Mercedes-Benz SL500 Quick Review

By Dylan Campbell, 31 Aug 2016 Car Reviews

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Mercedes-Benz SL500

Merc's boulevard bruiser has the go to match its show - and then some.

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR

It’s the recently facelifted version of Mercedes’ top-level two-seater sports convertible, positioned a rung below the point where buyers make the step to the more overtly sporting AMG variants. It’s an ultra-lux indulgence designed to cosset its occupants, while still providing a high-performance, open-roof experience. 

STRENGTHS

  •  Oozes quality and engineering sophistication, from its silky, refined powertrain to its advanced safety systems and deluxe-feeling cabin.
  •  Bulk speed and overtaking ability thanks to twin-turbocharged V8 engine that delivers a surging, muscular midrange and ample high-rpm power.
  •  Nine-speed automatic is cutting edge in terms of transmission tech and ratios, and incorporates a fuel-saving function to decouple it from the engine on downhill stretches and off-throttle to save 0.4L/100km, now a commendable 9.0L/100km.
  •  Clever chassis and suspension tech underneath uses hydraulics to ensure both a comfortable ride and reasonably good body control in hard cornering.
  •  A Sport Plus setting is now provided for keen drivers, to make the car feel more immediately responsive and engaging when driven with enthusiasm. 
  •  Excellent air management when the roof is lowered means the cabin remains quiet and largely turbulence-free at brisk cruising speeds.  

WEAKNESSES

  • For all its sophistication, the Mercedes-Benz SL500 remains very much a cruiser, not a true sports car, due to its size, weight, and comfort considerations.
  • Long bonnet and slightly feel-free steering can make it hard to carve smooth, accurate lines, at least without considerable acclimatisation.
  • Despite facelift, it can (subjectively) look a little odd from some angles.

ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD CONSIDER?

Either a Ferrari California T or Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet provide a more connected, more sporting open-top driving experience, but neither can match the SL500 for certain active-safety and luxury equipment inclusions. Maserati’s aging GranCabrio remains the left-field choice, offering a more emotive non-turbo V8 combined with a healthy dose of Italian brio, but looking a bit technically unsophisticated against the SL500