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Motoring: LUXURIOUS CRUISING OR PURE ADRENALINE

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Mercedes-Benz 400SL

The 400 SL replaces the outgoing SL 350, with the biggest changes coming in under the bonnet. It seems to have been the norm in the past to match the name plate to the engine capacity, however of late there has been a bit of a mismatch. This all-new 400 SL does not come with a four-litre motor; instead it has a three-litre V6, but in order to up its power Mercedes have dropped in bi-turbo. This dramatically changes the power output of the motor, which is possibly why it is badged as a 400.

The look of the latest incarnation of one Mercedes bestselling roadster has changed from a sleek, subtle-looking sports car to a more brute-looking executive roadster. Upfront the rather odd-shaped headlights are different, and you will either love them or hate them. The large grill and oversized three-pointed star ensure that there is ample air being rushed through the engine and with gill vents behind the front wheel, you are ensured of lower drag as the air rushes out. Unlike other manufacturers, the gill vents on the Mercedes are perfectly sculptured into the side of the vehicle, making it the focal point and adding to the overall brute look. The wheel arches are filled with 19-inch AMG wheels that just complete the side view of the vehicle. The rear end has also been given a bit of a styling makeover in that it has new elongated light clusters that add a sleek look to the rear. I must admit this looks good, whether you have the roof up or folded away. The large rectangular tail pipes hint of the vehicle’s power ability.

As you open the rather large oversized doors, you are welcomed by sheer luxury. As you slip into the soft leather sport seats, you are engulfed with opulence. Not only are the seats soft and comfortable, but they almost mould to your body shape with the help of a few buttons. If that’s not enough, the car has a massage option that is a real massage, not just vibrating seats. It’s like having a real back massage on demand while being seated. The dashboard is simple and still has the signature trademark circular vents reminding one of a cockpit from a first-class plane. The gearshift is small but is perfectly positioned and feels like a gear shift should.

The biggest change to the interior is the disappearance of the rear seats. Instead, there is a lock-away storage behind the seats that is easily accessible. All you need to do is press the button on the seat at it will push forward and out of the way giving you easy access to the locker. As access to your goods may be critical, especially when you have the roof down, Mercedes have now put in an easy load feature that raises the boot lid with the folded roof, so there’s easy access to all in the luggage compartment.

The low seating position and stretched out leg room make you never forget that this is a sports car. If that’s not enough all you need to do is depress the accelerator, preferably in sports mode, and the growl from the engine will send shivers through your spine.

On the road, the low seating position adds to the lower centre of gravity, which means that the vehicle takes corners like its stuck to the road with super glue. More impressive though is the matching of the gearbox to the silky smooth V6; it’s like a match made in heaven. The growl together with the quick response of the gearbox makes it fun to drive on the limit, but if you prefer, you could just drop the roof and chill around town. Select comfort mode and the vehicle changes into limousine comfort. Needless to say, overtaking is a breeze. All that’s needed is dropping your foot, does not matter what mode you’re in, the car will automatically adjust to your needs.

Like many cars today in this category, there is little that’s not right, but it does come at a price. This two-seater starts at a whopping R1,4 million before extras. Overall a fantastic vehicle if you’re looking for a super luxurious roadster.

MANUFACTURER SPECIFICATIONS

Mercedes-Benz 400SL

Engine: 3,0 l  V6-cylinder Turbo

Power: 245 kW

Torque: 480 Nm

0–100 km/h: 5,2 s (claimed)

Fuel: Average 7,7 l /100 km

CO2: 178 g/km

Price: From R1 261 200

 

Audi S3 Cabriolet

The infamous S from Audi has always been a head-turner, and this new S3 is no different except that it now comes with a soft top option.

The two-door coupé body on the new A3 looks the part of a sports coupé, with its sleek lines and stubby boot. Unlike the previous A3 cabriolet, this new vehicle is premised on the sedan and not the hatchback shape, which I have to admit has made this vehicle a lot more appealing. The S version has silver mirror caps and chrome trimming on the bumpers and grill. The small proportions of the vehicle look perfect for a fun four-seater drop top.

The rear-light cluster is perfectly slotted in line with the body crease running down the side of the vehicle. The large are intakes on the bumper add to the sporty look of the vehicle. This is completed with large 18-inch S-line mag wheels and quad tail pipes. Roof up or down, the vehicle looks good, but with it down it is such a stand out.

Inside, Audi has continued with its new-look minimalistic dashboards, and this S3 cabriolet is no different. The top section of the dashboard is plain with the most exciting look being the circular air vents and the pop-up screen. In the drop-down section there are just a few buttons and knobs for the entertainment system and climate control. The rest of the vehicle’s infotainment system is controlled via a separate knob just behind the gearshift. The fine details of brushed aluminium add a sophisticated finesse to the interior. The steel pedals too have a good look and feel. The body hugging sport seats have the S logo engraved into the leather, elevating the luxury branding of the interior.

The rear seats can sit two adults in fair comfort, although they may feel a bit cramped on longer drives. Dropping the roof does make the vehicle feel bigger, though. The luggage space is decent for the size of vehicle, but with the roof down you do lose about a third of usable boot space, although you do have the option of folding down the rear seats to increase the luggage space.

With not much to distract the driver in the form of buttons around the cockpit, the driver can concentrate on driving and boy, this vehicle was made to drive. The two-litre TFSi motor has an astonishing 380 Nm of torque, and 206 kW. The S-tronic dual clutch gearbox works seamlessly with the motor delivering amazingly quick gear changes. The steering response is good, but a tad bit on the bland side for a sports vehicle. This is easily forgiven when you plant your foot on the accelerator and the vehicle catapults to 100 km/h in just over five seconds, while that growl from the quad tailpipes just gets your adrenaline pumping. With the roof up, the new layered roof has got a decent amount of sound proofing and the inner head lining has got an exclusive look and feel.

All in all I Audi has a winner on its hands with this pocket rocket. Not only does it look good, but it drives even better and to add to an almost perfect combination, the vehicle can be frugal – that is, if you can manage not to push the accelerator. This proved most difficult once you had a taste of the wild side of this vehicle, though …

MANUFACTURER SPECIFICATIONS

Audi S3 Cabriolet

Engine: 2,0 l 4-cylinder    Turbo – Quattro

Power: 221 kW

Torque: 380 Nm

0–100 km/h: 5,4 s (claimed)

Fuel: Average 7,1 l /100 km

CO2: 165 g/km

Price: From R641 500

 

Author: Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