2020 Mercedes SL vs. 2020 Audi R8

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The SL’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The R8 doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The SL has standard NECK-PRO Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the NECK-PRO Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The R8 doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The SL has a standard Active Brake Assist, which uses forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The R8 doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

An active infrared night vision system optional on the SL helps the driver to more easily detect people, animals or other objects in front of the vehicle at night. Using an infrared camera and near-infrared lights to detect heat, the system then displays the image on a monitor in the dashboard. The R8 doesn’t offer a night vision system.

The SL’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The R8 doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The SL’s optional blind spot warning system uses digital cameras monitored by computer to alert the driver to moving objects in the vehicle’s blind spots where the side view mirrors don’t reveal them and moves the vehicle back into its lane. The R8 doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

The SL’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The R8 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the SL and the R8 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

Warranty

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There are over 26 percent more Mercedes dealers than there are Audi dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the SL’s warranty.

Reliability

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The R8’s redline is at 8700 RPM, which causes more engine wear, and a greater chance of a catastrophic engine failure. The SL has a 6300 to 6500 RPM redline.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than Audi vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 12th in initial quality. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Audi is ranked 22nd.

Engine

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The SL 550’s standard 4.7 turbo V8 produces 103 lbs.-ft. more torque (516 vs. 413) than the R8 V10 Performance/Decennium’s standard 5.2 DOHC V10.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the SL 550 V8 gets better fuel mileage than the R8 V10 Auto (17 city/25 hwy vs. 13 city/20 hwy).

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Mercedes SL higher (3 out of 10) than the Audi R8 (1). This means the SL produces up to 22.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the R8 every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Mercedes SL, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the R8.

The SL SL63’s launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The R8 doesn’t offer launch control.

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the SL has larger front tires than the R8 (255/35R19 vs. 245/35R19). The SL’s front tires are larger than the largest tires available on the R8 (255/35R19 vs. 245/30R20).

The SL’s 285/30R19 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 30 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the R8’s standard 35 series tires.

Suspension and Handling

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The SL offers an available adjustable active suspension system, which counteracts cornering forces actively, limiting body roll and improving handling and stability. Audi doesn’t offer an active suspension on the R8.

The SL offers an optional automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The R8 doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

Chassis

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The design of the Mercedes SL amounts to more than styling. The SL has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .32 Cd. That is lower than the R8 (.35) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the SL get better fuel mileage.

The SL’s standard power retractable hardtop allows a seamless transition from an open car, to a completely sealed coupe. The R8 doesn’t offer a retractable hardtop.

Passenger Space

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The SL has .6 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more front legroom and .4 inches more front shoulder room than the R8.

Cargo Capacity

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The SL has a much larger trunk with its top down than the R8 Spyder (8.5 vs. 4 cubic feet).

With its convertible body style, valet key and remote trunk release lockout, the SL offers cargo security. The R8’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the SL’s power trunk can be opened or closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The R8 doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening trunk.

Servicing Ease

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J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than Audi. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in service department satisfaction. With a 13% lower rating, Audi is ranked 8th.

Ergonomics

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The SL has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The R8 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

Unlike the driver-only memory system in the R8, the SL has standard driver and passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat, steering wheel position, outside mirror angle and climate settings and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

Heated windshield washer fluid is standard on the SL to defrost the washer nozzles and quickly clear ice and frost from the windshield without scraping. The R8 doesn’t offer heated windshield washer fluid.

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 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The R8 doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the SL has standard extendable sun visors. The R8 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

The SL’s sun-visors swivel front-to-side to block glare from the side windows. The R8’s visors are fixed into the windshield header.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the SL keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The R8 doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the SL offers an optional Active Distance Assist 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 R8 doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The SL’s optional Active Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself. The R8 doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/11/21

The Mercedes SL outsold the Audi R8 by almost three to one during the 2019 model year.

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