Mercedes’ new SL is beautiful to look at, but pricey

It’s like trying to be thin on fat. If it works for a man, you hope, it works for a women. Because if it doesn’t, you’ll always be guilty of being thin on fat.

Mercedes has been tackling that temptation ever since its founding in 1923. Earlier this year, Mercedes responded to the demand for a car that was once inextricably linked to masculinity by launching a new super-SUV, which was called the GL. It was the first time in the brand’s 100-year history that it was renaming something. Now, it’s back with another extreme version of itself.

The new SL is introduced at the Shanghai auto show with mixed success. It’s modestly priced, but its positioning as a soft-roadster couldn’t be further from the Audis and Volkswagens that dominate the market and whose popularity brings in high-dollar spending customers. The CLA sedan has been a long-standing success for Mercedes, but its image as a “not-so-quick” little Audi or BMW has always held it back.

The new SL can certainly feel fast. And it is as light as a feather, with a muscular suspension to match. It has nimble wheels, short springs and a noticeably lower center of gravity, combined with a full-length, panoramic glass roof with a pivoting lattice pattern. It rides on a redesigned body that aims to resemble that of the super-sporty AMG sedan.

But, alas, the SL has stayed true to its roots as a two-seat roadster. This requires some space in the trunk, which does not include a power tailgate. It’s a good thing Mercedes didn’t add a hot-rod powertrain to the car. After five years of technological advances, four-cylinder Mercedes models are still far behind BMW in fuel economy.

Also, as with the GL, there are no engines. The SL doesn’t even have a manual transmission. Everything is automatic, except for the standard dual-clutch transmission, which is available.

The new SL is beautiful to look at, if one needs a body that is not quite as expensive as a G by Bentley or a Maybach. Its interior is worth praising, a mixture of leather and carbon fiber, a luxury the GL fails to match. The navigation screen was a little large to get a good look at it, but it is placed away from most objects in the interior, so it is not distracting.

The instrument cluster has eight digital displays that can also play videos, provided that drivers are not doing anything particularly sporty. And when connected to a mobile device, there are smartphone apps that can help in driving and emergency situations.

Price won’t cut it for some people, so the smart move will be to find an owner who prefers the less mechanical SL. The good news is that even the small amount of seating is enough for both adults and luggage. Just like a mannequin.

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