The endless pursuit of automotive engineering perfection must be confusing for Top Trumps players. Take the Mercedes SL. We’re testing the box-fresh SL400 V6, which replaces 350 as the range entry point. A kind of retirement present on the cheap for those whose nest-egg hasn’t blossomed enough to bag a V8 or V12.
Merc’s SL range now starts with a car capable of passing sixty in five seconds, which leaves you wondering why you’d bother with an SL500 for £10k more.
No prizes for guessing that it’s downsizing wreaking havoc with Trumpers’ hands; ignore the swollen 400 badge, for this car has lost half-a-litre in cubic capacity, yet gained 27bhp.
Such is the way of the automotive world nowadays…
Mercedes-Benz SL400: the tech spec
The 3.0-litre V6 is breathed on by a pair of turbochargers, liberating an extra 81lb ft in the process. It gives the SL real shove when you need it and improved emissions when you don’t.
A quick glance at the spec sheet confirms the performance on offer is pretty serious: that 354lb ft torque peak is available all the way from 1600-4000rpm, meaning overtaking oomph is never more than a toe-twitch away.
Read more about the aluminium tech of the Merc SL range here.
Refinement, boulevard manners
This is an all-new V6 and we wonder if the direct injection may be responsible for some very un-SL-like grumble at start-up. It’s distinctly rattly and clattery and at odds with the whole Merc roadster vibe.
Once underway it’s more refined, but despite the lure of 30mpg in daily driving, we found ourselves on occasion pining for the SL500 with its unimpeachable V8.
If you can afford £72,500 for a V6, the extra monthly payments for two more cylinders might be worth the stretch.
Inside the Mercedes SL400 (2014)
Elsewhere, it’s stock SL – which is to say, a benchmark two-seater GT. Few cars can rival this roadster’s sense of occasion, beautifully engineered toplessness or goodies, such as Airscarf neck warmers and dimming glass roof panels.
It feels every inch the well engineered gentleman’s cruiser and you’re encouraged to lower that top year-round. Which is surly the point of a car like this.
That said, we do like the clever-clogs tinted glass roof panels, whose opacity can be adjusted at the touch of a button. Very clever.
Look elsewhere if you want raw thrills, naturally. But if you want to waft in style, the SL still has it in spades. And the entry-level model has never been so fast or frugal.