The SL gets astonishingly close to perfection and proves that Merc’s decision to develop a hybrid suspension system comprising active and conventional components was spot on.
Crawling around town on the ultra low-profile 255/45-R17 tyres proved that they provide excellent ride quality. It’s only at low speeds and over sharp irregularities that you feel a lack of compliance and the ‘thuds’ filter through to the driver with the odd creak clearly audible from the arms and joints of the Vario-roof.
Up the pace a little and avoid those really bad potholes and the SL’s springs, dampers and active hydraulics do their stuff and keep all body movements in check.
And when you get to the road you’ve been waiting for, you realise that the SL is agile in a way something the chubby side of 1800kg has no right to be. A quick 2.6 turns from lock to lock gives the steering precision and accuracy and the driver the confidence to aim it down a road with aplomb rather than steer it defensively in reaction to its size.
There’s no need to select the ‘sport’ button to firm the suspension up. The SL senses when you want to go fast and firms things up for you. Also, so adept is the car’s active suspension at dealing with all the road can throw at it, and its refusal to roll and pitch, you are stunned by how much speed you can carry into a corner. Exiting wide sweeping corners at 190 is a walk in the park for the SL500. Corners you’d normally tip-toe through at 80, even behind the wheel of a grippy saloon, can easily be dispatched at 120, no sweat.
In the SL each corner, each lightly trafficked highway is an invitation to play, a chance to get that silly grin on your face. Other tech that helps delivers great bags of confidence while carrying these high speeds through corners is the SBC braking system that applies more braking force to the outside wheels. The 300mm-plus ventilated discs all round have unbelievable bite and the sweetly-tuned ABS system even allows you a degree of wheel lockup before it cuts smoothly in.