£73,810 - £173,315 Price range
23 - 36 MPG
A 2016 facelift made the SL more aggressive looking by adding an AMG-style bodykit, while the car’s new nine-speed automatic gearbox is even smoother shifting than the one it replaces.
The range kicks off with a 362hp 3.0-litre V6, while a 740 lb ft 6.0-litre V12 tops the pack. Pick of the range, though, is the SL63’s 5.5-litre V8 – it’s near identical in performance to the V12, sounds better and costs a lot less to buy and run.
Although most SL’s can reach 62mph from a standstill in less than five seconds, the SL isn’t a sports car in the traditional sense. It has a ride that is geared towards comfort, something it manages to be no matter the road conditions.
The SL’s interior is a superb blend of technology and luxury and little was changed in the 2016 refresh. The metal folding roof now closes quicker (taking just 18 seconds to fold up or down), but continues to use a fair chunk of boot space. Space for two is plentiful in the front and there’s a useful storage area behind the seats. Discover more about the car’s practicality in our Mercedes SL sizes and dimensions guide and see the shades on offer with our Mercedes SL colours guide.
Equipment levels have also been revised and now almost everything is standard – all come with automatic climate control, adaptive dampers, adaptive LED headlights, electric seats and an eight-speaker stereo.
Whilst compared to more exotic rivals such as the Maserati GranCabrio the SL’s interior might seem a bit ordinary, it’s impeccably built and covered from top to bottom in soft, expensive leather. You get a choice of seven different inserts – such as aluminium or black ash wood – which surround the infotainment and gear selector. All of them are no-cost options apart from the carbon fibre finish, which will set you back £2,560.
The COMAND infotainment system, integrated in the dashboard is easy to use, but BMW’s iDrive remains easier to get to grips with and doesn’t have a confusing number of buttons.
Mercedes SL passenger space
The SL might have two less seats than the BMW 6 Series Convertible, but space for two in the front is very good. Even with the roof up there’s plenty of headroom, while leg and shoulder room is about on par with the BMW.
Testers were impressed by the seats, which hold you firmly in place, but are comfortable on a long journey. Both seats are electrically adjustable and have a memory function to save your preferred settings.
Mercedes SL boot space
At a glance, the 505-litre boot seems decent, but that is the capacity with the roof up. Roof down that number decreases significantly to 364 litres. However that is still more than in the BMW (300 litres), much more than in the Jaguar (207 litres) and twice as much as the 173 litres you get in the Maserati. Although practicality isn’t at the top of the convertible buyers’ priority lists, it’s nice to know the SL can swallow more than the usual two overnight bags or set of golf clubs.
Being a grand tourer car at heart, the SL makes for a fantastic long-distance cruiser. With the roof up, the impressive noise and wind insulation makes it feel almost as refined as the executive S-Class saloon, and there’s very little wind buffeting with the roof down – the wind deflector being particularly effective. Switch the adaptive dampers to Comfort and the roadster can swallow mile after mile without a problem.
That being said it is still fun to drive particularly if you go for the AMG 63 variant. The steering is sharp and direct while the rigid chassis makes the car feel more surefooted than its size suggests. The 362hp entry-level V6 still has enough poke to make for brisk progress (0-62mph in 4.9 seconds), but to keep up with rivals, we’d go for the better-sounding AMG 63 version, which dispatches the benchmark in 4.1 seconds.
Most buyers are expected to plump for the cheapest model in the range, the SL400 with the 3.0-litre V6. While it is noticeably down on power when compared with its eight-cylinder siblings, the experts say it’s got enough poke to offer decent performance and, thanks to the claimed 36.7mpg and relatively low road tax (£205), it’s also the cheapest of the lot to run. The 4.7-litre V8 in the SL500 has the V6’s relaxed character, but it increases running costs to the point that you may as well spoil yourself with the SL 63.
If it’s outright performance you’re looking for, the AMG models definitely fit the remit. The 63 AMG has more than 577hp to play with, and the 65 AMG’s 621hp is more than any normal person will ever need, or want! With 0-62mph taking 4.0 seconds, the 65 AMG is just 0.1 seconds faster than the 63 AMG – hardly worth the £70,000 premium.
As it sits at the top of the Mercedes range, the SL is available with some trick options. Particularly impressive is the £1,875 Magic Sky Control panoramic sunroof that changes from transparent to dark when it senses direct sunlight to keep the cabin cool. Also clever is the Active Body Control with curve tilting. It leans the car into corners, much like a motorbike, improving ride comfort. It may sound gimmicky, but testers are impressed and recommend it if you can stretch £3,080 for it.
Mercedes SL AMG Line
Even entry-level SL models now look very similar to the (near twice as expensive) AMG models. AMG Line trim comes with large 19-inch alloy wheels, bright LED lights and an AMG-style bodykit. Inside it gets leather sports seats, few AMG badges and a system called Parking Pilot – it can choose a suitable space and park the car for you.
Mercedes SL63 and SL65
If money’s no object, we’d go for one of the full-blown AMG models. They come with a more aggressive body-kit with four exhaust pipes, while 19/20-inch AMG alloys fill up the arches. The 63 AMG gets a flat-bottomed AMG Performance Steering Wheel, while the 65 AMG gets a powerful Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system as standard. More importantly, both have the performance to back up the looks.
The SL model has existed for more than 62 years in Mercedes history and this newest version ensures it retains its reputation for being the range flagship. The build quality is as you’d expect from a car at this price range, it’s good to drive at almost any speed and it’s incredibly capable as both a sports car and a long-distance cruiser. As a sports car that doubles as a luxury saloon, the SL is hard to fault.