If you know me in person, you’d probably be familiar with my taste in cars. I want no more than two doors and two seats, ideally. And a convertible roof, even though there really is no place for it in a city like Dubai. The new SL 400 by Mercedes-Benz fits into that very specific mold with a few extra bells and whistles for good measure, so I drove it for a week to see if it’s something worth considering if you’re in the market for a new roadster. Is it good enough to carry the legendary SL name? Read on to find out.

Key Figures

  • Engine: 3.0L twin-turbo V6
  • Transmission: 9 speed automatic
  • Power: 367 hp
  • Torque: 500 Nm
  • 0-100 km/h: 4.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 250 km/h
  • Price: From AED 364,000

Exterior

The new SL 400 styling is elegant and subdued, which is in fact quite a departure from the taut and angular lines of previous models in the range. The car is a bit more rounded, more mature, and somehow less of a serious roadster than the ones we are used to seeing. In fact, with the roof up, it looks like any other Mercedes on the road, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The grills and accents are still all there, though, looking maybe a little out of place with the rest of the body’s flowing lines. I guess my beef is lies mainly with the front fascia, which appears a little too middle-aged for my taste. From the rear, it looks close enough like the sleek masculine SLs of the past. senile But overall, this Merc is still a thing of beauty, and looks quite sexy in gloss black.

Interior

The inside of the SL 400 is a completely different story – it is gorgeous in the true essence of the word. It’s a perfect blend of classy and sporty, like getting your adrenaline flowing but just enough to still keep your composure while rolling with the big boys. Much of the car is wrapped in saddle brown nappa leather, while the dash is quite oddly in black. I would have preferred if they kept it in the same color family, maybe a darker brown or perhaps a cream shade.

The multitude of buttons and knobs are intuitive enough to work without having to search for instruction videos on YouTube. The A/C vents, which have been used in Mercs released in the past five or so years, exudes energy with its matte silver finish as its matches the other accents found in the rest of the interior. The gear shift, a tiny little thing that sits in the middle of the console, makes you wonder why we’ve had to contend with much bigger gear selectors until now.

Performance

You would expect any car bearing the SL tag to go zoom zoom, but this one doesn’t quite go as fast as the rest of those eight-cylinder beasts. It’s an entry-level model after all, a stepping stone into the SL line that offers a taste of the all the kit and luxuries waiting behind the veil. Powered by a 3.0L twin-blower V6 that puts out 367 horsepower and 500 Nm of torque, the SL 400 packs plenty of power for spirited driving, but not so much that it will leave everybody else in the dust. I think the marque is going after the SLK customers who are looking to drop the K and join the big boy club.

I can’t believe I’m finding 360+ horsepower inadequate these days, but with a heavy body made even heavier by a hard-top retracting roof system, the car requires no less than 500 hp – and that you’ll find in the range-topping SL 65. Having said that, this model is fast enough for what it is, a roadster that is to be driven with top down as the driver and passenger enjoy sunset views on a stretch on The Palm.

The handling and suspension, however, is nothing like I’ve ever driven before. The ride is smooth like an E Class, but agile in the corners like a true sports car. Because of all the grip the chassis offers, the SL doesn’t discourage, but in fact welcomes the driver to push it hard and really take advantage of German engineering at its best.

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