Sun & Fun: Mercedes SL 400 versus Porsche 911 Cabriolet

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Mercedes SL 400 versus Porsche 911 Cabriolet. Luxury cabriolets are a rare, but sought after breed these days. And as the Summer is inching closer, Auto motor und sport decided to test the best German premium sports cars.

Sky is the limit. In this case, the sky will cost at least 99,097 euros, as this is the price of the new Mercedes SL 400, complete with nine-speed automatic, LED light and panoramic vario-roof. In the Porsche corner, the new 911 Convertible costs 109,695 euros, PDK and LED light are additionally charged with 6.105 euros.

Both cabriolets are indeed quite fresh after their respective facelifts. Mercedes now boasts a new three-liter V6 coupled with the nine-speed automatic transmission, while Porsche also replaced its old 3,4-liter engine with a brand-new three-liter twin-turbo. That alone raises our curiousity, especially regarding the Porsche powerplant.

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Porsche 911 Cabriolet is committed to Sport

Porsche praises the new turbo for its liveliness and the instantaneous throttle response, in principle. But in real life, as in stop-and-go city traffic, a slight turbo-lag effect is visible. However, this is the worst thing you can say of the engine. Everything else is superb; the Turbo that is not howling and sings like an air-cooled 3,6er 964 with cup-exhaust, is something like Adele singing like Janis Joplin. Another chapter is of course the optional sports exhaust system. Depending on accelerator and flap position the wonderful spectacle it stages can become annoying, however, especially on longer motorway journeys.

The PDK has a launch function, but much more fun it is to rotate the selector knob on the steering wheel to “Sport Plus”, to shift the transmission to manual and then just… give gas. Near the red zone you fell like a twenty inch claw clutches into the asphalt and shoots the Porsche forward. That’s the way it has to be.

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Even more incredible is that, when roads get twisty so does your adrenaline level. Braking, downshifting, back down, back on the throttle, it all goes so surgically in the 911, which makes the new turbo 911 not so very different from its not turbocharged ancestors.

The 911 underscores his talent as agile cornering artists stuck stoically with a very tight course, hurrying with a delicately tinged understeer and seemingly endless grip on corner exit.

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The SL is the more talented Cabrio

A few seconds slower follows the SL, not quite as relenting, also because of the standard non-linear direct steering, that and a lot more body movement and oversteer with the ESP switched off. The enormously precise and neutral 911 can be troubled only by deliberate and violent changes of load, the SL looses its temper a little easier. If one looks at the stopwatch, the Porsche is also in another league, a racetrack-compatible sportscar.

Still, the SL 400 manages to impress with its sweet-reving V6. Not as silky as the V8 of the R 107 from 1986, but still a very harmonious engine. Cooperation with the nine-speed automatic transmission is relaxed. You can forget about the shift paddles behind the steering, torque converter and transmission software work better without human intervention.

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Despite nearly identical performance figures, the SL is less nimble than the 911. Five seconds from zero to 100 km / h is a commendable figure, however, the Porsche completed the same exercise eight tenths faster, undercutting even the factory specification with 0.2 seconds. Much more impressive than these numbers is the calm and laid back way the Mercedes drives. He raises his nose to the wind, pawing briefly the drive wheels and then thrusts away.

But life in a convertible is indeed only marginaly influenced by the handling course, of much greater significance is the proportion of enjoyable driving at various speeds and different distances. Again, here the Mercedes proves to be the more talented Cabriolet, because he has mastered a wider range of open-air motoring.

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With its convenient hard-top and panoramic roof, the electrically retractable wind deflector (595 euros) and warming air scarf (655 euros) the SL can make any given winter day his own, in a perfectly comfortable convertible climate, the Porsche requires more compromises. Now we need to write a few lines for comfort and the SL 400 scores here higher than the 911, it rides more pleasantly, has comfortable seats, is much quieter and smoother to drive. This is where the 911’s bezerk nature interferes a little, as not many people want their convertible to be so directly and intensely involving, after all.

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1. Mercedes SL 400

With its versatility, harmonic drive and supreme comfort of the SL 400 wins this comparison, it is also cheaper and more suitable for everyday use.

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2. Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet

The 911 finishes second behind the SL, mainly due to its raw, addictive and sporty nature. Comfort and open-top motoring are not its high points, though. In turn, handling and driving pleasure speak for themselves.

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