When the new Mercedes SL500 morphs from a hard-topped coupe into an open roadster, it is a moment of mechanical transcendence. Like an Olympic diver, the car's curving rear window seems to strike a pose in midair, and then it tucks itself gracefully into the roof unit and both disappear into the car's trunk.
This transformation is more than ingenious—it is a revelation of the car's design. You see that the line of the car's roof is not merely an aesthetic gesture; it's what allows this beautiful roof to disappear so efficiently. Here form follows function, and induces delight.
This muscular two-seater is the perfect car for spring. It's seductive and exciting, self-indulgent and impractical, fresh and evocative—a high-powered augmentation of animal spirits.
The SL500, at $85,000, is a very expensive and wonderful toy. Before cars were everyday necessities for nearly everyone, they were toys for the rich. But don't all the rest of us want to have a touch of the toy in our autos? Cars introduced in the spring and the summer aren't necessarily better than those introduced at other times of year, but they do tend to be more fun. As the weather warms up in much of the United States, drivers are more likely to respond to the romance of the open road—even if most of their driving is on blocked freeways and clogged arterials.