But there’s so much more to this revolutionary version than that. It is, in every respect, a landmark machine for its maker. As every SL should be.
There aren’t many truly iconic cars in the modern motor industry – but this is one of them: the Mercedes SL. The fundamental thinking behind standard setters of this sort doesn’t tend to alter very much, but here it’s different. Everything has changed about this car – yet in many ways, nothing is different. For Three-Pointed Star buyers, it’s still the ultimate expression of sporting opulence and remains perhaps the definitive face of this legendary luxury brand. A design, in other words, that through its lifetime, has managed at different times and in different forms to define everything a sportscar should be.
So to the SL experience. Whether or not you see this as a ‘sports car’ or a ‘sporting car’ (and there is quite a difference), a journey in one of these remains a very special experience indeed.
Let’s start with the fineries of fashion – classic SL proportions that have evolved through the generations and nearly half the history of this famous brand: the long bonnet, the compact passenger cell set well back within the wheelbase and a muscular, racy-looking tail. If you know anything at all about this car, you’d recognise one without the badgework, admiring, perhaps, the way that the grille has been positioned to visually lengthen the bonnet. The shoulder lines that rise from the headlamps and stretch like tensed muscles along the bodywork into the tail lights. Or the side grilles with fins in each front wing that visually reference the legendary Gullwing and form the starting point for feature lines which seem to give the car a forward thrust, even when it’s standing still.
Of course, you’ll be travelling top-up rather a lot of the time but at least when you are, there’ll be more of a light and airy feeling if you’ve ticked the box to specify this roof either in panoramic glass form with a draw-across blind or, with what Mercedes calls ‘MAGIC SKY CONTROL’. It’s a neat touch that uses electro-reactive particles to switch the roof panel from light to dark at the press of a button. Which means that roof-up motoring can be a little more pleasant.
This is still the most spacious car in its class for front seat occupants. The result is the most un-sportscar-like feeling of being able to spread out a little within the beautifully-finished cabin. The fact that this interior must be appropriate to an exalted supercar price tag pays big dividends, where it feels a class apart from that of a rivals. As with the more exalted SLS AMG, influences have been drawn from the world of aviation, with gorgeous jet-turbine-style air vents dominating a wing-shaped dash with a centre console modelled on the flight deck of an aircraft.
Ahead of you lies a three-spoke Nappa-leather-trimmed flat bottomed multi-function sports steering wheel through which you view a set of classic back-lit dials with three dimensional graduated rings. To your left, the dash is dominated by the huge COMMAND infotainment display screen the controller for which is down near the small but exquisitely-styled DIRECT SELECT gearshift lever. The only change I personally wouldn’t have made is the addition of an electrically-operated parking brake. Still, that has freed up more cabin storage space. Talking of which, the fact that there’s only room for two people in here does at least free up room for a lockable box behind the passenger seat for keeping valuables away from prying eyes.
Larger items of course, will need to go rearwards and if you approach the composite bootlid laden with them, then you’ll be glad of the optional HANDS FREE ACCESS system that’ll raise – and shut – the trunk with just a wave of your foot beneath the bumper, providing the car key’s in your pocket. Once open, the regulatory two golf bags will be no problem.
This is a very special car – and not only because it’s the first large-scale production Mercedes-Benz with an all-aluminium body. Like its predecessors, the SL offers a unique, fascinating and in some ways contradictory interpretation of sportscar motoring. For many though, this will be the perfect way to reward themselves for a lifetime’s endeavour, a car that feels genuinely coupe-like with the roof up and roadster-ready, top-down.
Nothing else in this segment manages that quite as well. Nothing else can offer the security of a hard-top folding roof and, rather surprisingly, nothing else comparable is either as well equipped or as efficient to run. All compelling reasons to support an expectation that this modern instalment in SL history will be as successful as its predecessors. This is then, an enduring but very modern take on luxury sportscar motoring. And every inch a Mercedes-Benz.