We’ve got mixed feelings here. And, we suspect, given the other Mercedes SLs we have driven (although admittedly abroad), there is a reason for them. The optional AMG suspension as fitted to our test car as part of the Sports Package drops the regular SL’s ride height by 10mm. This, coupled with 19-inch alloys wearing 30-profile tyres at the rear, brings a rather firmer set-up to the SL than we (and we imagine most customers) were entirely expecting.
Most of the time, things are fine. The SL deals with little surface imperfections and larger crests and dips well, although it’s better across the former in its softer damper setting while having tighter overall body control in the firmer set-up. But it doesn’t matter whether you pop the dampers into their Comfort or Sport modes across the more sudden bumps and potholes that really jar the SL’s body. It is one of the few occasions during which you will perceive any lack of body stiffness.
Otherwise, the SL feels impressively rigid, particularly with the folding hard-top up. The steering feels isolated from bad roads and, even with the roof down, the rear-view mirror rarely gives a view-distorting tell-tale shimmy.
Roof down, the SL feels just like a classy roadster should: a wind-in-the-hair experience, without your hair actually getting that windy.
And in extremes? The SL is as entertaining as you’d reasonably expect it to be, but with a few peculiar, stability system-induced movements to its body mid-corner. It’s no Porsche 911 cabriolet, but it retains more agility and adjustability than, say, a Bentley Continental GTC V8 (which, admittedly, has seats for an additional pair of occupants).
Predictably, given its lower kerb weight of 1685kg, the SL 400 delivers a sharper turn-in than the larger-engined models. It is probably the sweetest-handling of every SL. But it's definitely the case that those wanting a more laid-back experience should avoid the optional AMG suspension.