The new Mercedes SL is a success. Having just spent a day driving
the new 430bhp SL500, that is one thing that I have absolutely no doubt
about.
 
You may have to adjust your expectations if you were hoping for an
involving drive because that is one thing the SL unashamedly doesn’t
deliver. The steering is too numb and the handling too soft for that.
But it is a vividly decadent thing to cruise around in, and anyone
interested in a car like the SL will likely be more than happy with it.
It has an understated but sumptuous cabin, a delightfully rude V8
soundtrack, a hard-to-fault blend of ride comfort and performance, and
that uniquely laid-back, Mercedes character.

But here’s the thing. The SL500 will cost over £82,000 when it arrives
in the UK, and whilst it makes a very strong case for itself against
rivals such as the BMW 6-Series and Porsche 911 Cab, it has one weak
point for me. The looks. And the SL is all about looks.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the SL is ugly. Just unremarkable. It
doesn’t grab my attention. And at that point I have to wonder whether,
if given the choice, I wouldn’t rather spend the money on the less
recommendable Aston Martin Vantage V8.

Though the Aston retails at nearly £100k, I'm not sure that anyone
buying the SL500 is going to be worried about the extra purchase cost.
And there are certainly deals to be done at the moment on Vantages.

While the Aston is nowhere near as technically advanced, refined,
spacious, efficient, well-rounded, comfortable, or indeed generally as
accomplished as the Mercedes in virtually any objective way, I still
think I’d rather walk out of the door in the morning and see the Vantage
on my driveway. Truthfully, I’d probably opt for the baby Aston
roadster over any of the aforementioned cars, too.

Whether you consider that a reflection on the value of design, brand
appeal or my own undoubtedly shallow motivations is up to you.
 
Of course, the V6 SL350 is another case entirely. It will be the biggest
seller in the UK by far, exhibits even more miraculous efficiency, with
a 42mpg claimed combined mpg figure from its 302bhp V6, and will sell
for around £70k. It’s very likely to be the pick of the range.
Unfortunately we haven’t had the chance to drive one yet, so for now
we’ll focus on the rather thornier proposition of the SL500.

What do you think? Would you buy the Merc over the Aston?