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SL 500 is a scorching good looker

We all love two-seat convertible cars with supercar performance, even though they tend to be noisy, impractical and uncomfortable - but not so Merc's latest sexy SL 500 scorcher.
Less make-up, more macho.
Not only is it a seductive goddess that delivers stonking performance but it also wraps its occupants in a cocoon of comfort, luxury and safety that few, if any other roadster/coupé can match. It is good enough to step into the ring and beat big names such as the Aston Martin Vantage, Porsche 911, Jaguar XK/R and Maserati GranCabrio

The first SL was launched to almost hysterical enthusiasm and applause way back in the '50s and since then the Sport and Light range of models have become executive playthings the world over and is particularly well liked in South Africa which is the second biggest market for this model after America.

The only criticism one could level at the SL's was that over the years it has grown heavier and in the process had also become so finely sculpted that it began to look a tad "soft" and less masculine. The latest SL 500 has changed that quite drastically, shedding about 140kg of weight with the clever use of aluminium instead of steel. It has also binned excess make-up and replaced it with a more macho General Rockjaw front end so that it now looks much more like the classic original 300 SL - and to match its designer stubble looks, it's "voice" has also become gruffer and more becoming of a sportscar.

And then there is more...

Under the new SL 500’s long, sleek bonnet rumbles a twin-turbo 4.6-litre V8 that blasts out 320kW and 700Nm.
Under the new SL 500's long, sleek bonnet rumbles a twin-turbo 4.6-litre V8 that blasts out 320kW and 700Nm which is enough fire-power to rocket this beauty from standstill to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and on to 250km/h before the electronic nurse maid says enough.

To most this awesome power and performance is more than enough but there are two even wilder siblings in the SL stable in AMG guise, the SL 63 and the SL 65, both considerably more expensive, even though their bragging rights (other than the AMG badges) are that they are both ever so a teeny bit quicker off the mark than the "standard" SL 500. We're talking the difference between the 4.6 seconds of the SL 500 and the AMG63's 4.3 seconds and the AMG65's 4 seconds flat. For this, buyers will have to dig deep because there is also a fierce difference in price of R1m between the SL 500's price tag and that of the AMG 65!

The SL slices through the corners with grace and composure.
Sports cars tend to suffer from body shudder but the SL is impressively free of the shakes and it slices through the corners with grace and composure. The steering also feels a tad sharper than on the previous model.

Decked out wall-to-wall

Our test vehicle was limited edition SL 500 badged as the "Edition 1" which adds a cool R135,000 to the standard price of R1,635,000. Standard kit on this model include AMG styling, AMG 19-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, larger brakes, elegant red and black nappa leather interior and a panoramic, transparent vario-roof that changes from light to dark at the push of a button and folds away completely in seconds.

As to be expected from a smart sportscar, the SL 500 is decked out wall-to-wall with safety and comfort features and it boasts a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which is as silky as French lingerie even at enthusiastic gallops.

The SL 500 is decked out wall-to-wall with safety and comfort features.
click to enlarge
In many ways the SL 500 is the pick of the new SL crop because it combines every day practicality with exciting performance including the option of flicking the want-to-play switch from Standard to Sport. Do this and is as if the car's already low crouch goes into attack mode as the cog-swapping speed increases, the exhaust note deepens and the steering becomes heavier and more direct.

A true thoroughbred

The Sport setting is probably not an option which the company chairman would select on his way to a board meeting (unless his journey takes him over Franschhoek Pass or along the coast from Hermanus to Gordon's Bay) but it converts this executive elegant commuter into a very desirable set of wheels for those who like to occasionally grow naughty horns.

Although the SL 500 gives you a warning nudge when the car wanders of the central white line and clamps your thighs tightly into the seat when hot-footing it through the twisties or can even keep your neck and shoulders warm with an Airscarf during el fresco driving, this elegant chunk of German auto-engineering has the soul of a sportscar - it looks like a thoroughbred and it performs like a blue-blood in true SL tradition.

The models and prices are:

Mercedes-Benz SL 500 - R1,635,000
Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG - R2,120,000
Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG - R2,621,000

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About Henrie Geyser: motoring editor motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.