key placed in my hands, I weighed my apprehension about driving such a powerful, expensive car against my excitement at experiencing the ride. As soon as I slid into the driver's seat, excitement won.
Want more? Check out TheStreet.com TV video.Take a spin with Brittany Umar in the latest Mercedes convertible.
The Weekend Ride
The ride to the city from the Mercedes headquarters in Montvale, N.J., was laden with congestion, but TheStreet.com TV Associate Editor Dee Robertson and I couldn't have been more content. He fiddled with the
satellite radio and the GPS navigation system while I tried the massage button located on the bottom of my seat -- sitting in traffic is not so bad when you've got pulse massage and full-on lumbar support in the mix.
After dropping off Dee, I headed for some real fun -- showing off the wheels.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught many double-takes as the convertible top unfolded. Turning up the music on the Bose sound system, I first picked up my friend Samantha, who laughed with excitement as I pulled up. "It sounds like a boat!" she exclaimed, as I stepped on the gas.
She's right: Delivering 516-pound-feed of torque, the engine's roar is audible with each rev.
"The best feature of this car and the heart of every AMG model is its engine
which is hand-built by one of 52 master engine builders in Germany -- these guys are patient!" Allan says, adding that to complete one of these engines is quite an honor for these engineers. "They only build one or two motors a day."
And yet, with all this power, the ride itself could not be smoother. Inside the car it's calm, comfortable and set to cater to your every need. Want to make a call? Use the telephone interface located on the dashboard; peruse what Sirius has to offer; adjust your seat from all angles. Is that too much wind for you? Just put up the wind guard, and your hair will be set.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of showing off the car was showing it to friends who truly knew their automobiles. One rattled off statistics as he hopped in the car, shocked when Samantha and I pulled up in what was indeed,
my usual set of wheels.
Still, I was most excited to take the long cruise down to my parents' house in central Jersey. Unbeknownst to them, I planned out my arrival so that I would be able to pull up and see their reaction. Although they were initially confused, once I explained I was on a test drive my mom immediately jumped in the car.
After circling around neighborhood cul-de-sacs with her squealing "it turns on a dime," my father then expressed his main concern: There was no roll bar. However, there actually is an automatic roll bar feature -- the world's first -- in which sensors within the car, if activated, pop the bar up in a third of a second. The driver can also raise and lower the bar by a switch on the console. It's not a bad addition to what Mercedes calls "one of the world's safest convertibles."
And as important as safety is, it doesn't hurt that the car is just plain fun. My favorite part was coming back to the car after a day at the beach, and the "show-off button": As I stood outside the car, a sensor within set the unfolding in motion -- the roof peeled back, the top of the trunk opened up, and everything tucked and folded itself into place in less than 20 seconds. It made me smile every time.
After an exciting, fun weekend in the SL55 AMG, I knew one thing for sure as I hit the road to return it: There is no such thing as perfect. I did have to give it back.
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Brittany Umar joined TheStreet.com TV in November 2006 after completing a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers College. Previously, Brittany interned at the local ABC affiliate in New York City WABC-TV 7 where she helped research and produce "On Your Side," a popular consumer advocacy segment.