Car Review: Mercedes - SL  Series 02 (4 stars)

The Mercedes SL is as accomplished as ever, and makes for a highly desirable package

The SL has aged like George Clooney - the odd wrinkle and splash of grey might be visible nowadays, but so is that charming grin, and the impression of wisdom only adds to the apparent allure.

The two-seater roadster is getting on a bit these days - Mercedes does like to wring all it can out of its SLs - but it remains a compelling purchase, with a refined middle-aged drive to match its looks. It can't compete with the outrageous sporting antics of some of its young rivals, like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage or Jaguar XKR, but it does provide the most user-friendly package.

The driving experience is reliably calm - the SL is a composed car and won't let anything upset its flexible ride, but doesn't provide the sort of electricity to your fingertips that you might expect from something like a Porsche 911. There is plenty of urge even from the entry-level engine however, perhaps making some of the craziness up the range a little redundant.

The SL's piece de resistance remains its hard folding roof, which rises and drops in a jiffy. Unlike a traditional soft-top, the SL does feel like a solid coupe when the roof is up, and its character is transformed to glamorous boulevardier when those panels disappear into the boot. The car doesn't suffer from the usual compromises you might have to make in choosing one or the other car.

Practicality is entirely respectable too - the cabin is a reasonable size for a roadster and the boot is also fairly roomy when the roof is up. That said, with the mechanicals stowed away in the back it does compromise space somewhat, and makes it hard to access, but consider the SL a coupe for continent crossing purposes and it holds its own.

It is a very expensive car to own and run, but it remains suitably exclusive enough to justify the cost. You can save money at purchase by deciding judiciously what you need out of the car - you can't help but feel that many will plump for the largely useless SL65 AMG model just because it's there. In actual fact, the mid-range 350 V6 car provides all the real-world performance you need for nearly £40,000 less.

The SL remains an accomplished, desirable and compelling car, but there are some areas where it is starting to feel its age against the competition.

Mercedes SL Series 02 StatisticsCar Reviews

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