Mercedes-Benz SL 500 Roadster
Having had the opportunity to test all three derivatives of the Roadster, being the SL 500, the SL 63 AMG and the SL 65 AMG, has certainly been a privilege and a most thrilling experience.
All three Mercedes-Benz SL models are the same, yet they differ so much from one another that they each deserve to be dealt with separately in order to do justice to them. This time round, I had the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 for more than just a day and it was pure pleasure cruising the Cape Peninsula in this great car. What made this different is that I know the capability of the car, I know its power ratios, and I know its acceleration capabilities and its top speed; hence I didn’t have to check these this time. This made for a much more tranquil drive, except when I pulled away fast so that Annelize could hear the mighty roar of the V8 machine – she was not impressed. Let me clarify that. She was not impressed with me for not warning her that we were going to pull away at warp speed, but she said that she did enjoy the open air and the ‘exhaust’ sound. However, no brownie points for me.
Quality and quality finishes are a true example of the excellence of the SL’s overall grandeur, with every component and the overall product being nothing short of spectacular. Innovation is at the forefront, but history and tradition are clearly seen and are imbedded in the new SL. The long, flowing hood, connected to a stylish and functional passenger compartment, is followed by the muscular-looking rear that portrays the athletic and sporting ability of the SL 500. The colours are as exciting as the vehicles.
The fun really begins when you make yourself at home in the ‘lounge’ or cockpit, where you can enjoy a massage, heated seats, and even a heated neck should you so prefer. The ergonomics of the seats is excellent and provides great support. Throw the SL 500 into a curve and the side bolsters press against your sides to ensure that you remain in the best possible driving position. The upper section of the dashboard creates a formal unity and – with the exception of the black interior – is always styled in a contrasting colour. In this case, the SL’s black interior was red with an aluminium trim that extends from the centre console across the dashboard into the doors, creating a pleasant wrap-around effect. The dashboard, centre console and door-trim panels link harmoniously and are styled so that they are continuous and support the wrap-around effect.
The high-quality instruments are striking and eye-catching and harmonise the SL’s history with the new and innovative styling. Essential systems are operated via a three-spoke, sports-style steering wheel with shift paddles and 12 function buttons. I just loved the steering wheel featuring a flattened bottom section. As with any information system, you have to familiarise yourself with the system beforehand to ensure not only safety, but also optimum use of all the systems that are available. There is a multitude of functions available. Visibility with the roof up is still very good, and, with the blind-spot indicators, you will not easily make a mistake. The reverse camera works well as does the navigation system.
As for the size of the cabin, Mercedes-Benz has made the most of the space available, with there even being a lockable storage box behind the front seats. Sound from the sound system is superb even with the roof up or down. Boot capacity is 364 litres with the roof stowed, and 504 litres with the roof up. One of the problems experienced with most roadsters or cabriolets is that, when the roof is down, you can hardly put anything into the boot as the roof causes an obstruction. Mercedes-Benz has resolved this by lifting the roof 25 degrees when opening the boot with the roof stowed and thus parcels fit into the space easily. With all of that and a 75-litre fuel tank, something had to go – and that, of course, was the spare wheel. In its place is a compressor and a TYREFIT filler bottle should you need it.
Handling and performance are as good as it gets, and the SL 500, being the baby of the three cars, has more power than needed and, as far as I am concerned, is the model to get. Power delivery is excellent with 320/435kW at 5 250 rpm, and 700 Nm at 1 800rpm. Zero to 100kph is reached in 4.6 seconds. Fuel consumption during the test (covering about 500 kilometres) came to 12.7 litres per 100km. The seven-speed automatic gearbox is as fluid as they come, and, with Comfort, Sport and Manual settings, you can get the best out of it. The capability of the SL 500, the sheer luxury, performance and ambiance, and, of course, the price will ensure that the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 will be the most popular model. It does everything you want and much more. It is not as brutal as the SL 63 AMG Roadster and maybe not as sophisticated as the SL 65 AMG, but it is so near to them as is possible.
Pricing is, of course, not for the faint-hearted and is as follows:
Mercedes-Benz SL 500 R1 674 607 (tested)
Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG R2 170 899
Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG R2 683 565
Premium Drive coverage will cover the vehicles for 100 000km over 6 years.
In addition to the above, there are more accessories and optional equipment that can further individualise the vehicle. However, it is already loaded with extras and top-quality accessories that it is only true connoisseurs who will get more pleasure by changing or adding to these magnificent Roadsters. The Mercedes-Benz SL500 is one of the most sophisticated and refined cars to drive and to enjoy. It is a thoroughbred Roadster that will give you what you want.
OUT OF OFFICE | CAR REVIEW
by Carl Wepener
* Prices as at date of publishing