The entry-level SL350 Blue Efficiency uses a naturally aspirated 302bhp 3.5-litre V6, and it delivers such strong performance that we’d question the need to upgrade to one of the twin-turbo V8s. These include the 4.7-litre SL500 with 429bhp and the 5.5-litre SL63 AMG with 530bhp, and they’re both super fast. The range-topping SL65 AMG, meanwhile, has a 621bhp twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12. All versions have an automatic gearbox that shifts quickly and smoothly.
The SL has a comfortable ride, plus it grips well and has a nicely balanced feel through fast, sweeping bends. However, the overly light steering does little to inspire you with confidence, and you’re always aware that you’re driving a big car. If anything, the 350 feels more composed and eager to change direction than the rest, thanks to the lighter engine in its nose.
With the roof down and the wind blocker in place, the SL is good at protecting occupants from buffeting; only those over six feet tall will find their heads in the airflow. The engines are quiet at a cruise, too, and they sound great when you rev them. However, there’s a bit too much wind noise at motorway speeds when the roof is raised.
The SL averages over 40mpg if you opt for the 350 Blue Efficiency model. However, the V8s and V12 are significantly thirstier, and other costs, like insurance and tyre bills, will be very high indeed. To cap it all, SLs don’t usually hold their value as well as lesser Mercedes models.
Some of the switches and knobs are shared with cheaper Mercs, but the cabin still feels classy because it’s solidly assembled and most surfaces are trimmed in leather. The classy circular air vents are borrowed from the SLS supercar.
It’s hard to fault the safety equipment on the SL. As well as stability control and six airbags, it comes with Attention Assist (which alerts the driver when they need a break), active anti-whiplash head restraints and Mercedes’ Pre-Safe system, which primes the safety kit if it thinks an accident is unavoidable. Security kit is equally comprehensive.
It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, thanks to the huge range of all-electric adjustment on offer. However, all-round visibility isn’t brilliant, regardless of whether the roof is up or down. Many of the car’s functions are controlled by scrolling through onscreen menus, but these can be rather distracting on the move.
The SL is surprisingly practical for a two-seater drop-top, with lots of head- and legroom, and some stowage space behind the seats. The roof can be folded back into the boot in less than 20 seconds, and even when it’s stowed, there’s room for two people’s luggage. The folded roof pops up at the touch of a button so you can get items in, too.
The long list of standard equipment includes climate control and satellite-navigation. What’s more, there are lots of desirable options, including ‘Magic Sky Control’ (this lets you switch the optional glass roof panel from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button) and ‘Magic Vision Control’, which sprays water onto the screen ahead of the wiper blade as it cleans the glass, so that the driver’s view is never disrupted.
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