Photography by: ©2016 Toni Avery
Motor Press Guild is an organization dedicated to the advancement of Automotive Journalism. Based in Los Angeles, CA, MPG (Motor Press Guild) holds very special events throughout the year affording Journalists the opportunity to network with others in the industry including PR representatives from various OEMs.
DropTops & Dirt is a fairly new event, in its fifth year that combines canyon driving in convertibles and trail driving in capable off-road vehicles. My first year in attendance, I scouted out each vehicle, made my list, and went driving!
2016 BMW 650i Convertible:
The 2016 BMW 650i was my second drive of the day. After finding a great photo location halfway through the route, I decided to stick with it, as the roads heading back to Calamigos Ranch were challenging and would be a good gauge of how each car performed.
First impressions of the interior were positive. It’s a beautifully appointed space with plush leather surfaces and plenty of passenger room. The seatbelt grabs hold of you accelerating away from a stop and secures you to the seat. After selecting Sport Mode and manual shifting, I was ready to take off in the 650i.
With its TwinPower Turbo 4.4 L motor producing 445 HP 480 lb-ft of torque, the 650i sprints from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds (sourced from CarAndDriver). I could certainly feel its ample power when accelerating onto Kanan Rd. It even maintains a wonderfully low muffled exhaust note that doesn’t overwhelm, but simply adds to the driving experience.
I can say for certain that the 650i was the best handling car of the day. The challenging back rounds heading toward Mulholland Hwy. are tight and not very forgiving for a large car, but the 650i handled beautifully with precise engaging steering, a wonderful eight-speed automatic gearbox and responsive brakes. It was the only car I drove that inspired a confidence building experience.
After my short drive in the 2016 BMW 650i Convertible, I cannot wait to get my hands on other models in the lineup.
2017 Mercedes-Benz SL450 Convertible:
Possibly the most surprising vehicle of the event was the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL450 Convertible. After owning a C230 Sport Coupe (manual) for eleven years, and my parents also owning a small selection of other Mercedes vehicles, I was hopeful for my reunion with the Automaker.
First impressions of the interior were that it was even more luxurious than then 650i with the cushiest seats I’ve sat in in a long time. The only downside I saw to the interior was the overabundance of tech with various dials and buttons making it hard to navigate in a short time period.
After accelerating from a stop, the seatbelt tugged at me into the seat, just as the 650i had. I selected the Sport Plus driving mode and opted for manual shifting.
The 2017 SL450 replaces the SL400 and receives more power with an increase of 33 HP and 15 lb-ft resulting in 362 HP and 369 lb-ft of torque sprinting from 0-60 in 4.9 seconds (sourced from Autoweek.com). This is achieved by a re-tuned ignition system. The 3.0 L twin-turbocharged V6 is a very satisfying motor mated to a not so satisfying new nine-speed automatic transmission replacing the seven-speed unit. While shifting was fast and accurate, I found that it didn’t allow me to stay in manual shifting using the paddles. Each time I used them, the car would just shift on its own. When I say not so satisfying, I’m specifically speaking to it shifting on its own rather than the actual accurateness of it, because it was, in fact, a very accurate and quick transmission, down shifting in just the right places. While it is easy to say that this transmission may shift more precise than a human, I’d still like to shift for myself every once in a while.
I was very impressed with the exhaust sound in Sport Plus mode. It’s so loud, raspy and F-Type-esc with its backfiring on downshifts and overall aggressive tone.
In the same tight corners the 650i sliced through, the SL450 performed with confident agility. I was a bit thrown off at first when suddenly the side bolstering of the seat in the direction I was turning started to inflate and hold me in position. After two consecutive corners, it became less awkward and more assuring. I really enjoyed this feature when on the tight canyon roads during my route.
Aside from the transmission and busy interior, I really don’t have any complaints about the SL450. The brakes performed as expected with powerful stopping power, steering is precise and it handles as you would expect a Mercedes-Benz to. My final thoughts on the SL are that the car sounds great, is very comfortable to sit in and makes you feel like a million bucks, but it just doesn’t have that driver connection that the 650i does.