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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 Rihanna. But that might be because we are always thinking about Rihanna.
Beyonce then. It could certainly hold its own parked next to Jay-Z’s Veyron in
the Carter family garage.

See all the pictures of the new Mercedes SL

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 60mph in
4.6secs, the 350 just over a second behind. Limiters won’t let either past

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.

See all the pictures of the new Mercedes SL 

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