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The Top Gear car review:Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
For:Breadth of ability, quality, technology
Against:The Merc SLK-style front end looks are an acquired taste
SL 500 2dr Auto
A solid entry point to SL ownership, but stretch to the V8 if you can.
Who fancies a 630bhp, twin-turbo V12 cruiser in their life? Then head this way…
AMG has done good things to the SL: serious supercar pace as well as GT refinement
An archetype. Precise, fast, complete, would be brilliant to own and appreciate… the only thing is that those headlights will take some getting used to
Fast and confidence-inspiring, and huge fun because of it. But it’s no faster than the old one and has good opposition.
Whatever we might think in the UK, Mercedes-Benz, worldwide, pretty much owns the freehold on luxury sports cars. So it’s no real surprise that,...
What we say:
Merc's timeless drop-top was overhauled last year, and it's quite a transformation
What is it?
Despite Mercedes’ famous SL line now being more than six decades old, the latest model, all-new last year, is a very worthy continuation of the respected line. It fully respects the heritage of the firm’s GT series, keeping up the tradition of effortless waft with relatively low-key visual impact.
The recipe is traditional and simple: two seats, folding metal hard-top, front–engined and rear-wheel drive. The big news for this version is that it’s all-new, and boasts an aluminium-intensive construction, correspondingly lighter weight and more efficient engines. Even though there’s generally more kit, the 306bhp, V6 SL 350 manages a generational weight loss of 140kg. Which means the new SL is both faster and more efficient than the car it replaces.
Styling-wise, it’s more evolution than revolution: it’s still handsome and muscular, without being caricature, though the new headlights have caused some furrowed brows. Expect the shock of the new to fade with time.
All new SL are pretty fast. The V8 SL 500 will stamp its way to 60mph from rest in 4.6 seconds, with the interesting new SL 400 V6 biturbo not far behind on 5.2. All you do is press and go: the excellent seven-speed automatic is standard. They’re easy steers on standard semi-active suspension, but we’d urge to choose the optional ‘ABC’ active body control suspension. What feels like a giant GT suddenly comes alive when you really push – enough to keep up with much more hardcore metal.
The AMG models enhance this yet further, particularly the sublime SL 63 AMG V8. Its blend of driverpleasing accomplishment and longdistance comfort is remarkable, making it one of the best fast all-rounders on sale. The SLS AMGsourced gearbox is also a treat, and the noise it makes is wonderful.
On the inside
Mercedes has always liked a bit of technology and the SL gets its fair share. Seats are supreme for long journeys, and feature the patented ‘Airscarf’ neckwarming system for cold days top-down. There’s even ‘Magic Vision Control’ which sprays the windscreen with multiple jets from the windscreen wiper blades themselves so that you can wash the ‘screen with the top down without getting wet. Fit and finish is just about the best on the market. Though we’d avoid some of the very ‘German’ wood trim…
The SL 500 produces a respectable 30.7mpg and 214g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle, and the SL 350 an impressive 37.7mpg and 176g/km of CO2. But you pay for this level of competency as prices are correspondingly steep.