There’s a certain confluence of events that occurs every so often, where the whole adds up to more than the assembly of components. Happily, for me, such is the case with Mercedes-Benz’s new SL 400 AMG Line, the latest version of its most famous roadster line unveiled in the KZN Midlands earlier this week.
The newest SL employs Mercedes’ new three-litre twin-turbo V6 up ahead of the superbly rigid scuttle, and what a match it is for this car’s mix of sportive acumen and comfort-orientated cruise-mode ability.
There is a sweetness about the engine that is apparent from start up, idling quietly and unobtrusively as you lower the top via the push of a button. So much so, that to re-ascertain that the motor is in fact running, you may well lower the volume on the incredibly rich Frontbass audio system, which Merc says enables you to” turn your SL into a concert hall”, whether the top is down.
Once on the move, you will relish the way the engine and 7G-TRONIC-PLUStraditional fluid-drive automatic gearbox combines to feed power and torque seamlessly to the rear wheels. And once engine temps are nice and warm you will, believe me you will, be compelled to see just how well this engine propels some 1 800 kgs worth of luxury roaster towards the horizon.
Power figuresThe numbers for the SL 400 read 245 kW at 6 000 rpm and 480 Nm between 1 600 and 4 000 rpm. Those numbers tell a story right there and then. Almost from idle you have maximum torque on tap, and yet, far from tapering off, the thrust continues hard and fast to the 6 000 rpm power peak. What’s more you can rev this engine close to the 7 000 mark before the electronics shift it to a higher ratio. It’s the way in which it delivers that power that is so satisfying, for there is not a hint of typical V6 vibration to be detected from the cabin, through your fingers on the richly-stitched AMG-Line steering wheel, or through the seat of your pants ensconced in the AMG-specific leather-clad bucket pew.
There is also a lightness of nose about the car with this smallest engine that is perhaps lacking in the more potent V8 and V12 derivatives, and none of the raucousness of the V8. This V6 is refinement personified!
Performance on launchFor me, the car is all about a mix of exhilarating-but-not-brutal performance, and in this SL 400, twin-turbo V6 guise, it delivers that blend of excitement and containment in a near perfect mix. The suspension does feature adaptive damping, which enables a noticeable change in the compression and rebound rates to stiffen things up markedly.
On the launch route on the old KZN Midlands Meander route, the road dished up a mix of medium-paced bends which was perfectly suited to this car’s abilities, which are not leach-like in the manner of, say, an AMG 45 hatchback, but nevertheless more than adequate to get the blood setting purple sectors in your arterial circuitry.
Chassis and rideThe chassis is amazing in its rigidity, and you’d never guess you are in a roadster. All the more impressive is the fact that is constructed largely of aluminium. By the way, I tended to leave the suspension in ts 'comfort' setting, as the tyres fed back too much road noise on the harder setting. Our car was fitted with the option 35-aspect ratio rubber on 129-inch wheels. It should be noted, however, that the road surfaces in this part of KZN are notorious for their noise-inducing properties.
The AMG Line kit, by the way includes the three-spoke AMG steering wheel with bright-metal high-lights and a flat-bottom section,, AMG side skirts, and chromed tail-pipe treatment. The headlights are interesting, featuring multiple LED technology. There is also MAGIC VISION wiper technology which directs water to the windscreen via the wiper blade, and not via random spray nozzles.