Mercedes-Benz SL Review

Find out more about the Mercedes-Benz SL in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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3
Out of 5

Pros

  • Very well refined
  • Surprisingly practical
  • Great performance

Cons

  • Can be sedate to drive
  • High running costs
  • Not the best looking
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model Review

Derived from the Sportlich-Leicht (Sport Lightweight), the SL name is one that is entwined in Mercedes’s history, mainly thanks to the iconic 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ coupe from the 1950s.

Throughout the six generations, the SL has always managed to fit into the style of its era, with the squarer-looking model of the 70s and 80s in the third generation and the curvier and sleeker versions of the 90s and 2000s.

Despite starting off as a coupe, the SL has transformed into a roadster and is now the more premium convertible only model in the Mercedes line-up.

AMG models have also been scattered throughout the 63-year history of the SL, which has turned the rather calming cruiser into a relative monster in terms of performance.

Latest Model

Unveiled at first in 2012, the sixth generation is the sleekest model since the iconic original from the 1950s, but with it comes plenty of technological extras and a lightweight aluminium body, as well as larger dimensions for more space in the cockpit.

The SL was updated in 2016 and was given a minor facelift to stay up to date and Mercedes added some extra safety equipment and updated the power units on offer.

Available in three trims and four petrol power options, the SL is marketed as a convertible GT car with its more comfortable setup yet still impressive performance from the base ‘400’ model.

The metal folding roof finishes off the look if there is some inclement weather around, but the SL sits comfortably with the top up or down.

Value for money

Starting off in the AMG Line, the SL comes with plenty of great features such as AMG-specific body styling, active parking assist, LED headlights with highbeam assist, sports suspension, thermotronic automatic air conditioning, Eco start/stop function, dynamic select driving modes and a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

Also fitted with Mercedes’ COMAND online infotainment system, eight-speaker sound system and smartphone integration with Bluetooth. All of these are standard features on the SL, but with a starting price of £75,855, you could argue that it is more of a statement piece rather than a credible day-to-day car.

Used models with more power, but were produced before the update, are also available including a 2015 Mercedes-AMG SL 63, which comes with a 5.5-litre turbocharged V8 and has 577bhp at its disposal. It comes with many of the same features as the new SL and the main difference is the power unit under the bonnet.

But that can sway many towards the AMG models, as the performance can be very appealing and addictive indeed. Priced at £67,890, you can get more powerful and arguably the more desirable AMG models under the starting price of a new SL.

What you may also find on the market are some classic models, including some of the very desirable first generation models, although the pricing for an example in good condition will start well above £100,000.

 

Looks and image

The design ethos of the SL has been maintained throughout its life of having a long bonnet and a short rear end, and Mercedes keep managing to evolve the design when the time is just right so the SL keeps up with the times.

However, it doesn’t wow you like some other roadsters might do and you could say it’s exactly what you’d expect from a roadster, which some could argue is a bit dull. The front end was sharpened to match the rest of the Mercedes range in 2016, but the overall lines are very sleek and can be very appealing to the right person.

It may not be as nimble as its rivals, but the SL is a good all-rounder as it can be more comfortable that most roadsters but just misses the best in terms of sporty handling.

The lightest model, the SL 400, is the best handling due to the lower weight over the nose and that allows for tighter handling than the others in the range, but all can suffer from a rather firm ride in Sport and Sport+ modes in the dynamic select system.

In comfort mode and with the standard suspension the SL is ludicrously comfortable and cruises better than any other roadster. The more powerful and harsher models, i.e. the AMG versions, will be sharper to drive, but they will not offer as good a handling or ride experience as the lower-powered versions.

Due to the wider track of the chassis, you will have better grip overall on most surfaces but surprisingly what the SL lacks is good steering feedback, meaning it lags behind its market competitors.

If fitted, the adaptive suspension is best left in comfort mode for day-to-day driving as it is more comfortable than most other roadsters and is perfectly capable in most places, while soaking up many of the road’s imperfections.

The optional – and expensive – Active Body Control (ABC) system can help to prevent the low-slung body from suffering from too much roll through the corners, although you will have to push it hard to get any unsettled performance.

Space and practicality

As a roadster don’t expect the SL to be what you would call ‘practical’ and ‘capacious’, but despite that the SL does relatively well considering what it has to work with.

It is actually the market leader in terms of boot space, beating its rivals from Porsche, BMW and Jaguar with 364 litres of rear storage, and the German brand have done well to design the folding roof so it doesn’t encroach on that space too much when folded down.

