The Mercedes-Benz 500 SL is a car that fulfills the coupe and cabriolet functions equally well; It has a very high degree of active safety and is easy to drive; and I found it very appropriate to use daily for comfort and functionality.Its 306 hp V8 engine is powerful and has a beautiful sound. The acceleration it gives is limited by the high weight of the car (1,845 kg) and, to a certain extent, by the automatic five-speed transmission.The two dynamic qualities that I liked the most are, on the one hand, the safety of the SBC brakes (Sensotronic Brake Control) in all circumstances; on the other, the relationship between stability and comfort provided by the active suspension system ABC (Active Body Control). The driving position is very pleasant, everything is at hand and the controls are easy to operate, but some of them are very grouped and force to look to know which button we press. It has details of sporty style, abundant equipment and an excellent finishing quality (although with some details unfit for a Mercedes). Despite being a convertible two-seater, the Mercedes-Benz SL has seemed a very comfortable car to use daily and with very good solutions in terms of functionality, both inside and in the trunk.
More safety than efficiency
The Mercedes-Benz SL 500 has as standard the suspension system ABC (Active Body Control) that premiered a few years ago the Mercedes-Benz CL ( more information on this system ). With this system, the SL has the suspension of a sports car and, at the same time, it is comfortable. In a fast driving by highway or highway, the sensation of stability that transmits is total, in part because the ABC limits much the rolling and pitching . Not being a hard suspension, the feeling of comfort is also high. In very demanding driving on winding roads, the high weight of the car plays against it. The suspensions absorb the irregularities of the terrain in an outstanding way. There are no bounces that can dislodge the wheels characteristic of some hard suspensions. In this sense, it is the best I have tried on undulating roads. The torsional rigidity has seemed excellent. Neither with the roof put nor without it there are cracks (sometimes typical of the convertibles). Nor have I appreciated a difference in stability between driving with the roof put on or without it. The stability control (ESP), as in other cars, is very effective in oversteering , but it can still be improved in understeer . In that case, you only notice that it corrects the trajectory when the understeer is very large. It has a button on the dashboard to disconnect it. Under normal conditions (with the ESP connected) you can enjoy a sporty style driving with a much lower degree of demand and a much higher level of safety.
Next to the gear lever, there is a knob called "ABC Sport" which, under normal conditions, has a red warning light on, indicating that the "Sport" setting is selected. Pressing that control switches off the warning light, which indicates that the suspension adjustment makes the car more comfortable. I have not noticed practically any difference between carrying the "sport" selection connected or disconnected, stability seems equally high in both cases. Another advantage of the ABC system is that, in addition, it allows you to vary the height of the vehicle, which is normally 150 mm above the ground. When it exceeds 100 km / h, it automatically lowers 15 mm, which improves stability and reduces aerodynamic drag. You can also increase the level of the body in two degrees, using a knob located next to the shift lever; when you press it once it rises 25 mm and a second pulsation leaves it 50 mm higher on the ground (200 mm in total, as well as some all terrain). This function can be useful when accessing an underground car park, traveling along a bumpy road, loading it in a trailer or carrying snow chains, provided that it is traveling at less than 60 km / h (when it exceeds this speed it returns to its normal height car cover for everyday use) .
An unfavorable relationship between weight and power
The driver may feel that the SL 500 is pushing hard, but maybe, who only thinks of the 306 HP, do not feel impressed. The reason is that the relationship between the weight and the power of this car is not very favorable. Its V8 engine has a smooth operation and the minimum vibration in the interior is not appreciated. At 3,500 rpm we can hear how the sound of the engine becomes more serious and takes a prettier and spectacular tone (in no case annoying) to reach strongly at 5,800 rpm, at which point the automatic transmission changes to the top gear (although we are using the sequential manual mode of the change). With 1,845 kg and 306 hp, the weight and power ratio of the SL 500 is 6.03 kg / hp; It is similar to cars like the Lexus SC 430 (6.08 kg / hp) or the Jaguar XK8 Convertible (6.21 kg / hp), but much worse than the sports car like the BMW Z8 (4.15 kg / CV), the Chevrolet Corvette Cabrio (4.47 kg / CV) or the Porsche 911 Carrera Cabrio (4.68 kg / CV). Neither the change favors the benefits, because it is not as fast as a manual and because the developments are long (51.7 km / h at 1,000 rpm in 5th, when a Porsche 911 Carrera has 40.3 km / h at 1,000 rpm in 6th ). As the engine has a high torque (460 Nm) and pulls with power from low speed, the steering wheel is not even appreciated how long the change of developments, but the maximum speed (self-limited at 250 km / h) reaches to 4.830 rpm, when the maximum power regime is at 5,600 rpm.
