2012 Mercedes-Benz SL

It's a big change, this new SL. The design is much edgier and more complicated. Complex curves, scoops and sharp lines intersected in so many different areas it's hard to take it all in initially. There's plenty of new drama, little hint of the previous F1-inspired shape, apart, that is, from the trademark long bonnet.

There are other innovations. Magic Vision Control is simply dozens of washer jets built into the wiper blades. The boot can be opened and closed by simply putting your foot beneath the rear bumper (as long as the keys are in your pocket). The bass speakers for the stereo are built into the aluminium chassis structure in the footwells to provide more resonance.

The SL 500 has always been powered by a big V8 but now for the first time it is turbocharged. That means a big jump in power, 22%, to 320kW, yet newfound efficiencies and less weight means the SL is now more economical than ever.

It's pretty well unbeatable being a passenger in this two-seater. But driving the SL is a somewhat detached experience that bypasses the 'having fun' bit on its rush to being coolly efficient. Perfect for wealthy ladies of a certain age. But a long way removed from being a genuine 'sports car'.

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