Said folding roof manages to fold up or down in 20 seconds, which is quite impressive. Cabin-wise, there is plenty of room for both the driver and single passenger, but that does rule it out as being a practical family car, and is definitely suited to being the sports car its built to be.

Although the SL hasn’t been through the rigorous Euro NCAP safety tests, it does very well on the safety front and it can come with almost every driver aid under the sun, especially following the 2016 update.

With airbags all around, adaptive brake assist, stability control, anti-skid control and traction control. The driving assistance package is also available to be added for £1,695, and that comes with active lane assist, blind spot assist, distance pilot and pre-safe brake, which is only standard on the SL 65.

 

Engines

There are four engine options available for the SL body with each of the versions getting an engine each. The SL 400 comes with a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 producing 367bhp and gets the car up to 60mph in 4.9 seconds, while the SL 500 comes with a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 that gets you from 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds, thanks to the 455bhp.

Both AMG models can be unlimited to get up to 186mph and have the overall better performance. The only difference between the two relatively speaking is 0.1 seconds in getting to 60mph and 45bhp with the different engines. The SL 63 has a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 with 585bhp and the SL 65 is installed with a ludicrous 6.0-litre V12 producing 630bhp.

 

Running costs

The SL is definitely in the sports car bracket of running costs and it is quite expensive to both buy and run. The SL 400 is actually the most efficient SL ever, but the 36.7mpg isn’t really economical in the real world.

All the CO2 emissions are in excess of 175g/km, meaning road tax costs of at least £800 for the first year and because the car costs over £40,000, a £310 extra is added to the annual £140 road tax cost from the second year onwards.

All of the SL models are in group 50 for insurance, so there is no advantage on that front for which one you pick. The SL 400 is the cheapest to own, but when we say cheap that is relative.

 

Things to look out for

Throughout its lifetime, the SL has improved in terms of reliability as technologies have improved, and in the last 25 years the roadster has performed rather well and stayed away from recalls. Although it suffered from brake problems throughout the first half of the 2000s on the fifth generation model, the act was cleared up for the following sixth generation, despite minor fears of fires.

 

Rivals

Due to the SL’s body type but consummate comfort, it could be put into two categories – that of the roadster and the grand tourer. Convertible-wise it is challenged by the Jaguar F-TYPE and the ever-present Porsche 911 Cabriolet – although they are a bit cheaper. Price and comfort-wise it comes up against the BMW 6 Series, Bentley’s Continental GT and the Maserati Gran Cabrio, as well as another Porsche in the shape of the Panamera.

 

Depreciation warning

Due to the build quality and reputation of the badge on the bonnet, the SL does very well at holding its value over a period of three years or more. All the models hold around 50 per cent of their value on the used market, which compares well against its rivals.

Trims Explained

Coming in AMG Line, designo Edition and AMG trims, the SL does have plenty of options to choose from, although some of the items on the accessories list can be unnecessarily expensive – as seems the norm with premium vehicles nowadays.

AMG Line

With the AMG Line, you do get plenty of great technological features like active park assist with the Parktronic system, LED headlamps with adaptive high-beam assist plus, panoramic vario-roof with blind, sports suspension, AMG alloy wheels, AMG body styling and Thermotronic automatic two-zone climate control. You also get a wind deflector, AMG sport leather seats with setting memory and chequered flag-design instrument cluster.

Due to the high quality of the finish and standard features you already get with the SL like the full infotainment system, dynamic select drive modes and eight-speaker sound system, the £75,855 starting price is just about right.

designo Edition

In designo Edition guise, the SL has some extra features, but demands an £11,500 premium. You do get the driver assistance package, an exclusive blue metallic finish, chromed finish on the front splitter and A-wing cover and ‘SL designo Edition’ front wing designation. Inside, Mercedes adds the airscarf neck-level heating system, massage leather seats, comfort ventilated seats, fabric wind deflector and dinamica microfiber roof lining, as well as a porcelain colour trim finish.

It is definitely the most luxurious trim and the design Edition models start from £87,355.

Summary

  1. Quality is on a high level
  2. Crossovers between roadster and GT car
  3. Expensive to buy and run
  4. Good to drive, but isn’t the most fun
  5. Not been safety tested, but has plenty of good features
  6. Looks are a bit safe, but classic
  7. Won’t be wanting for power with all engines
  8. Not very practical
  9. Great heritage
  10. Holds its value well on the used market

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