Convertibles are just So special. When the weather is right, there’s no denying the charm of driving with a billion square kilometres of sky above you and the wind in your hair. Most convertibles however are not too practical in a country like ours – there’s just too much dust and paan flying around to fully enjoy the convertible experience on most days.
Not with this Merc though. With its folding metal roof, it gives you the security of a fixed roof on dusty days and, when you’re on a scenic road with a clear blue sky, it allows you to drop the top in just 16 seconds.
It’s sheer desirability that the SL350 convertible is all about. It looks stunning, especially with the hood down, and by Indian standards this is a full-fledged exotic. The long silhouette, the mean-looking front and the long bonnet result in the perfect interplay of curves and surfaces. The hard-top doesn’t take too much away from the design either – the SL looks great even
with the roof up.
However, don’t be fooled by its sporty looks. The SL, especially with this engine, is no sportscar. The 3.5-litre, 316bhp motor is the same as the one in the much lighter SLK350. You notice this when you want immediate acceleration or to overtake quickly on a two-lane road – the SL takes time to gain momentum. It is primarily the car’s substantial 1.8-tonne kerb weight at fault (more than 300kg heavier than the SLK) and the seven-speed automatic isn’t the quickest around either. In terms of outright performance, the SL350 takes 8.09sec to reach 100kph, which is no great shakes by two-seater standards, and tops out at 250kph. In-gear acceleration times are nothing spectacular either.
The key to enjoying this car is to drive it at considerably less than 100 percent. That’s when you’ll discover it has a nice, easy gait at triple-digit speeds, and that it is more than happy maintaining those speeds all day long. This chassis has a phenomenal ability to mask speed, has incredible grip and good body control, making it all the more suited to relaxed continent crossing. The effortless manner in which it cruises and its unflappable poise make this Merc feel like it’s never going to break into a sweat. The handling is also helped by the fact that this suspension hasn’t been raised to deal with Indian roads. The steering could have done with more feel but it is direct and the brakes are perfectly weighted, and you just find yourself going harder and harder without much of a problem.
The biggest surprise though is the way the SL350 takes to our potholed roads. Even the worst surfaces are dealt with well – you are comfortable in the cabin and ride quality is nothing short of outstanding. Like with most convertibles, you expect a fair amount of scuttle shake but surprisingly the SL’s body retains its composure and vibrations are kept out pretty well.
The SL’s cabin is a special place too. The large seats are exceptionally comfy and interior quality is top-class. Everything is solidly built – the buttons function with a nice damped feel and, apart from the mirror controls which feel and look cheap, there are no complaints. Luggage space is at a premium though, especially with the roof down.
Buy the SL350 for the relaxed cruiser it is. Buy it for its coupé/convertible dual-purpose nature.
Buy it if you like life at a stylish, sedate pace. If not, there are better ways to spend Rs 90 lakh.