Road Test: 2014 Mercedes-Benz SL 350 Roadster
One of the best ways to enjoy winters in the Middle East region is by driving around town in a nice, classy convertible. Since we writers spend most of our winters cramped in our cubicle typing away, we snagged one of the best opportunities to sneak out by testing the 2014 Mercedes-Benz SL 350 V6. How does it fare for the price tag of 405,000 AED? Read on to find out...
As expected from Mercedes-Benz, the look is elegant to say the least. You don't get muscle flexing lines like those in Chevrolet Camaro Convertible nor do you get the sporty track fever looks a.k.a Jaguar F-Type Convertible. What you do get is CEO material understated classy design that would entrance a crowd on the red carpet. Minimalism is the hallmark of Mercedes design and they have used it to perfection when it comes to character lines here. Simple, classy and elegant design, nothing too fancy and not too dull as well. It is also a much lighter car, 140 kilos less compared to it's previous generation thanks to an all new aluminum structure. The downside of this design is it alienates the younger crowd but then it's the 40+ year executives who generally have pockets deep enough for toys like these. Interestingly it's main rival, BMW 6 Series Convertible has a design which is more family road trip oriented so time will tell who captures it's audience the best.
As I stepped inside I was reminded very much by the new Lexus IS-350 F-Sport interior which had a very similar color scheme. As expected from Mercedes, the finishing is impeccable. There is leather, wood trim, lots of soft touch material, Mercedes takes the cake on high quality finishing. This one has a hard top vario electromechanical roof, unlike the BMW 6 Series Convertible 640i and takes it's top off within 20 seconds. The roof can come down at a driving speed of 30 km / h and the structure is such that medium height individuals like me don't feel the air pressure too much. However anyone over 6 ft are likely to feel air blasts at higher speeds.
Interior Features and Technology
Well, to start off, there are more seating arrangements than clothes in my closet! I've never had a more comfortable seating experience, ever! The seat has world class adjustment functionality and ofcourse you can set it to memory for future use. It's not just the number of ways the seat can be adjusted. Even the seat heating is adjustable so you can transfer more heat to your lower back or upper back or hamstrings, depending on your gym day! Second, everything is controlled by joystick which was a surprise as most luxury cars these days have a touchscreen. Mercedes, while excelling in interior finishing, tends to be conservative compared to rivals in it's usage of technology within the cabin. Despite that, expect some world class standards, one of which is a great sound system with 8 loudspeakers and a front bass system so you get great music even with the roof down.
Take the standard safety features of a regular luxury model and multiply that by 3 to get the standard features on SL 350. There are a whole host of safety technologies, some of which I don't even agree with, yet I still want them! Take for instance the Pedestrian Protection "Active Bonnet" which, on front impact increases the size of the front crumple zone and absorbs all the shock, protecting the guy who got hit. Yes, my car will be ruined, I will hate the guy who got hit but he will be safe. Yes, Mercedes makes safety features you don't want to know about! Then there is everything from ABS to Airbags to Side Headbags to Crash Responsive Head Restraints, you get the idea. The car is safe, it is very safe!
There is decent space legroom wise and the boot has about 350 liters for a couple of golf bags. However the BMW 6 Series Convertible, for a similar price offers a longer wheelbase by 270 mm and more rear legroom compared to the SL Class. This is one area where I feel an improvement could be made. The rear legroom is cramped just like a lot of convertibles and so suitable only for children.
Power and Engine
One of the most powerful roadsters in it's class, the SL 350 generates 300 HP and 370 Nm torque, slightly less than BMW 6 Series Convertible but nevertheless quite powerful in it's own right. Acceleration from 0-100 is around 6.4 seconds. The pickup seemed to lag a bit in our experience and the exhaust note is a bit understated. Once on the road though, it's a sheer joy to go full steam on this rear wheel drive.
Suspension and Handling
Suspension feel depends a lot on the Drive Mode selected. Select Comfort and it becomes a regular cruiser with soft suspension settings. Select Sport though and the suspension finally comes alive. It is the ideal suspension setting, not very bumpy and not dull either, it's an ideal balance that accounts for sharp corners as well as uneven surfaces. I loved it. Steering is quite responsive but I did feel understeer at sharp turns. Overall I liked the handling but is it the best handling in it's class? Probably not.
This is one of the best roadsters in the market currently, with an ideal balance of executive driving and convertible fun. It has more safety and comfort features than I have seen in any other convertible. The handling feels a bit conservative and the interior could be more spacious. Despite those two niggles, it's worth a serious look.