The feeling of acceleration is not much greater than that can be experienced in less powerful sports, such as an Alfa Romeo GTV 3.0 V6 (218 hp), an Audi TT Le Mans (225 hp) or even an Opel Astra Coupé 2.0T 16V ( 192 CV). In fact, in our acceleration measurements, the SL 500 has not been faster than the Opel Astra Coupe Turbo , nor has it reached the level of more powerful and lighter cars, such as the BMW Z8 (400 hp) or the Porsche 911 Carrera Coupé (320 CV). Additionally, we have made an acceleration from stationary and, to be a 306 hp car, the data has been disappointing at 0 to 100 km / h (we measured 7.4 s when Mercedes-Benz announced 6.3 s) and more bright in the 0 to 1000 m (27.4 s). The fact of being so slow in the 0 to 100 km / h is clearly attributable to the inability to go high laps with the automatic change. The consumption that we have measured is high in absolute terms, but not for a car of its weight and power. The average consumption approved by Mercedes-Benz is 12.7 l / 100 km, and we have spent 13.3 l / 100 in mixed driving (road and city) at a moderate pace (up to 120 km / h). In varied driving (with or without roof, smooth sometimes and fast others), it has spent 17.1 l / 100 km. In sports driving, squeezing thoroughly the possibilities of the engine, has reached 27.9 l / 100 km. The odometer is very precise and the speedometer has an error in excess of 5 km / h.
Sensotronic brakes better than automatic transmission
he Mercedes-Benz SL 500 comes as standard with the Sensotronic Brake Control braking system ( more information on how the SBC works ). As in the E-Class, the SL is outstanding for touch, power, stability and endurance. The touch is exemplary, hard in its right measure, with a short pedal stroke and with braking capacity from the first moment. In general, in the brakes of street cars (with floating brake calipers) there is usually a slight dead stroke since we stepped on the pedal until it starts to brake, something that does not happen in the SL 500 (it does not happen in sports cars that , like the SL, have fixed brake calipers, for example, the Porsche). We can measure the braking very easily and the power of the system is extraordinary. The braking distances that we have measured have been short and, even in a demanding use, we lose the excellent touch or braking ability. A noteworthy aspect of the Sensotronic brakes is that the brake pedal does not wobble when the ABS comes into operation (it does in the rest of the vehicles). Simply, a warning light flashes on the instrumentation to warn us that it is acting. But if there is something in which the Sensotronic brakes stand out especially it is in its effectiveness when braking in curve. To date, I have found the most effective curb braking system I have tried, not only for its balance, but for its ability to stop in such situation. ( more information about the brake equipment ).
From coupe to convertible in 18 seconds
One of the main advantages of the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 compared to other sports cars is that we have two cars in one: coupe with hard top and convertible. Its rigid roof has been developed by the specialists of Car Top Systems (company shared by Mercedes-Benz and Porsche). This roof, which Mercedes-Benz calls «Vario roof», is manufactured in several parts (roof, rear uprights and rear window) that form a rigid assembly when the roof is put, but are folded ingeniously to hide under the boot lid when We convert the SL into convertible. By means of the control that is in the central console, the ceiling opens completely in 18 seconds and closes in 20 s (in Mercedes-Benz they affirm that it does it in 16 s). The driver only has to press the button, the rest are responsible for the numerous automatic mechanisms that comprise the roof of the SL. The operation can not be more comfortable and seems fast enough (taking into account the number of operations performed).
CUSTOM DRIVING ROOF
he Mercedes-Benz SL has a very comfortable driving position. The seat and the steering wheel have multiple electrical settings (with three adjustment memories), which make it almost impossible not to find the right position. The steering wheel is adjustable in height and depth, and the seat can regulate things such as the height and inclination of the bench, the lateral support, the inclination of the backrest in two independent parts (upper and lower) or the adjustment of the lumbar support and His height. The space where the driver puts his legs is narrower than that of the passenger. This allows you to support the right leg on the side of the dashboard (perfectly fluffy) and to hold on better in the curves to the right. The pedals are made of aluminum and are finished with small rubber blocks so they do not slip. The only improvable aspect is that, when turning the steering wheel, it is easy to strike with the left elbow in the glove box lid (also soft) that is in the door. A compromise solution is to slightly raise the height of the steering wheel so that the elbow is higher when turning. All the controls are at hand and are easy to operate, although some are close together and you have to look to press the correct one (those that are grouped around the gear lever).