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The Mercury Cars Guide : March 21st 2009
10— CARSguide Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, March 21, 2009 Raw sex and a hint of menace Motoring’s silver bullet stretches its legs. Neil Dowling tests the latest Mercedes-Benz SL500 ally. N OSE UP, engine roaring and a click into sixth cog and there, threatening, is the end of the road. Liter- The damn road is too short for the potential of the car and, alarmingly, the acceleration is so seductive that part of me wants to keep going. So it’s left to the last few seconds before jumping on the fat brakes and pulling down the SL500 to a less remarkable speed. As a machine made to hit the open road and tirelessly transport its driver—and perhaps a passenger— the big Mercedes coupe is startlingly effective. That is matched, however, with the startle you get hit with by the $320,731 price tag. For this sum—the cost of a small house—you’d expect a machine that would answer all demands from all potential owners. Space, versatility, efficiency and quality. In fact, the SL500 is about as broad based as an archer’s arrow. It’s designed with one purpose—to send onlookers into a green-eyed frenzy. Oh, yeah, it goes quick too. And to say it’s beautiful is a gross under- statement. It’s a work of art. This thing is drop-dead sexy. It doesn’t have to be driven to win an audience. Just park it at the curbside near the alfresco cafe and it’s honey for the bees. Part of its beauty lies in its flaws. It is, like the E-Type Jaguar of old, disproportioned. The nose is long and relatively skinny in profile while the cabin is abrupt. But where it is arguably a bit skewed in its design balance, it is undeniably purposeful. Even a bit menacing. There is no space for any but two occupants. There is a shelf behind the front seats with individual lock- ers, the boot is reasonable as long as the roof is erected—when collapsed with an air compressor—I can live with in the city. The awkward left-foot-push, right- hand-pull park brake will test the dexterity of older Merc owners. Visibility is poor but considering you’re going to be pretty much the first car away from the lights, it may not matter to all. Parking is a doddle thanks to front and rear sensors. It is a big car and, to match, Merc has slotted in its 5.5-litre V8. True, that doesn’t equate to the SL500 Is thisagreat car orareallygoodcar witha gross pricetag?Youdecide. It’s yourmoney. it takes up half the boot — and the rest is for your body. Leather is used exhaustively, clad- ding seats and doors, rear panels and the dashboard in its satin-finished grain. Chrome is there as well—annoy- ing sometimes in strong sunlight — as edging for door trim and instru- ment dials. Features and fittings suit the price tag but obviously there’s a point a long way south of $320,000 where everyone can be happy about the equipment level. The lack of a spare tyre — it’s a deflated space-saver spare complete badge and I don’t have a ready answer. You can save yourself almost $100,000 by forgoing the 5.5-litre in favour of a 3.5-litre V6 and, cunning- ly, deleting the boot badge. Then again, you could climb $80,000 and buy the SL600 (same 5.5 engine) or for the same lolly, the 6.3-litre AMG version or, completely drenched with cash, fork out $492,331 (plus on-road costs and dealer deliv- ery) for a 65 AMG. You decide. It’s your money. In the SL500’s case, power goes through a seven-speed automatic with sequential change either via the gearlever or steering wheel paddles. There is a sports mode for those who want a bit of spice and a delete traction/stability control button for the incredibly brave or certifiably stupid. Don’t get me wrong. Provoke the hot pedal while travelling sans nan- ny button and this thing will light up faster than a match and squeal its way around the track. It’s controllable but you have this feeling that it’s like sitting in a room with a gun-toting lunatic, just wait- ing for something unpleasant to happen. Aside from sheer performance, the ride is supple and never harsh. It’s also quiet, with sufficient engine growls to keep the passenger amused and the pedestrians in awe. Despite its size, it’s easy to punt around and unlike some of the Mercedes sedans, the steering is sharp and not devoid of feel. Is this a great car or a really good car with a gross pricetag? It’s actually the latter but you sense that you buy more than just a car — it’s an SL that has history stretching back to the SL300 Gullw- ing and, from next year, will stretch forward through the new generation SL Gullwing. DARE TO DREAM MERCEDES-BENZ SL500 Origin: Germany Price: $320,731 Engine: 5.5-litre, V8, quad-cam, 32-valve Power: 285kW @ 6000rpm Torque: 530Nm @ 2800-4800rpm 0-100km/h: 5.4 seconds Top speed: 250km/h (limited) Fuel tank: 80 litres Economy (official): 12.2 litres/ 100km Greenhouse: 291g/km (Corolla: 175g/km) Transmission: 7-speed automatic; rear-drive Brakes: 4-wheel vented discs, ESC, ABS, EBD, brake assist Turning circle: 11m Suspension: Multi-link, coils Wheels: 18-inch alloy Tyres: Front —255/40ZR18; Rear —285/35ZR18; space-saver spare Length: 4562mm Width: 1820mm Height: 1317mm Wheelbase: 2560mm Weight: 1910kg Warranty: 3yr/unlimited km, road- side assist Service: 15,000km Features: 10-speaker 6-CD audio; 4 airbags; park sensors; xenon headlights with washers; electric metal roof Crawlers on country corners cause concerns I LIVE in a rural area and feel frustrated with the drivers who slow down to approximately 80kmh on any curving stretches of road (I’m talking sealed mainroads with no suggested safety speed lim- it) but then speed up on the straight stretches thereby pre- venting you from overtaking them because you would have to drive over the speed limit. The result, as all following traffic catches up, is a string of vehicles tagging along behind a driver who cannot maintain a constant speed. If a driver feels safer driving at a lower speed I don’t have a problem, but I wish they would maintain that speed, email@example.com with GRAHAM SMITH then at least their behaviour is predictable and other drivers can safely negotiate their way. Julie-Ann Hudson email This has been a problem from the earliest days of motoring, as many people cannot handle corners but know exactly how to push the accelerator down for a straight. We share your frustration. Motorshow movenoton show will alternate each year between Melbourne and Syd- ney and will be held in each city in July. I HAVE heard that from next year the motor Are the organisers trying to ensure that the Melbourne show is a fizzer so that the show can be moved perma- nently to Sydney? Inmyview, the Melbourne show held in March is spot- on, with the GP,Moombaand the weather all contributing to a great atmosphere. Robert White email There will be a single national show from 2011, running on rotation be- tween Sydney and Mel- bourne. The idea for a new date in the middle of the year is to prevent clashes with major overseas shows — Melbourne clashes with Geneva, Sydney with Paris and Frankfurt—to ensure the future of the Austral- ian International Motor Show is much better. There is zero chance of the joint-venture show moving permanently to Sydney. The good oil I HAVE a 2008 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0 TSI purchased new in July and have done 8000 kilometers, mainly city driving. About every two months I have gone back to the dealer to have my oil topped up, with the reading on the dip stick at the mid point. The last time itwastoppedupwas in December, today I checked the oil level and it is sitting at the minimum line. Is this a normal oil usage for a new car? Tony Cutajar email Every engine will use oil and, in our experience, up to one litre is fine for every 1000km. There was a time whenevery driver checked their own oil and more of us should get back to a check of the oil, tyre pres- suresandfluid levels every couple of visits to the fuel station. There is no need for you to head to the dealer just for a top-up provided you use the right oil.
March 14th 2009
March 28th 2009