Mercedes-Benz SL: It's all in the name

Your genetics decide who you are and what you'll be, which means the new Mercedes-Benz SL should be rather special. So why do I have a strange feeling about it?

When the Mercedes-Benz SL350 rocked up at the office I knew there was something a bit off about it. It took nearly a week of bimbling around in it to figure out what was irking me, but I got there in the end.

Let's take a look back. The original SL, 1954's 300 SL, is one of the finest automobiles ever made. It was achingly beautiful (if tricky to get into), could hit speeds previously unheard of, and was incredibly luxurious. The SL stands for Sport Light, the car's two main characteristics.

It went through many iterations, from the sublime, to the lumpen and to silky smooth. Now we're onto the sixth and it's...nice.

Aesthetically, the SL is rather striking. Each crease oozes quality, you know it's something special. Inside it's similar to the dinky SLK: a good thing, all told, as you know that everything's laid out sensibly. It's a touch generic, though. There's no hyper-high-tech design there. It's an interior, a functional interior.

Then there's the drive; it's smooth, reserved, floaty. It's relaxed, the kind of relaxed you yearn for after countless hard-riding cars. Perhaps you want something with a bit of go that won't knacker your spine. You can have some truly massive engines under the bonnet, but the 350's 306 bhp is enough to keep you smiling. Though it can feel a touch strained at times.

It feels strained because of the SL's bulk -- in 350 spec it weighs nearly 1,700 kilograms, in SL 65 AMG spec it tips the 2,000-kilogram mark. That is, in part, thanks to its heavy, mechanically dependent roof and luxury toys. All are there to give you the utmost luxury, but they also subtract from the car's S and L.

And that's what was off about it; over its many iterations, the two main facets of its very being have been bred out. But it's still a great car. It's comfy, quick enough, and can be entertaining.

It's just got the wrong name.

Specs
Engine 3.5-litre V6
Power 306 bhp
Torque 272 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 5.9 seconds
Top speed    155 mph

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