What is it?
It’s the ‘cheapest’ Mercedes SL, which actually isn’t cheap at all at over £70k. What we really need to know is whether the new 302bhp, 3.5-litre V6-engined SL is also the best SL. The base model has long been the most popular in Mercedes' successful big roadster range, but it has in the past felt a little neutered next to the extravagance of power you can rely on in the big V8 versions.
What is it like?
Good enough to dispel that issue. Key to the success of this new Mercedes SL350 is the 140kg that Mercedes has managed to cut from the kerb weight with the use of aluminium in place of steel. It promotes a keener, more accurate turn-in and notably more encouraging handling than you’d have found in the old model.
It does lack the punchy, adrenaline-kick acceleration of the SL500 and AMG models, but in reality the more subtle delights of the V6 are simply more usable in the UK. Thanks to its lack of forced induction, the power delivery has an appealingly smooth, linear build-up and allows for more accurate and predictable throttle response. This and the healthy grip levels add up to accessible performance that, in the real-world, means the 350 will be barely any slower point-to-point than its lairier siblings.
Another benefit to the base SL is the better communication you get between motor and transmission. It can be a little indecisive and hesitant when mated to the V8s, but the SL350's ratios seem perfectly matched and it simply does what you want it to do. Whether in sport, eco, or manual mode, it’s sharp, smooth and intuitive.
The ride is less perfect but is more than adequate. Our test car rode on optional 19-inch rims and standard adaptive dampers. The result over UK roads is wholly acceptable, though the weight of the SL (which still rolls in at almost 1.7 tonnes) is more notable with some thumping and shimmying over urban stuff. Ultimately, it delivers just the right blend of waftability and precision 95 per cent of the time.
Should I buy one?
The final reason to opt for the 350 is the price, which we’ve already mentioned is way beyond cheap and into properly expensive. But it is the most affordable SL and it’s competitively priced against rivals such as the Porsche 911 cabriolet – which would still be the better option if you want focused, sweaty-palmed sports car action. The SL is unashamedly a lavish and delightful GT with an edge of handling prowess. If that’s not for you, then neither is the SL.
If that is for you, then you’ll love the new SL350, because this baby SL is also the best.
Mercedes SL350 Roadster
Price £72,495; Top speed 155mph;
; Engine type 3498cc, V6, petrol;
Power 302bhp at 6500rpm
; Torque 273lb ft at 3500-5250rpm
; Gearbox 7-spd auto