Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

The SL was launched with a choice of V8 or V12 engines in 2002 - the V8 in the SL500 musters 306bhp while the twin-turbo V12 in the SL600 delivers 500bhp. The V8 feels pretty quick and has a warm, burbling sound quality at high revs. The V12 feels significantly more rapid and is impressively refined. A 3.7-litre SL350 was launched in 2003 which boasts 245bhp but doesn't feel particularly underpowered compared to the SL500.

Some engines were revised in 2006 with the SL350 engine being swapped for a 272bhp 3.5-litre. The SL500 also became more powerful with 388bhp. The improvements in performance following these upgrades are noticeable, with both feeling significantly livelier than with the original engines. A seven-speed automatic transmission was fitted to the SL500 in 2003 and this gearbox became more widely available after the engine revisions in 2006, although 12-cylinder models stick with a five-speed auto.

The long bonnet of the SL makes it appear bigger than it actually is - the car is shorter than a Vauxhall Vectra. It certainly doesn't feel like a big car on the road. With hydraulically-controlled adaptive suspension (optional on the SL350) the car behaves in a surprisingly agile fashion, as technology reins in much of the pitching and rolling that would otherwise occur when accelerating, braking and cornering.

Yet when you only want to cruise, it offers a ride that is relaxing and compliant. New from 2008 is the availability of a direct steer system which is a less expensive option than active steering on BMWs. It varies the level of input needed for less effort at parking speeds and when cornering, but with greater precision at high speeds.