Mercedes' flagship SL roadster dominates its segment like no other. The classy front-engined, rear-wheel drive two-seater is quite simply the default choice when it comes to high-end, high-visibility motoring.
Benz contends the line traces its roots directly back to the original 1954 300 SL Gullwing -- or more correctly, the 1957 300 SL open car. While that might be more marketing speak than a historically correct account, there's no doubt the SL model generations are traditionally long lived. They're also seldom facelifted.
The latest generation of SL, the R230, was unveiled in 2001 and brought to the series its first folding hardtop -- Mercedes' Vario-Roof. The electro-hydraulic folding three-piece roof, has quite literally changed the recipe for top-end roadsters. We've driven the R230 on a couple of occasions, most recently when Benz added a seven-speed SL 350 to the mix (more here).
Now seven years on from its initial release, Mercedes has refreshed the SL. And rather than score a new model nomenclature, the car retains its R230 nameplate. The obvious change is the new face, and perhaps more importantly, there have been changes under the skin to make the car a sportier and more engaging drive.
Overall, Mercedes says the emphasis is now "firmly on sportiness and effortless superiority".
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
Four SL models will be launched in the US and European markets -- the 350, 500 and 600 models are joined by a new entry-level 280. At this stage it's uncertain whether Mercedes Australia will add the 170kW 280 to its local line-up.
No local pricing or specifications have been announced for the updated models. These details will come closer the new SL range's local arrival in July (2008). Nevertheless, Benz insiders say we can expect prices to increase, though not markedly. Currently the 350 starts the range off at $218,000. The V8-engined 500 is priced at $301,000 with the V12 biturbo SL600 currently $376,000.
Given the part-million-...