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Mercedes-Benz SL500 SL an instant classic


The infinite monkey theorem states that, given an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of keyboards and an infinite amount of time, one of them would eventually come up with the complete works of William Shakespeare.

In 2003 a group of lecturers and students used a R35 000 British Arts Council grant to put this to the test on a small scale, leaving a computer keyboard in a cage with six monkeys for a month while the researchers presumably went to the pub to spend the money. The simians churned out five pages of gibberish, consisting largely of the letter S, and used the keyboard as a toilet, so it's astonishing that they even got that much done.  

The Germans, on the other hand, don't rely on luck - they usually do things right the first time, and every Mercedes-Benz SL created since the first SL300 in 1954 has proven a masterpiece.

The SL500 deposited in my driveway two weeks ago is, in my eyes, the automotive equivalent of what the theoretical monkeys were supposed to create.  Nah - that's a bit over the top, but it's truly one of the finest cars I've ever driven, and I looked hard without finding anything to fault it on - except the price.

Stepping hard on the fun pedal gets the SL instantly galloping down the road at a pace that wouldn't disgrace a moderately quick motorcycle, thanks to the twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8's 320kW and 700Nm. The 0-100km/h dash is dispensed with in just 4.6 seconds, while top speed is illogically limited to 255km/h by the electronic nanny.

The seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus gearbox is as good as it gets, the suspension is comfortably firm, the steering is precise, and handling, as far as I could establish on our public roads, is excellent.

The big SL is a real looker with an elegant interior, and if you like that sort of thing you can get the roof to stow itself away in the boot 14 seconds after you stop next to that school bus at the traffic lights. I'm not much of a fan of convertibles - or big cars, come to that - but the SL can park its massive rubber boots under my awning anytime.

The thing is, if I could afford the R1.55 million asking price, I'd be tempted to save another R1.1 million of my pocket money and go for the 463kW/ 1 000Nm V12 SL 65 AMG.  It would provide better value for money than that R35 000  the Arts Council got. 

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