Mercedes SL350

Our verdict on new entry-level luxury convertible.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The 350 isn’t as quick as larger-engined variants, but the power delivery, lighter weight and near 30mpg economy make it the most sensible SL. Further enhancing the experience is the superb seven-speed automatic gearbox, while the long standard kit tally confirm its position as the ultimate grand tourer. Throw in the flexibility of a folding hard-top, and those who can afford to buy this Merc won’t be disappointed.

The facelifted Mercedes SL has caused a real stir with its curious L-shaped headlights and rough-looking bumpers. Yet it has still attracted plenty of buyers – many of whom are choosing the 311bhp 3.5-litre V6-engined entry-level SL350.

The £65,080 model is no slouch, despite its status as the least powerful car in the range. It revs freely and smoothly right up to its 7,200rpm red line.

Performance is maximised by Mercedes’ 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic gearbox. This uses new clutch technology which claims to improve the car’s responses. And it works well, allowing the SL to get off the line faster than a conventional auto with a torque converter.

The gearbox in the model we drove also featured a sports pack, which included steering wheel-mounted paddles. In sports mode, this enables the driver to shift manually, and revs the engine automatically when changing down to ensure steady progress.

At low speeds, the steering has a satisfying weight to it, although the suspension does thump a little over bumps around town. Increase the pace out on the open road, and the steering and suspension come into their own, however.

As you would expect, the SL comes with a host of creature comforts. Hard disc-based satellite navigation, climate control and multi-adjustable electric seats all feature as standard.

What’s more, even though the driving position is low-slung, visibility is excellent, making it easy to position the Mercedes on the road. And of course, you always have the option of folding the superb hard-top, which remains a strong selling point.

So although it’s the ‘base’ car, the SL350 is the pick of the range. The V6 and slick box are stars of the show, and while the styling won’t suit everyone, the driving experience is spot-on.

Rival: BMW 650i Sport The 352bhp V8 engine does the talking for the 6-Series, and the car is more focused than the SL. But this comes at the expense of comfort.

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