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The new Merc SL is faster, prettier and (nearly) drives itself

Mercedes has revealed its facelifted SL, rather fittingly at the Los Angeles motor show. Rarely is a car so suitable to its location…

And as facelifts go, we’d file under ‘successful’. The SL’s styling - particularly around its snout - has split opinion since its 2012 launch, but we reckon the nip’n’tuck has been entirely successful. It looks a lot less awkward than before, its more slender LED lights mostly responsible.

There’s also the usual gamut of new wheels, bumpers and colours, straight out of the Facelift 101 guidebook. But being a Merc, there’s an onslaught of tech, too. SL may still stand for ‘Super Light’, but there’s been little shyness at the amount of electrickery thrown at the latest version.

Highlights? Non-AMG versions get a nine-speed automatic gearbox, you can hook your Apple phone up to Carplay and use Siri on the move, the roof will fold up or down at speeds below 40kph, and there’s a display of all your nerdy G-force and acceleration numbers on screen, too.

Perhaps more interesting is the introduction of Active Body Control, which we’ve seen elsewhere in the Merc range. It effectively leans the SL into corners to make the handling feel that bit sharper, while it also automatically lowers the car by 13mm as your speed rises to aid the aerodynamics.

And speaking of speed, there’s more power, too. Good. The range starts with the V6 powered SL400 (362bhp) and V8 powered SL500 (449bhp), topping out with a pair of AMGs. The likely pick is the 577bhp SL63, though the faintly ludicrous SL65 has a 621bhp twin-turbo V12. It also hits 100kph in just four seconds…

All share a 250kph limited top speed, but tick the ‘Driver’s Package’ option box on your AMG and the electronic nanny won’t step in until 300kph. How liberal.

What intrigues us most, though, is the gamut of driver aids which your SL can now have. Given its roots lie in wonderful old sports cars like the 300SL, there’s rather a lot of stuff to remove control from the driver.

Self parking, brake assist that operates at Autobahn speeds and ‘steering pilot’ - which works alongside the cruise control to keep your car in lane, a la Tesla Autopilot - are most intriguing.

An out-and-out sports car the SL is not, then, but nowadays it’s a rather fine GT car. And we suspect this round of tweaks, particularly that more palatable front end, won’t do that reputation any harm at all…

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