IN THESE economically-straitened times, with penny-pinching and belt-tightening the order of the day, every pound is a prisoner.
CAR Mercedes SL350 Roadster
PERFORMANCE MAX SPEED 155mph; 0-62mph 5.9secs
MPG (combined) 37.7
Co2 EMISSIONS 169g/km
So thank goodness for the Mercedes SL350, the, ahem, “entry level” SL, a snip at £72,495. That’s a good £11,000 cheaper than the next model up, the SL500.
As you might expect, at such a bargain basement price, you’re going to have to slum it a little on performance. The SL350 makes do with the 302bhp squirted out by its puny 3.5-litre V6 engine as it lumbers from 0-62mph in an achingly slow 5.9 seconds when compared to the SL500’s 429bhp 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 that delivers 0-62mph in a far more acceptable 4.6 seconds. Perfect for the school run.
But seriously, the SL350 is a superb car – a joy to drive, while there’s also enough Mercedes luxury sprinkled around the cabin to make you feel it might be worth some of that £70K.
The new SL350 is lighter than its predecessor – as is de rigeur in performance cars these days, steel has been replaced with aluminium where possible, shaving 140kg off the scales – that’s about two passengers. Or in this case, one fat passenger, because you can only carry one in this open-top thruster.
The weight saving not only translates to a decent-for-a-car-this-much-fun 37.7mpg, but also helps add to the nimble feel created by the low centre of gravity and sharp steering.
Things get even more engaging when you press the Sport button, which delays upshifts and starts messing about with the ratios to liven things up nicely. Slinging it round bends, the SL350 feels agile enough, although it is occasionally prone to a slight bit of understeer, which is easily handled.
No, it ain’t as powerful as the SL500, but on British roads, up to a little bit past the speed limit, it’s all jolly good fun. Accelerating up to 70mph, you use far more of the rev range than the SL500, making for a better noise, which you can of course enjoy to the full with the roof down.
The raising and lowering of the SL350’s roof is a mechanical ballet played out in around 16 seconds.
With the top down – aside from announcing to other road users that you’re bonkers in these temperatures – things aren’t as blustery as you might expect, and the ride is still refined.
With the top back on, it’s easy to forget you’re in a convertible, such is the solidity and luxuriousness inside. The cabin is liberally scattered with brushed metal and wood, as it should be at this price. The low, firm leather seats take a bit of time to adjust just so with the fiddly electronic buttons, but once you’ve got them in the right place, they provide a perfect balance between support and a sense of luxury. Swishing along the motorways in Comfort mode, with the roof up, you could easily convince yourself you’re in one of Mercedes’ executive cruisers – at least one with the seat set to the lowest setting.
It’s not the cheapest sports car you can buy, but it is the cheapest Mercedes SL, and for that reason alone, it’s worth a look.