Mercedes-Benz SL400 (2014) Review

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The Mercedes-Benz SL is something of a motoring icon, with the badge being applied to the brand's products since 1954. Recently, a new engine made its way into the luxury convertible. Meet the Mercedes-Benz SL400.

This new engine from Mercedes-Benz does duty in a number of products such as the E-class and CLS-class. Essentially, in an effort to fight the demons that are economy and emissions, the brand has done away with the old 350 motor and replaced it with this. Gone is the 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6 and in its place is a bi-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. The result makes for impressive reading. Power and torque are both increased, but economy and emissions are reduced.

New Engine

Speaking of power, you're looking at 245 kW and 480 Nm, considerably better than the older 225 kW and 370 Nm from the outgoing motor. The result is performance that is brisk. You can get the SL400 to 100kph in about 5 seconds, which is more than enough to brush aside the little boys in their hot hatchbacks. Top speed is a limited 250kph, but I feel the SL400 isn't about top-end runs.

This engine is hooked up to the tried-and-trusted 7G-Tronic gearbox that makes for a fine pairing. Economy for the SL400 is claimed at 7.7L/100km, however during our week with the SL400 it's more likely you'll see a figure closer to the 9L/100km mark.

Technology

Worth mentioning is the technology in the SL400. Admittedly, not all of it comes standard with the car, but there's such incredible tech perhaps its worth paying a little extra for it. First up is my favourite. Seeing as the SL400 comes with a panoramic glass roof, the sun still manages to enter the cabin and dazzle the occupants. Worse still is the risk of sunburn. Enter Magic Sky Control which is an electronically-controlled tinting feature. Push a button and the window magically darkens or lightens. Awesome.

My second favourite feature has to be the Air Scarf. This has been around for awhile, but its dead useful on a cold winter's morning. It allows you to drive with the roof down on cooler days, but warm air gently blows on your neck. You can still get the full convertible experience, without suffering from the cold. Finally, you can say cheers to all those nasty speed bumps and steep driveways as the SL400 boasts a hydraulic lift setup which, raises the car by a substantial amount.

The Drive

How does it drive? Well, if relaxed cruising with the top down is your thing, you can do very little to beat the SL400. It's a supremely competent roadster and comfort levels are in excess. The engine and gearbox are best left to their own devices, but if you want to get more involved, simply switch to manual mode and change gear via the paddles behind the steering wheel.

When in manual mode, the engine noises increase and there's a delicious exhaust pop when you come off the throttle. The best part of this engine is the mid-range torque, meaning you can overtake slower traffic with a minimum of fuss. If you are fond of throwing cars around corners, make sure you have the Active Body Control suspension option ticked as it makes the car a little more athletic.

Conclusion and Summary

I find this new engine in the Mercedes-Benz SL400 magnificent. It's such a pleasant surprise to find that a non-AMG engine can be this vocal and performance orientated. It sounds great and the car delivers effortless cruising ability. It also happens to look damn pretty too and combines with a ton of incredible technology.

The only downside here is its not as dynamically involving as, say a BMW 6-Series. The average owner probably doesn't really care about this and instead chooses to gracefully float along in luxurious comfort - something the Mercedes-Benz SL400 does exceptionally well. As it's the flagship convertible in the Mercedes-Benz range, you can expect pricing to be at a premium. As it stands, the SL400 starts around the R1 200 000 mark.

Second Opinion

The Merc SL is the only Benz I don't like the styling on, the front is too 'beaky' - like a bird's face for me. That doesn't mean I don't like it though, it's a great cruiser and the 3-litre V6 twin turbo is a pearl to listen to. I also like my two-door coupes a bit sportier in the handling department and this SL feels like it caters to a more gentlemanly segment than I'm ready for. -Ashley Oldfield

We Like: Style, sophistication, luxury, technology, excellent engine

We Don't Like: Price of extras (this test unit had almost R300k worth of extra kit!), not as dynamic as hoped.

Also Consider: BMW 6-Series, Porsche 911, Jaguar XK

Mercedes-Benz SL400 Quick Specs

Engine 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V6
Power 245 kW
Torque 480 Nm
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox
Wheels 17-inch alloy wheels
0-100km/h 5.2 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 250 kph
Fuel Economy 7.7L/100km (claimed)
Fuel Tank Capacity 65 Litres

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