The new Mercedes SL
One of motoring's truly iconic names has a new look. And some very clever tech...
And then there were three. Perky, teeny SLK; slightly deranged mad uncle SLS; and now today, freshly facelifted paterfamilias of the Mercedes-Benz sports leicht family. No DNA testing needed here.
Actually, it’s more than a little unfair to suggest the new SL, the sixth to wear one of the car world’s few truly iconic names, is a facelift. That was just a cheap editorial device. It’s an all-new car, packed with the now traditional raft of new acronyms, but most importantly, it’s an almost all-aluminium car, a first for Mercedes among its mainstream products. So although bigger, it is significantly lighter. ‘Sporty Lightweight’ indeed.
And we like it. SLs have always been cars of their time. So just as the original SL looked like it was couture-designed for Grace Kelly, the last, especially in original twin-headlamp guise, was appropriately brassy for its time. Think Liz Hurley. In the ‘that dress’ dress.
This one is kind of tough, edgy, challenging…. We’re thinking Rhianna. But that might be because we are always thinking about Rhianna. Beyonce then. It could certainly hold its own parked next to Jay-Z’s Veyron in the Carter family garage.
Considering the extra size — just over two ins longer and just under two ins wider — a weight loss of up to 140kg (two decently seized passengers) is significant. It pays off in terms of significantly fewer carbons. The SL500 gets a new 4.6-litre V8 that pumps out 435bhp, which is 12 per cent more than the old 5.4-litre V8 in the old SL500. Even more impressive, Mercedes-Benz claim it is 22 per cent more efficient. The familiar 3.5-litre V6 in the SL350 is claimed to be 30 per cent more efficient. Neither are slouches, not that drag racing has ever been the SL’s thing. The 500 will reach 100kph in 4.6secs, the 350 just over a second behind. Limiters won’t let either past 250kph.
Now that hideous Lexus thing has gone, the SL is the only car in its class with a steel and glass folding roof, although this time it gets MSC (Magic Sky Control) so you can alter the tint in the glass, like those terrible shades your hip geography teacher used to wear.
Benz’s lifelong determination to think of new stuff before the others means the SL is the only car in its class to feature FrontBass (which uses the aforementioned aluminium structure as a bass woofer). That’ll get Jay-Z out of the Bugatti. And there’s more ‘magic’ involved in ‘MVC’, or Magic Vision Control, which is basically a very sophisticated wiper systems that delivers warm water when required directly to the wiper blade. There’s also HFA, hands free access, which allows you to open the boot by pretending to kick it and Neck-Pro head restraints active, also unique in the class.
Which leaves the question ‘in what class does the SL sit?’. The answer, now as ever, is probably, like Range Rover and S-classes, in a class all of its own. Icon indeed.