With a 60-year history, it’s safe to say we were expecting some refinement when we tried out the latest SL-Class from Mercedes, this time taking on the SL400.
The nomenclatures behind Mercedes don’t appear to have any real consistency. The AMG, for example, is a nod to creators and their birthplaces, while the S-Class stands for “special” and the E-Class, a fuel injection engine.
In this case, SL refers to Sportlich-Leicht, which is German for sport lightweight. We first saw the name in action for the 300SL back in the 50s.
This sounds like a pretty modern brand of car, so how old is SL? The first SL-Class grand touring vehicle was produced in 1954.
By comparison, we saw a whole new Mercedes SL400 facelift in 2016, so what should we expect two years later?
The latest Mercedes-Benz SL400 is somewhat misleading in terms of naming: SL400 is an entry level model, and doesn’t relate directly to the engine size but in fact offers a 3.0 litre twin turbocharged V6 engine.
Higher up the specs, you’ll find a 4.6 litre V8 500 and two AMG variants – the V8 63 and the V12 65.
With the 2014 release of the Mercedes SL400 AMG Sport bringing us incredible speed despite the weight, this time we’re in for an even more promising drive.
We haven’t been let down. This time around, it’s made predominantly from aluminium to help it live up to its lightweight name, while it just looks the part from every angle.
There’s an abundant range of Mercedes SL400 colours from graphite grey to the bolder hyacinth red and diamond white, while there are chill-cast, die-cast stamped and extruded aluminium parts with hot-formed galvanised steel.
Dimensions-wise, it measures in at 4,617mm in length by 1,877mm in width and 1,315mm in height. But what about the inside?
Unlike higher-end models like the S-Class or even the infamous G Wagen, the SL400 is lacking a little when it comes to infotainment innovation. That’s to be expected from a facelifted interior, so while it does have bonuses like the Apple CarPlay feature, you won’t find the Comand system.
However, driver comfort is made all the more possible thanks to the electronic steering wheel which can be adjusted at your leisure.
The same goes for the seating position, giving you better visibility of the road. Thankfully, it’s also got parking sensors, so if you are struggling to see down the long nose, these will come in handy.
As a convertible, it’s naturally a two-seater, rather than optimistically trying to squeeze in two backseat passengers. Without restrictions, you’ll benefit from 504 litres of boot space, or if you lower the boot, this comes down to 364 litres. That’s certainly still generous enough for a couple of medium sized suitcases, so romantic getaways are crying out for the SL400.
You’ll want a pretty flawless drive to justify the Mercedes SL400 convertible price, which starts at £78,345 without modifications.
There are lease deals, of course, making it more affordable, so this might be a better option if you can’t go for an upfront sale.
You’ll find yourself with two different driving modes, aided by adaptive dampers. One is Comfort mode, which, as the name suggests, negotiates lumps and bumps with contemptuous ease.
Strangely, comfort seems to be the main motivation for Sport mode as well – despite the fact it can go from 0 to 62 in as little as 4.9 seconds, there’s no sense of danger here. We’ll let you decide whether or not that’s a good thing!
If you are going to muck around with the suspension, be aware that the steering weight and gearbox will respond accordingly. This is by no means a bad thing, of course, and the semi-automatic gears make up for any potential turbo lag.
It’s almost difficult to judge a car that’s been facelifted from previous models, as it’s not an entirely new system to comment on.
However, from an aesthetics point of view, it’s simply stunning, without compromising on the practicality, for example, the boot space.
It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not; this is a car to have fun with, not long journeys with hundreds of passengers. At 33.6 MPG, it’s reasonably economical, but perhaps doesn’t quite justify its UK for-sale price. Give us a little more innovation on the interior, Mercedes, and we’ll be convinced.