The West

Aluminium key to SL500 weight loss
Mercedes-Benz SL. Supplied picture

I owned an aluminium-bodied car once - one of the original Godzilla Nissan GTRs.

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At least the body panels were alloy, except for the roof, which was garden-variety steel.

One night I encountered Skippy. As he bounded towards me, I pulled over and stopped. Phew, missed him.

So the stupid bag of fleas jumped on my roof. I leapt out seething with rage and noticed two claw marks that no-one else seemed to see but me.

But at least my fragile aluminium body panels were intact. Will it be the same with Mercedes-Benz's latest engineering marvel, the all-new, nearly all-aluminium SL500 roadster? I doubt it.

With the advantage of two more decades of dent-proofing metallurgy, Mercedes has built the entire body shell and floor pan - with the exception of some steel reinforcing in the A pillars - from the lighter material, saving as much weight as a Sumo wrestler.

Imagine dropping off one of those boys in the city - your car would sigh with relief when they got out and take off like a jackrabbit before they could get back in.

In addition to a biggest-loser weight loss, how about this.

The new 4.7-litre, 320kW/ 700Nm V8 generates 12 per cent more power and a whopping 32 per cent more torque.

At the same time, you'll be buying 22 per cent less premium unleaded.

Not that the fuel bill will worry you if you can stump up $304,500 plus on-road costs.

But you can tell your green teens that you obviously care about the environment, all the while getting to 100km/h nearly a second faster than the previous model.

Even the "small" 3.5-litre V6 in the SL350 develops 225kW and 370Nm. Both engines have the ECO start/stop function as standard, along with the latest 7G-TRONIC auto transmission, optimised for minimum fuel use and comfort.

Despite these dramatic improvements, the SL is wider (50mm) and longer (57mm), providing more room for driver and passenger.

Styling wise, the SL is the latest iteration of the long bonnet-short boot approach to sports cars and carries it off with flair.

The tapestry of fins, grilles and sculptured flanks will prompt most enthusiasts to buy a Lotto ticket.

Mercedes tells me SL buyers are the most loyal of all Benz owners, keeping their cars for 5-7 years.

Many have multiple cars in the garage, most are men and the SL isn't their primary vehicle.

And I think buyers of the range-topping SL65 deserve Orders of Australia.

At half a million dollars they'll be paying Messrs Swan and Buswell nearly $160,000 in taxes. * *

The West Australian

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