Here comes the night

Ryan Borroff
IF chrome was last year’s paint job of choice, then this year it’s matte black. It’s a look that’s being sported on cars owned by trendy design types, rappers and footballers alike. And it’s now available on the Mercedes-Benz SL350.

Mercedes might not have the hippest reputation, but its SL350 Night Edition is a car that has young, successful trendsetters in its sights. It features a very eye-catching matte black paint job, which costs £3,636, so it’s an expensive look for sure. The limited run spec includes dark headlamp surrounds and ­tinted tail lamps to finish and adds titanium grey 19 inch AMG five-spoke alloys and silver-painted front brake callipers.

The effect is really quite dramatic – if this car has “something of the night”about it, then it’s certainly more Bill “True Blood” Compton than Michael Howard. At night the car broods and smoulders beneath streetlamps or disappears sullenly into the horizon at dusk, as though it has a cloaking device. It’s strangely beautiful.

Unfortunately our test dates coincide with the Icelandic volcano debacle, leaving the car dappled with ash after a short April shower. This is the trade-off with such a marvellous paint job – it can look dirty quickly – so it’s maybe not the best finish to choose if you live down a muddy track out in the sticks. Much like anything that looks this good it is going to take a bit more commitment to maintain.

Inside, the experience is luxurious. The black nappa leather seats hug you and will even massage your back on request. The dash is wrapped in leather too, and there’s a refined attention to detail here, from the glamorous polished trim on the centre console and door panels, the chrome which looks particularly good in the door sills – you can actually see your face in them – through to the self-opening push button door pockets and Alcantara-lined roof.

The car is fitted with the Mercedes Airscarf system which incorporates two small fans in the headrest to warm your neck when the roof’s down for cruising on a crisp winter’s day. My wife found an alternative use for it, as an in-car blow dryer, leaving the house with damp hair and arriving at her rendezvous as if she’d just stepped out of a salon. Maybe this is a hairdresser’s car after all.

The audio system also stands out. There’s a Harman Kardon Logic 7 stereo system with surround sound coming at you from 10 high-performance speakers and amps so sharp that they detect the sound of someone picking their nails in the recording studio on your favourite track. At £600 it seems a bargain and there are few car stereos, at any price, that you can say that about.

It’s even surprisingly practical; taking your baby away for the weekend? The child seat sensor will switch off the passenger airbag automatically and you’ll be able to fit his buggy, travel cot, clothes and feeding gear in the boot, where normally such a trip involves having an unceremonious overspill of baby stuff into the cabin. Take an adult and you’ll be able to discuss the election with ease – you can have a decent conversation with the roof down, even if you can’t work out how to use the wind deflector, and you won’t have to shout over road noise with the top closed.

That brings us onto the performance. Sure, it’s never going to be as fast as the 500SL – which can also be bought in Night Edition spec – but it certainly feels quick and is truly great on the motorway at dusk, with the Airscarf and seat heaters on. Add in Blondie’s Rapture on the stereo playing loud and I defy anyone not to be having a great time.

Acceleration isn’t outstanding but it sounds surprisingly good and the figures – 0-62mph in six seconds or thereabouts – underline the fact that it is quite fast enough for most buyers. Top speed is restricted to 155mph and the handling is excellent, as it should be. The car has a seven-speed automatic transmission system which can be set to comfort, sport or manual. The ride is very smooth in the comfort setting so it’s easy to creep up beyond 80mph. Meanwhile the manual setting enables you to make full use of the paddles. Mounted just behind the steering wheel, the effect is surprising, as the car feels far livelier than I expected, and driving in this mode is fun.

Overall the SL350 Night Edition has exclusivity at a price that you may decide you don’t need. But irrespective of whether the matt paint is your thing, the SL350 is an excellent car and I would recommend it as an exciting, comfortable and luxurious daily ride.


PRICE (AS TESTED): : £80,206
0-60MPH: 6.2 secs
TOP SPEED: 155 mph
CO2 G/KM: 236
MPG COMBINED: 28.5 mpg