Mercedes-Benz SL 500

It's got technodazzle, but is the new Mercedes SL lacking something?

Price: £80,000 approx (SL 350 £72,000 approx). On sale July
Engine: 4,663cc, V8 cylinders, 32 valves, twin turbochargers, 435bhp at 5,250rpm, 516lb ft at 1,800-3,500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph, 0-62 in 4.6sec, 31.0mpg official average, CO2 212g/km

Is a Mercedes-Benz SL a sports car? In the sense that it has two seats, an open top, a long bonnet and a fair turn of speed, you could say it is. In the sense that it puts you in touch with the road, celebrates simplicity and immediacy, and that people use them in motor sport, it is not. Nor has it been for 50 years or so.

Such is not the point of a modern SL. Rather it is to be swift and luxurious, to look dramatic and to cosset its two occupants as they take in the air and the admiring glances of those they perceive as less fortunate than themselves.

The car you see here is the sixth generation of the SL line. Mercedes-Benz's current cars are heavily styled, far beyond the understated functionality once deemed sufficient, and the new SL conforms to this trend.

Its body bears many of the motifs of past SLs, such as the wide-mouthed front grille, the bulge on the bonnet and the air intake behind the front wheels with two metal strakes spearing through it. Yet, unlike the previous SL, which also had a folding metal roof in coupé-cabriolet fashion, the new one has a rear aspect that could come from any current Mercedes saloon. The "sportiness" ends at the rear edge of the doors.

The big engineering breakthrough is that its structure and panelwork are almost entirely aluminium; the weight saved means less fuel is needed. The SL 500, powered by a 4,663cc, twin-turbo V8 with a hyper-adequate 435bhp at its disposal, is claimed to average 31.0mpg on the official economy tests, while the V6-engined, 306bhp SL 350 is said to manage 41.5mpg. But a pig has just flown by my window, so don't expect to get anywhere near these figures, even if you drive like a saint.

Also new is the optional Magic Sky glass panel in the roof, which can tint itself electrochromically and ward off harmful rays. FrontBass loudspeakers lurk in the space beyond the toeboards, and an air-kick under the rear bumper will not only open the boot but also close it provided the key is on your person.

There's the option of ABC, or Active Body Control. This uses sensors to measure the movements of wheels and the forces acting on them, and "actively" moves the wheels up and down to accommodate bumps. It's an update of a system also offered in the previous SL, and it nearly ruined my relationship with the new one, because the ride comfort it is supposed to offer goes to pieces if you encounter an undulating road, made worse by the very aggressive accelerator response.

The choppy motion moves your right foot so you scorch down the road in a series of rapid bursts, caught in a loop of positive feedback. So I tried an SL 500 with normal suspension, and sanity was restored. Now I could enjoy the V8's storming performance and crackling soundtrack, flick with the paddles up and down the alert seven-speed automatic gearbox, point the nose accurately with the precise – if artificial-feeling – steering, and begin to convince myself that maybe there is some sports car in here after all.

As an open-top pleasure machine the SL works well. There is never the slightest tremor from the open-top structure: wind noise with the roof up is practically zero; and roof-down the wind rush is never so vigorous as to become wearing.

The new SL is a logical reinterpretation of the previous one, and it does all its well-heeled buyers will expect of it. But it would please more if it had fewer layers of technodazzle and more soul beneath.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there