The Mercedes-Benz SL is one of the company's longest running models, and there's now a new sixth-generation version that's bigger, faster and more economical than its predecessor, not to mention packed with cutting-edge technology. Here we test the 3.5-litre V6 SL350 Blue Efficiency on UK roads for the first time.
What's the 2012 SL350 Blue Efficiency like to drive?
The 350's V6 engine produces 302bhp and delivers such strong performance that we'd question the need to upgrade to one of the V8 models.
It's linked to a seven-speed automatic gearbox that shifts quickly and smoothly. The new SL has an aluminium body, which helps it weigh up to 140 kilograms less than the car it replaces.
This weight saving also pays dividends in the corners, where the SL350 feels composed and eager to change direction. True, it's not as agile as a Porsche 911 Cabriolet, but it's still enjoyable to drive, and the ride is comfortable and settled over even rough roads, roof up or down.
With the roof down and the wind blocker in place, the SL is good at protecting occupants from buffeting. When the roof is raised there's a bit too much wind noise at motorway speeds.
The engine is quiet at a cruise and sounds great when you rev it.
What's the 2012 SL350 Blue Efficiency like inside?
Many 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.
It's easy to find a comfortable driving position, too, thanks to the huge range of adjustment on offer. In fact, the SL is surprisingly practical for a two-seater drop-top, with lots of head- and legroom, and good all-round visibility.
The optional glass roof adds to the feeling of space and is available with 'Magic Sky Control', which lets you switch the roof panel from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button. The SL's 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 weekend-away bags.
There's yet more magic to be had. 'Magic Vision Control' is what Mercedes calls the SL's posh windscreen wipers, which spray water onto the screen ahead of the blades as they clean the glass, so that the driver's view is never disrupted.
Should I buy one?
If it's driving thrills you are after, buy a Porsche 911 Cabriolet, but if comfort and class are your priorities, then it's the SL350 that should be nearer the top of your shopping list.
What Car? says
Steve Huntingford and Iain Reid