New Mercedes SL vs Jaguar F-Type
The Mercedes-Benz SL has been refreshed to keep it up to date. Can it fend off Jaguar's raucous F-Type?...
Jaguar F-Type V6 S Convertible AWD
List price £72,900
Target Price £66,986
Sharp handling with the all-weather dependability of four-wheel drive.
Mercedes-Benz SL 400 AMG Line
List price £73,510
Target Price £58,050
SL gets a nose job and more power for 2016. Is it enough to nudge it ahead of its British foe?
So, you’re after a two-seat sports car, but you’ve got used to life’s little luxuries. You want to feel the wind in your hair, but not at the expense of electrically operated toys, a plush interior and everyday usability.
For years, the Mercedes SL has offered an answer to this tricky conundrum. It will waft you to the south of France in complete comfort, yet still be able to mess your hairdo up when you’re in the mood for a blast of speed.
Alternatively, you could choose a Jaguar F-Type Convertible for slightly less cash. It might not be quite as practical as its German rival, but it’s even more powerful and now comes with the option of four-wheel drive for better traction.
Both cars offer a different take on the two-seat drop-top, but which is the better buy?
What are they like to drive?
The SL and F-Type both have powerful V6 petrol engines. Although the SL’s is turbocharged, there isn’t much of a pause between you pressing the accelerator pedal and the power kicking in. When it does, the SL quickly charges up to motorway speed while its exhausts emit a glorious howl.
The engine works well with the nine-speed automatic gearbox, slurring smoothly between gears in Comfort mode or delivering punchier shifts when you switch to Sport. Our only complaint is that, even when you’re in manual mode, the gearbox automatically changes up at higher revs.
The F-Type’s engine is supercharged so the response is even more immediate when you sink your right foot. It sounds a lot more aggressive, too, especially with the exhaust switched to its loudest setting. Its V6 growl is overlaid with the whine of the supercharger, plus some popping and spitting from the exhausts when you lift off the accelerator. The gearbox isn’t quite as smooth as the SL’s, but in manual mode it’ll only change gear when you tell it to.
Through corners the F-Type impresses more than the SL. Its steering is quick without being hyperactive, and it provides good feedback on what the front tyres are doing. The F-Type always feels light on its feet and keen to change direction, something that makes it great fun to drive.
Unlike wayward feeling rear-wheel-drive F-Types, this version feels planted in all conditions. While you initially feel the rear of the car helping to steer when you accelerate out of corners, drive is soon sent to the front to help slingshot you up the road.
The SL is softer and less sporty. Its steering might be precise and nicely weighted, but it doesn’t provide as much feedback. You can stiffen up the air suspension to limit body roll, although the SL still doesn’t corner as flatly as the F-Type. It’s never as willing to change direction either, although it is agile enough to put a smile on your face.
However, the SL is the better choice for long journeys. With its suspension in Comfort mode, it soothes away the miles with only scruffy surfaces causing a little bit of patter from the wheels. The F-Type is altogether firmer so, in all situations, you feel more of the bumps as they pass beneath the car.
The SL is also more refined, proving quieter when cruising with the roof down. Even at motorway speeds, you can hold a conversation without shouting because there’s far less buffeting from the wind. True, its folding metal roof is slower to open, but when up it isolates you better from world outside. You can operate both cars’ roofs on the move; the SL’s works up to 25mph and the F-Type’s up to 30mph.