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In-depth reviews

Mercedes SL review (R231, 2011-2020)

Surprisingly good fun, particularly in AMG trim, the SL is a roadster of broad talents

Evo rating
Price
from £73,810
  • Luxurious and relaxing but still fun to drive
  • Weight takes its toll on the brakes

Original 300 SL aside, the Mercedes-Benz SL has never been an out-and-out sports car, but the latest version is as close as the model has got to that title in a generation. In AMG form particularly there’s plenty of entertainment to be had and thundering performance too, while the SL 400 and SL 500 are comfortable (and surprisingly frugal) ways of getting about in comfort and luxury.

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Strong engines, pliant suspension and a stiff structure are SL highlights across the range, and while the styling is now past its best Mercedes has kept the range fresh with advanced technology and new turbocharged powerplants. You might enjoy the SL more than you expect.

If you plan to use your AMG SL in the manner for which it was designed, we’d recommend specifying the optional carbon-ceramic brakes. The standard rotors certainly stop the car quickly enough, but the SL is a substantial beast and repeated stops can introduce confidence-sapping fade.

> Mercedes-AMG SL55 2022 review

You shouldn’t be too disappointed if you opt for the non-AMG SLs though, as both SL 400 and SL 500 offer strong performance and, if not quite as sharp as the AMGs, fulfil the role of grand tourer with alacrity.

Mercedes SL (2011 - 2020, R231): in detail

Prices and rivals 

You’ll pay from £73,810 for an SL, which nets you an SL 400 in AMG Line trim. You can then splash out thousands more on Mercedes’ long list of options, though a basic SL is hardly stingy in terms of equipment, with 19in alloy wheels all-round, an AMG styling pack, LED headlights, a panoramic folding hard top, leather seats and climate control. A special SL 400 Edition model (£75,000) currently adds keyless go, a comfort suspension package, Mercedes’ Airscarf system for warming your neck with the top down, and unique alloy wheels.

SL 500 models start at £82,860, while the SL 63 starts at £114,115 and the SL 65 begins at £173,315. AMG models once again get their own unique alloy wheel designs, a more aggressive AMG body styling package and unique interior trim. The SL 63 also gets a limited-slip differential, while the 65 gets forged alloy wheels of either 19 or 20-inch diameter.

The list of potential SL rivals is long, with luxurious and comfort-orientated choices like the Bentley Continental GT Convertible at one side, and more focused cars like the Ferrari California T at the other. The Aston Martin Vantage Roadster - in either V8 or V12 format - is also well worth a look. There’s great diversity in this section of the market and all have merit in some way, but for feel-good factor we’d be choosing the Aston Martin.

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