What is it? Update to the long-established and renowned Mercedes-Benz SL convertible range.
Our view? In facelifting one of its most highly-regarded models, Mercedes-Benz has sensibly simply improved the existing SL package without going too radical.
Type of review: Taster test
The latest version of Mercedes’ long-established SL drop-top line offers four models, all with twin-turbo petrol engines and all with sub four-second 0-62mph acceleration times.
The 4-litre V6 engined SL 400 offers 361bhp, its 4.6 B8 sister SL 500 has 447bhp on tap, while there are two muscle-car AMG versions, the SL 63 with a 5.5-litre V8 of 576bhp and the SL 65 with a mighty V12 of six litres and 620bhp.
There are new transmissions too – the two mainstream cars now use the 9G-Tronic auto ‘box of nine speeds, two more than its predecessor, and the AMG versions a seven-cog Speedshift from Mercedes’ performance arm.
Visually the most notable change is to the grille – the new car boasts a bespoke unit, a modern take on the grilles used by the 300 SL Coupes that won the Carrera Panamerica road race across Mexico in 1952.
The Vario-roof folding hard top is impressive, lowering in a mere 18 seconds, a task that can be carried out at speeds up to 25mph.
What do we think of it? The Mercedes-Benz SL has always been a high-quality convertible and the latest facelift merely adds to an already impressive portfolio. The Car Expert drove the SL 400, which will take the largest slice of a quite select volume, and it combines the wind-in-the-hair thrill of a two-seat roadster with a great deal of practicality – the boot space, for example, is a cavernous for this class 504 litres, though it does drop significantly to 364 litres with the roof stowed.
On the road the SL 400 offers plenty of performance; 4.9 seconds to 62mph is plenty quick enough for most, and the £9,000 more expensive SL 500 cuts only six tenths of a second from the sprint time. The range-topping SL 65, with its four-second dead 0-62mph time, is almost £100,000 more than the SL 400…
The car corners with precision, even without the expensive but impressive Active Body Control, a £3,080 option not fitted to our test car. But it is just as enjoyable as a cruiser, top down in suitable weather of course. The nine-speed auto transmission, meanwhile, adds a little extra to the considerable refinement already present.
Verdict: In facelifting one of its most highly-regarded models Mercedes-Benz has sensibly simply improved the existing package without going too radical. The latest SL maintains the breed, and while some will insist on the AMG models, we believe few can be disappointed by the ‘entry level’ SL 400.
Mercedes-Benz SL 400 – key specifications
Tested model: Mercedes-Benz SL 400 AMG Line
Price: £81,170 with options (Range starts £73,810)
On sale: April 2016
Engine: 4.0-litre V6 petrol, 361bhp, 369lbft
0-62mph and max speed: 4.9, 155mph
Economy and emissions: 36.7mpg, 175g/km
Key Rivals: Porsche 911 Cabriolet, Jaguar F-Type S Convertible
Test date: May 2016
The Car Expert Taster Tests are concise summaries of new models to the market, that we have driven for under 50 miles. They are often preludes to full road tests of the vehicle at a later date.