Lean, mean ma­chine

El­e­gant road­ster is im­pres­sive and prac­ti­cal

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

The Go

Mercedes’ SL has par­layed past mo­tor­sport glamour into a name­plate that blends per­for­mance and lux­ury. This gen­er­a­tion aims to re­turn to a more dy­namic past with­out com­pro­mis­ing the lux­ury and spec­i­fi­ca­tions de­manded by its well-heeled buy­ers. Ex­ten­sive use of alu­minium helped trim weight – the body in white is 25 per cent lighter than a steel equiv­a­lent, and 20 per cent stiffer. Even the wheel nuts are lighter. I drove the car in Eng­land as it was launched Down Un­der, Bri­tain’s au­tumn weather about line-ball with our spring, chilly winds, driz­zle, and flashes of sun­shine un­der­lin­ing how flex­i­ble is the cur­rent breed of hard-top con­vert­ibles. Roof down, heated seats, an ‘‘air scarf’’ and a wind-break that rises be­hind the seats mean you’re comfy in even chilly con­di­tions, while the roof lifts (and drops) fairly quickly if it does start to rain. The re­sult is ev­ery mil­lime­tre the el­e­gant cabrio, and one with the sleekly ag­gres­sive lines to suit this 4.7-litre 320kW/700Nm V8 engine. Now much more fuel ef­fi­cient and with power and torque boosted by twin turbo charg­ers, it spins the rear rub­ber via a seven-speed auto trans­mis­sion. And boy, can it spin rub­ber, with brain-bend­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion on tap along with a suf­fi­ciently ag­gres­sive sound­track – yet the SL also de­liv­ers re­fined cruis­ing when re­quired. British back roads are as bendy and bumpy as the worst New Zealand has to of­fer and of­ten nar­rower, yet the car’s multi-link chas­sis with adap­tive dampers de­liv­ered both rea­son­ably comfy ride and as­sured han­dling un­der the con­di­tions we en­coun­tered.

Show

With the lean, mean lines of a mako shark, this SL’s looks live up to that mighty engine. And so did the spa­cious cabin of our test car, lav­ished in red and black leather ac­cented in brushed metal and with enough stor­age for a long road trip, de­spite the lack of back seats. For this el­e­gant road­ster is mod­er­ately prac­ti­cal, too. Drop­ping the roof cuts lug­gage space from 504 to 364 litres, but there’s plenty of space left, es­pe­cially if you load with the roof up be­fore low­er­ing the lug­gage cover that must be clicked into place for the roof to op­er­ate. Be­neath it I found space for a two-storey doll’s house and a model farm, plus enough lug­gage for an ac­tive week­end with the house’s new own­ers. Also im­pres­sive were the giz­mos – the wipers that squirt wa­ter ahead of the blade, and the glass roof that turns trans­par­ent or opaque.

Com­pany spin

Mercedes New Zealand has opted for the fire-breath­ing 500 as Kiwi buy­ers tend to opt for a new model’s hero cars. The smaller-en­gined en­trylevel 350 is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

Bou­quet

That Mercedes ticks so many boxes. The SL is a com­fort­able, lux­u­ri­ous GT with a rapid turn of speed and suf­fi­cient cor­ner­ing abil­i­ties to let your hair down. Yet it also boasts a lux­u­ri­ously cos­set­ing en­vi­ron­ment for ev­ery day, and it’s more prac­ti­cal than expected from a two-door two-seat cabrio, as con­firmed by around 800 fully-laden test kilo­me­tres.

Brick­bat

Not quite as ag­ile as some, judg­ing by our Brit back-road jaunts.

Mercedes SL: With the lean, mean lines of amako shark, this SL’s looks live up to that mighty engine.

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