The sixth-generation Mercedes-Benz SL roadster may not look as elegant as those that have gone before it, but it certainly has presence, and under its redesigned skin, the SL500 model has a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 engine that boasts more pace, power and thrills.
This new Mercedes SL is longer, wider and lower, while its aluminium construction – a first for a Mercedes-Benz series production car – means it's a full 125kg lighter than its predecessor.
With a rather more hefty price of £83,445, it's also more expensive.
We've already driven the SL500 in Europe; this is our first chance to put it through its paces on Britain's more rugged roads.
What's the 2012 Mercedes like to drive?
Effortless, like all SLs should be. It deftly combines performance and comfort, and is as nimble in town as it is fast and uncompromising on the open road.
New SL is significantly lighter than the previous model
The new SL500 is more agile than the outgoing model thanks to its all aluminium body and magnesium roof, which make it lighter and also more rigid.
In town, it's the epitome of good mannered – calm and measured, with an automatic gearbox that handles varying speeds, stops and starts sublimely. Although you know you're in a SL, you're not preoccupied with the power lurking under the bonnet. The new speed-sensitive power steering also provides greater control when parking and manoeuvring.
The ride loses some of its smoothness on the UK's less-than-perfect roads, especially at low speeds – lumps and bumps make for a slightly lurchy ride.
SL500 has a twin-turbo V8 petrol engine
Out on the open road, the SL500's transformation is immediate – two turbos and high torque at low revs mean you need only tickle the throttle to unleash what feels like its full fury. Apply full pressure and the car rockets from 0-60 in just 4.6 seconds.
What's the 2012 Mercedes like inside?
Inside, it's everything you’d expect from Mercedes: tasteful, with soft leather trim and electrically adjustable seats.
The cabin is slightly more roomy too, while the new Magic Sky Control glass roof panel (a £2610 option across the range) switches from tinted to clear at the press of a button, giving the sensation of open-top driving even when the roof is up.
Folding metal roof raises or lowers at the touch of a button
The roof itself folds into and out of the boot in just 20 seconds, which is a definite plus given Britain's temperamental weather.
You won't want for gadgets, either. This new SL gets internet access and a new Frontbass sound system, which makes a big and deeply resonant sound.
Classy cabin has lots of soft leather trim
Other innovations include adaptive windscreen wipers, which apply washer fluid directly onto the screen, so vision isn't obliterated by spray.
There's also a new 'hands-free' boot opening system (as part of the £1605 Keyless-Go Comfort Package) that means you can open or close the bootlid simply by waving your foot underneath the rear bumper.
Should I buy one?
Fans of the SL500's predecessors may not be as awed by this version's more lairy, muscle-bound styling – or its £2000 price-hike.
However, its less genteel looks belie what is a supremely refined car, and it also comes with a fair amount of additional kit, including stacks of safety equipment such as a drowsiness-detection system and autonomous braking.
Merc reckons the car's weight-loss and efficiency gains means it will get through a fifth less fuel than its predecessor, too, which may make buyers more forgiving of its higher price.
All said, the SL still offers one of the classiest rides around, and with its roadster-cum-coupe appeal, it offers the best of both worlds.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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