SL Roadster

On the road: a fabulous excursion in the SL in California.

SL Roadster

On the road: a fabulous excursion in the SL in California.

The Mercedes-Benz SL boasts timeless looks plus enhanced engineering and technology. Time for a sunny trip – fasten your seatbelts. California here we come!

Heading for the sun. With the SL.

With the Vario roof, any dark clouds over the Pacific are no longer daunting – when necessary, the Mercedes-Benz SL can be transformed from a cabriolet to a coupé in less than 20 seconds.

Heading for the sun. With the SL.

It's certainly an eye-catcher. Brilliant blue paintwork, a streamlined body featuring AMG A-wing design with a front splitter in the body colour. These looks are indicative of the SL 500 model’s sports genes, which kick into play as we pass Santa Monica's city limits. Its superior V8 twin turbo engine provides ample thrust. Cornering is a joy thanks to a sophisticated suspension system - but more on that later.

Now it's time to accelerate the SL up to cruising speed and make our way along the Pacific Coast Highway. We want to see what the SL has to offer.

"Topless" through California – it doesn't get much better than this.

Pacific Coast Highway 1 takes the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster through sunny California along the Pacific.

"Topless" through California – it doesn't get much better than this.

Ahead of us lies Pacific Coast Highway 1, offering ample space on the asphalt and magnificent scenery along the way: to our left is the Pacific Ocean, its waves gently breaking against the cliffs. Point Mugu, our starting point, offers a vista over a vast body of water. It is just under 4000 kilometres as the crow flies from here to Hawaii. California's rugged mountain scenery rises up to our right.

When necessary, the Vario roof on the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster can be opened and closed in under 20 seconds.

After driving a few kilometres along the coast, the first rays of sunshine finally hit the SL. We open the Vario roof and cruise "topless" along the Pacific Coast, accompanied by the sporty sound of the V8 engine in the "Sport" DYNAMIC SELECT drive program. Goosebumps guaranteed!

Gentleman's Roadster.

Gentleman's Roadster.

We've put the first few miles of the highway behind us. As the last Malibu villas disappear in the rearview mirror, we enjoy the relaxed open-top driving experience to the full. On this stretch, the SL comes into its own as a true gentleman roadster: with the aid of a total of five DYNAMIC SELECT drive programs, the suspension characteristics can be adapted to the driver's wishes – and the condition of the road. We switch to the "Comfort" drive program. The SL still feels sporty now, but offers tangibly more comfort in comparison to "Sport" or "Sport Plus". The suspension has no problem coping with the small and medium-sized pot holes that are part and parcel of Pacific Coast Highway 1.

The V8 twin turbo engine also alters its characteristics together with the different drive programs. In addition to their effects on the suspension and engine, the programs also influence the transmission and steering characteristics. We stay in "Comfort" mode for a while, delighted by the engine's exceptionally smooth running.

The brilliant blue Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster fitted with the optional 19-inch multi-spoke light-alloy wheels is truly in its element on Pacific Coast Highway 1.
The air outlets on the bonnet of the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster also attest to the power that lurks beneath.
The Bang & Olufsen® tweeter featuring Acoustic Lens Technology on the dashboard adds the final visual and acoustic touch to the classy interior of the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster.
The steeply pitched radiator grille on the Mercedes-Benz SL pays homage to the legendary 300 SL racing car at Panamericana.

Sports car, convertible, roadster: the SL.

The brilliant blue Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster fitted with the optional 19-inch multi-spoke light-alloy wheels makes its way along California's Pacific coast.

Sports car, convertible, roadster: the SL.

Before we hit the bends with the SL, we pull into a car park for a short break. Time to take stock. The SL has carefully been visually upgraded and changes have proven to be effective: the unique radiator grille and standard AMG styling are a distinctive feature and eye-catcher in one. The two powerdomes on the bonnet attest to the sporty genes of this roadster, which performs the challenging feat of combining the attributes of an elegant roadster with those of a dynamic coupé. The interior also does justice to the car's sporty and aesthetic aspirations: the centrepiece is the high-quality 3-spoke sports steering wheel offering excellent grip. Vehicle speed and revs are presented in perfect style at all times on the instrument cluster in dual-tube look.

The thrill of the next bend beckoning.

The brilliant blue Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster fitted with the optional multi-spoke light-alloy wheels cruising along Pacific Coast Highway 1 in California.

The thrill of the next bend beckoning.

That's enough cruising. Wherever the speed limit allows, we now let the SL off its leash and grip the sports wheel a little more firmly. Deer Creek Road is a winding stretch covering a difference in altitude of some 300 metres which the bi-turbocharged SL takes in its stride, with sufficient reserves of power to press the driver firmly into his seat and put a smile on his face in the switchbacks.

Individual driving characteristics at your fingertips with DYNAMIC SELECT in the centre console of the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster.

In our imaginary log book we also note: excellent lateral support in the classy leather seats also comes as standard. A non-standard but highly recommendable option for smoother cornering is the Active Body Control suspension system with curve inclination function.

When the DYNAMIC SELECT switch is set to "Curve", the SL actively leans into the bend. This results in reduced G-forces acting on the occupants and the suspension tuning takes on a more comfortable character. The latter is a boon in view of the pot holes which are particularly common on this final stretch of the journey.

A rich feast of driving pleasures.

With the optional Active Body Control suspension, Pacific Coast Highway 1 proves more of a pleasure than a challenge for the brilliant blue Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster.

A rich feast of driving pleasures.

SL drivers are spared the annoyance of turbo lag and interruptions during gear-shifting: we switch to our favourite drive program, "Sport Plus", in which the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission shifts gears virtually instantaneously. The revamped steel suspension adds the final touch to round off the pleasure of driving the SL.

While offering the necessary comfort on the highway, in sporty cornering it comes into its own with its continually adjustable dampers offering a taut and sporty feel and provides the driver with adequate feedback at all times – including steering in "Sport Plus" mode, which imparts an even more direct feeling at the wheel courtesy of adapted power assistance.

All is quiet over the Pacific.

All is quiet over the Pacific.

The final bend on Deer Creek Road is behind us. We turn off onto a remote gravel car park. This spot high above the Pacific provides a fitting backdrop for the end of the first trip with the SL. And as the sun disappears over the horizon, we have a moment to consider the SL's impressive performance. There may be more radical sports cars around.

But the SL is passionate, refined and sporty – an aesthete and athlete in equal portions, and this is what makes it so fascinating.

California's setting sun highlights the timeless silhouette of the Mercedes-Benz SL.
The striking face of the Mercedes-Benz SL with the LED High Performance headlamps cuts a fine figure with its unique day and night design in the Californian dusk.
The striking face of the Mercedes-Benz SL with the LED High Performance headlamps cuts a fine figure with its unique day and night design.