The 'entry level' SL gets a timely revamp
Four years in, the SL range has been given a mild facelift and botty tuck. Meanwhile the interior's been decluttered, there's a new design of alloy wheel, and the engineers have been busy sharpening up the steering and the second-generation Active Body Control. More pertinently for us, there's also a brace of new engines - a 5.5-litre V8 for the SL500, and the 268bhp 3.5-litre V6 you see here in the 350. According to Mercedes, it's 11 per cent more powerful than the old one, as well as being 3.3mpg more frugal on the combined cycle. So a welcome fillip for the SL, given that the opposition has raised its game just recently, but is it enough? The new V6 already does service in a number of Mercedes saloons, and to be honest it's not the most tuneful thing, but there's no doubting it punches its weight, all the way across the rev-range. With the new 7G-TRONIC seven-speed auto zapping through the ratios, the 350 feels properly brisk. In fact you begin to wonder if most SL drivers actually need any more power than this. The chassis is generally impressive too, with a well-judged ride/handling balance (even on this non-ABC equipped version), though its responses feel a little muted, like it's on a low dose of valium, while the back end can feel slightly under-damped when you start to ask serious questions of it. The steering, too, just lacks a little sharpness, a little feel. The new auto is an improvement on the old box; slicker and quicker, but the manual over-ride involves toggling the gearlever left and right rather than forward and back, which is somehow more instinctive. Better still would be paddles, which means paying extra for the 7G-TRONIC Sport package, and this particular car, even with just a handful of options, is already nudging £65K. It's still an appealing package, but the real problem for the SL is that for less than £60K you can buy the all-new Jaguar XK, which, as I've been finding out this month is a very fine thing indeed. And good as the SL is, it ain't that good.
|Engine||V6, 3498cc, 24v|
|Max power||268bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque||258lb ft @ 2400-5000rpm|
|Top speed||155mph (limited)|