The Mercedes-Benz SL has gone through so many eras of design and style, ranging from sensational gullwings and pagoda-roofs to duller, softer–yet still completely fabulous–vehicles like the Dallas-era cars and bank vaults from the early 1990s. Even so, seeing every SL in a lineup would leave you with no question of their relation, and that remains true for the 2014 model.
It rests somewhere between the most dramatically- and subtly-designed SLs of yore, in many ways mending the shortcomings of some recent models. The front end is more imposing, but not weighty–thanks largely to new European safety regulations to protect pedestrians in accidents. That leaves the SL with a larger nose, more like those of the Sixties, and the profile looks a little more formal. The oversized grille and large air dams help negate some of that front end's apparent size, and so many of those unnecessary creases in the last model have been ironed out by large, rounded headlights and the angles of LED running lights. Best from the front quarters, the SL's doors are stamped with straked C-scoops that pierce the door handles. From the rear, the SL has a lot in common with the SLK and SLS coupes and roadsters: with the top up, the slope of the roofline and teardrop-shaped taillamps are out of balance with the front end, but with the top down, they fall more smoothly into line.
Inside, the two-seat cockpit feels more technical, more masculine in its execution than the former SL. Four gimbaled vents are chrome-tipped with four-pointed stars, and they anchor the dash, split up here and there by a pair of cut-tube gauges, a large TFT screen, an optional hooded analog clock, and a band of warm polished wood--unless it's been upgraded to a lighter tone, or stained a darker color, or changed out entirely for aluminum. The leather's stitched with twin needles, the steering wheel's gone slightly flat at its bottom, there's enough metallic trim to embarrass an Audi, and most noticeably, the shifter has shrunk to a nubbin. Who needs another power totem at this price point?