First a vigorous massage, then a heated scarf is placed at my neck. Soothing music is piped in. I am cradled in a luxurious nut brown-coloured seat made of the finest leather. My eyes are being treated to scenes of majestic cliffs and red-sand bluffs dropping into a shimmering sea.
Am I zoning out in a spa? Nope. The rev of the 4.6-litre twin-turbocharged V8 of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 brings me back, with literally a snap, to reality. All this pampering is happening at the same time that I squeeze the throttle and screech the rear tires to 100 km/h from zero in just over four-and-a-half seconds. I love mixing business with pleasure.
In 20 seconds, the standard panoramic see-through-metal roof drops back. It’s a “topless” windy and cool day here in Nova Scotia. The East Coast province is tiny and even though it’s one of the more southerly destinations in The Great White North with a latitude equivalent to that of Minneapolis, Minn., and Boise, Idaho, spring can whip up sudden showers and temperatures that dramatically fluctuate throughout the day.
Even with the roof down, it’s warm and cozy in here in this bit of $123,900 heaven. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 is a roadster that indulges the occupants with top-of-the-line comfort, including warm air piped in and around your neck.
Perpetually seething just below the surface, though, is something a little racier. Truly “Sport Leicht” as the SL designation states. Mercedes-Benz’s first all-aluminum body is leicht, alright, 120 kilograms lighter than the previous SL550. But it’s a heavyweight in the two-seat roadster class at 429 horsepower. It’s delicious to paddle-shift the seven responsive gears of the enhanced 7G-TRONIC PLUS transmission.
Rutted and pothole-infested roads of Nova Scotia, beware. The SL550 is on the loose. The Glooscap Trail hugs the northern edge of an area called the Minas Basin. This basin joins the Bay of Fundy, that world-renowned body of water that, every six hours, funnels about 13 square kilometres of water through the Minas Channel. It’s a huge volume, indeed. More than the daily outflow of all the world’s rivers combined, moving at 15 km/h and raising and lowering the tide by 20 metres. These are the highest tides in the world.
The high bluff shoreline and the curvy strip of blacktop along those bluffs were created by that wild tidal activity. It’s one twisty, turny drive that has the SL550’s ears laid back and the tires biting hard on the road.
The dazzling views, whether the Bay is full and frothy or completely empty, revealing glistening mudflats, would awe any passenger and compensate for whatever anxiety the over-zealous driver may be causing.
Up ahead there’s Port Greville, where some 400 ships were built and launched. A photo op at Spencer’s Island, with its lonely driftwood-strewn beach? Not really. The wiry road through these hidden gems is adamant that I keep the SL550 moving.
In Advocate Harbour, where boats rest on their hulls on the ocean floor awaiting the tide to come in and raise them 10 metres to wharf height, the Wild Carraway Café’s menu features Rhubarb Strawberry Eton Mess … whatever that is. I opt for a coffee. I don’t want to feel weighed down, or Sport Leicht, if you please.
Around the point of remote Cape Chignecto is a deserted two-lane winding road through the woods. Time to play with the SL550’s two driving modes: ABC (Active Body Control) Sport and ABC Comfort. The side bolsters of the seat intuitively curve into my body as the vehicle turns, keeping me right in front the wheel. I’m able to steer instead of using the wheel to hang on.
Hitting the open freeway, I can finally appreciate the music that’s rockin’ the cabin. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 introduces FrontBass, where the stereo system’s subwoofers are integrated into the front footwells instead of in the doors. The bass is tight and focused and not muddy and muffled. There are 12 speakers in here and 600 watts worth of amplifiers.
Fox Harb’r Resort in the town of Wallace is the overnight destination. The lush 18-hole championship golf course, one of the top 75 courses in North America, and the distracting, spectacular wide-open ocean vistas have challenged the likes of Bill Clinton, Bobby Orr, Charles Barkley and Tiger Woods.
Sadly it’s time to dismount the SL550. A wave of the foot at the back of the car is all it takes to open the trunk to get the bags out. Magic!
Honestly, I feel a twinge of guilt for the fuel I’ve burned today, but the 4.6-litre engine, despite having more power, also burns about 20 per cent less fuel than the previous SL. The turbochargers add power only when you want to play, while direct injection can create ultra-lean cruise/decelerate fuel mixtures. And when you’re stopped at a light or in a parking lot, or wherever, “ECO” start/stop tech means the SL is not using gas when it’s not moving.
Walking away, I turn back and gaze at the SL550’s sinewy lines, sexy shoulders and those trapezoidal exhaust pipes. I could console myself with a spa treatment at The Spa at Fox Harb’r but I’d rather ensconce myself in the spa-like cockpit of the SL550.
Fortunately, this trip is two days, so I can do exactly that, all over again, tomorrow.