Mercedes SL350 Night Edition

We cross over to the dark side behind the wheel of German company’s latest special edition

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Matt paint finishes are all the rage and Mercedes is cashing in on the trend. The Night Edition looks stunning in its stealth-like finish – a cut above the film wraps being offered by aftermarket modifiers. The changes are only skin deep, but that’s no bad thing when the car underneath is as accomplished as the SL. As a long-distance cruiser it’s peerless, and even with the lower-powered V6 in our SL350, it shows a good turn of pace for a car approaching two tonnes.

The SL has lost its shine! Mercedes is exploring the dark side of its popular roadster with a new limited-run Night Edition, featuring optional Magno matt black paintwork.

It’s not often that a new model arrives at our offices with a notice warning us not to wash it, but that’s exactly what happened here. According to Mercedes’ ‘expert paint colleagues’ in Germany, polishing the vehicle with wax, getting greasy or oily substances on the paint or going anywhere near an automatic car wash is forbidden. The special effect is created using a silky matt clearcoat which is applied as the final layer of paint on the car. This has to be mixed and developed individually for each model and colour it’s applied to.

The process is far more difficult and time consuming than that for glossy paint, but the results speak for themselves. With a rash of companies now offering aftermarket matt film wraps, this look is becoming increasingly popular. The finish on the Night Edition is a cut above that of competitors, though, and causes quite a stir on the high street. However, at £3,636 it is a very pricey option, and when tallied with the other fitted extras it pushed the cost of our test car to more than £80,000.

Further night-inspired updates include dark headlamp surrounds plus tinted tail-lamps and a bootlid brake light cover. Night Edition badges on the front flanks, 19-inch five-spoke AMG alloy wheels and silver brake calipers emblazoned with the three-pointed star logo finish off the exterior changes. On the inside of the cabin, black is once again the predominant colour. Specially designed Nappa leather seats feature Night Edition badging and silver arrow-shaped stitching.

Aluminium trim on the centre console and door panels lifts the ambience tastefully, while Mercedes’ Airscarf system with silver fans visible through the back of the headrest means there’s no excuse for not dropping the metal folding roof.

Night Edition specification can be ordered on both the 350SL and the 500SL. We drove the less powerful version, but with 311bhp from its 3.5-litre V6, performance is not to be sniffed at. On full throttle the powerplant produces strong acceleration and a tuneful note. The ride is superb, making this an ideal machine for eating up motorway miles, while in sport setting it is sharp enough to enjoy a B-road blast.

The 7G Tronic seven-speed auto transmission gels perfectly with this character, too. In self-shifting comfort mode it’s relaxing and a doddle to drive. Slot it into the sport setting, take control via the wheel-mounted paddles and the car comes alive in your hands. With the standard SL350 costing £66,560, it’s debatable whether the Night Edition is worth the extra outlay. It certainly looks the part, though – and if you opt for the V8-engined SL500, it will have the pace to match its stunning paintjob. Beware, though: that unusual finish requires careful attention to maintain.

Rival: Jaguar XK Convertible The British marque’s sporty 2+2 boasts a fabric roof and impeccable road manners. And with prices starting from less than £62,000 for the 5.0-litre V8 version, there is a saving to be made over the SL.

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