Certified Benz & Beemer Compares 2003 Mercedes Benz SL-Class VS 2003 Ferrari 360 Near Scottsdale, AZ

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2003 Mercedes Benz SL-Class

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2003 Ferrari 360

Safety Comparison

The SL Class has standard front seat tall, head-protecting side-impact airbags, which act as a forgiving barrier between the passengers and the door. Combined with high-strength steel door beams this system increases protection from broadside collisions. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer side-impact airbags.

Using vehicle speed sensors, smart airbags in the SL Class deploy with different levels of force to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The 360 Modena’s airbags don’t have smart features and will always deploy full force.

The SL Class has a standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which uses the antilock brake hardware along with powerful software and additional sensors to detect the beginning of a skid. The ESP then intervenes by automatically applying the brake at one appropriate wheel, preventing a skid. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer skid prevention.

The SL Class offers an optional Parktronic™ to help warn drivers about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind their vehicle. This collision warning system uses radar to detect obstacles behind the rear bumper. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer a rear collision sensor.

Both the SL Class and the 360 Modena have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, four wheel antilock brakes and traction control.

The Mercedes SL Class weighs 550 to 1170 pounds more than the Ferrari 360 Modena. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts.

Warranty Comparison

The SL Class comes with a full 4 year/50,000 mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24 hour roadside assistance. The 360 Modena’s 3 year basic warranty expires 1 year sooner.

The SL Class’ corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the 360 Modena’s (4 vs. 3 years).

There are over 12 times as many Mercedes dealers as there are Ferrari dealers, which makes it much easier to get service under the SL Class’ warranty.

Reliability Comparison

The camshafts in the SL Class’ engine are driven by a hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs. The 360 Modena’s camshafts are driven by a rubber belt which eventually needs to be replaced. If the 360 Modena’s cam drive belt breaks the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

The engines in the SL Class have a single overhead cam for simplicity. The engine in the 360 Modena has dual overhead cams, which add to the number of moving parts and the complexity of the cylinder heads.

The 360 Modena’s redline is at 8500 RPM, which causes more engine wear, and a greater chance of a catastrophic engine failure. The SL Class has a 6000 to 6200 RPM redline.

J.D. Power and Associates’ surveys of new car owners provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than Ferrari vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. Ferrari is ranked below average.

Engine Comparison

The SL500’s standard 5.0 SOHC V8 produces 64 lbs.-ft. more torque (339 vs. 275) than the 360 Modena’s 3.6 DOHC V8. The SL55 AMG’s standard 5.4 supercharged SOHC V8 produces 98 more horsepower (493 vs. 395) and 241 lbs.-ft. more torque (516 vs. 275) than the 360 Modena’s 3.6 DOHC V8.

For more instantaneous acceleration and better engine flexibility in any gear, the SL Class’ engines produce their peak torque and horsepower at lower RPM’s than the 360 Modena:



SL500 5.0 SOHC V8

5600 RPM

2700 RPM

SL55 AMG 5.4 supercharged SOHC V8

6100 RPM

2650 RPM

360 Modena 3.6 DOHC V8

8500 RPM

4750 RPM

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

The SL500 gets better fuel mileage than the 360 Modena (15 city/22 hwy vs. 10 city/16 hwy).

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

For better stopping power the SL55 AMG’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the 360 Modena:


360 Modena

Front Rotors

14.17 inches

13 inches

In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. Whatever factors cause this tendency, the SL Class has standard Brake Assist to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

The SL Class stops much shorter than the 360 Modena:

SL Class

360 Modena

80 to 0 MPH

205 feet

221 feet

Road & Track

70 to 0 MPH

155 feet

175 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

113 feet

114 feet


Tires and Wheels Comparison

For better traction, the SL Class has larger standard tires than the 360 Modena (255/45R17 vs. 215/45R18). The SL Class’ optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 360 Modena (F:255/40R18 & R:285/35R18 vs. F:215/45R18 & R:275/40R18).

The SL Class’ optional 255/40R18 front and 285/35R18 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series front and 35 series rear profile (height to width ratio) which provides a stiffer sidewall than the 360 Modena’s 45 series front and 40 series rear tires.

The SL Class offers an optional tire pressure monitoring system, which will alert the driver to a drop in tire pressure before damage to the tire or an accident might occur. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer a low tire pressure warning system.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

The SL Class offers an available adjustable active suspension system, which counteracts cornering forces actively, limiting body roll and improving handling and stability. Ferrari doesn’t offer an active suspension on the 360 Modena.

The SL Class has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The SL Class’ front to rear weight distribution is more even (51% to 49%) than the 360 Modena’s (43% to 57%). This gives the SL Class more stable handling and braking.

The SL500 goes through Road & Track’s slalom 1 MPH faster than the 360 Spider (67.6 vs. 66.6 MPH).

Chassis Comparison

The SL Class’ standard power retractable hardtop allows a seamless transition from an open car, to a completely sealed coupe. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer a retractable hardtop.

The design of the Mercedes SL Class amounts to more than styling. The SL Class offers aerodynamic coefficients of drag from .29 to .3 Cd (depending on bodystyle and options). That is significantly lower than the 360 Modena (.34 to .36) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the SL Class get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space Comparison

The SL Class has 5.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the 360 Modena (57.8 vs. 52).

Cargo Capacity Comparison

The SL Class has a much larger trunk with its top up than the 360 Spider (11.2 vs. 7 cubic feet).

Ergonomics Comparison

The SL Class’ entire steering wheel hub sounds the horn, facilitating hitting the horn in an emergency. The 360 Modena has two small spoke buttons. These buttons can be hard to reach in an emergency.

The SL Class’ power windows raise and lower automatically with one touch, especially convenient at tollbooths or drive-up windows. The power windows on the 360 Modena don’t raise automatically.

The SL Class’ standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 360 Modena’s available power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

The SL Class’ standard rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed to the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The 360 Modena’s intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The rear window of the SL Class is glass, so that it won’t become hard to see through with age. The plastic rear window on the 360 Modena Spider will become opaque with age and scratches.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The SL Class has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer headlight washers.

The SL Class’ optional air conditioned front seats cool the driver and front passenger and help take the sting out of hot leather in Summer. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer air conditioned front seats.

The SL Class’ standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the SL Class offers an optional Distronic, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

To help keep the driver’s hands on the wheel, the SL Class has standard steering wheel controls for the radio. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer steering wheel audio controls.

With an optional Linguatronic™, the SL Class offers the driver hands free control of the radio and cell phone by simply speaking. The 360 Modena doesn’t offer a voice control system.

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