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Mercedes-Benz SL 2012 review: road test

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Totally decadent is how we'd describe the new Mercedes-Benz SL and that's the way buyers would like it. Gen’ 6 of the big Benz sports coupe is as much about image as it is about sporty driving and style.

Value

The SLS is an AMG product and is hardly “mass production.” We get the SL350 and SL500 initially to be followed by an SL 63AMG and an SL65AMG. If you buy one of these, it tells everyone you are at the top of your game. Why else would you be in a large, two seater, drop top sports car selling from a starting point of $225,000. Beats driving an S-Class limo every day.

There's plenty of other new stuff in SL this time around including relatively simple magic view control (wipers fitted with numerous washer nozzles), electric draught stopper (a large screen behind the seats) and ‘Front Bass’ technology developed by Harman Kardon that places sub-woofer speakers in chassis voids within the firewall.

Higher up the technology food chain is stuff like hands free access to the boot, and SUNA satnav. There’s also a myriad of goodies like an 18cm info screen, electric park brake button, rear view camera, 40 gig hard disc drive with a 10 gig music register, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and much more.

Design

This new car is something special in the Benz family being the only all aluminium mass production model in the lineup. And true to the SL (Super Light) acronym coined back in the early 1950s, this new gen' car actually sheds up to 140kg compared with the previous model. The entire body/chassis is only 256kg.

The new model is slightly larger overall than the previous model but is still relatively compact. The interior is up to S-Class Benz standard but in the latest idiom with stitched leather dash, four spoke vent covers and a high tech centre stack.

Comfort is boosted by the inclusion of heated seats and the airscarf seat-based neck warmer system. The tiller is chunky in your hands and is equipped with paddle shifters and a number of other controls for the audio, cruise (radar controlled), phone and other stuff. The entire interior is a study in modern function and attractive design.

Technology

They are all petrol engines starting with a 3.5-litre V6 in the 350, a 4.7 twin turbo in the 500, a 5.5-litre twin turbo in the 63 and a 6.0-litre V12 twin turbo in the 65. Power and torque ratings for the first two are 225kW/370Nm and 320kW/700Nm of the V8. The other two will have much more of both and will cost a lot more too.

Fuel economy is better than ever thanks to BlueDirect technology a reference to the direct fuel injection in the V6 and V8 engines as well as auto stop/start and numerous other refinements designed to reduce fuel consumption and cut emissions.

Safety

Of course, safety is rated at five stars but the SL gets many more active and passive safety systems than a five star rating demands. Pre-safe collision preparation, pop up roll bars, active park assist, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist and an active bonnet for improved pedestrian safety are some of them.

Driving

Power goes to the rear wheels via a seven speed automatic transmission with multiple modes. Dynamic responses are also dial up offering a range from comfort to sporty. As you'd expect, the SL in either V6 or V8 form is superlative to drive offering convincing handling with luxury at a high level and super performance. The V8 is a missile in a velvet glove.

Verdict

It's a joy to ride in. What must the AMG and the V12 be like?

Pricing guides

$98,240
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$47,100
Highest Price
$149,380

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
SL350 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $50,400 – 63,690 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class 2012 SL350 Pricing and Specs
SL65 AMG 6.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $118,100 – 149,380 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class 2012 SL65 AMG Pricing and Specs
SL500 BE 4.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $63,800 – 80,630 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class 2012 SL500 BE Pricing and Specs
SL350 Night Edition 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $51,500 – 65,120 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class 2012 SL350 Night Edition Pricing and Specs