Every September, God colours in vast swathes of the Riverina with a yellow highlighter and people come out in droves to look at, snap photos of, and generally ogle over the resultant artwork.
‘The Canola Trail’ is the region’s biggest annual tourism drawcard, when the canola crops across the shires of Coolamon, Junee and Temora burst into flower.
Some choose to take it in via pushbike, lucky others from hot air balloons, but there’s really only one way to soak in the scenery properly. Top-down in a low-slung, two-door convertible.
One that can also bounce across a farm behind a motorbike, preferably.
Fortunately, Wagga Motors had just the thing.
Mercedes-Benz has released an all-new version of its low-slung, two-door SL convertible (that can also bounce behind a motorbike – more on that later) and is taking one on a tour of regional Australia to give people with a casual $374,900-plus lying around the chance to try before they buy. Wagga was on the list of stops.
The SL nameplate has a long history, rooted in the famous 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ of 1954, when it also stood for super leicht, or ‘very light’. Over the years, it softened into a hard-top cruiser and gained a lot of weight, so you would think the new SL would continue this trajectory.
For starters, the roof is now made out of canvas – not metal – and there are four seats, though two of them are lacking in the legroom department.
There’s a mild hybrid version on the way, but the really big news is that the only model available at the moment is the AMG-tuned SL 63, complete with a stonking great twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet.
There are many, many upsides to this.
Mercedes V8s have always sounded like they wanted to leap out and kill you, and this one is no different. Hold the right paddle shifter down when you press the start button and it will roar extra loudly. Let your foot off and there’s a salvo of spinetingling pops and crackles from the exhaust too.
Then there is obviously the turn of pace. With the drivetrain prickling in ‘Sport +’ mode, the SL will rocket from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds.
In fact, the only real downside to the upgrades is the ride.
I’m accompanied by a colleague from the Region Riverina office, Jarryd Rowley, who warns me the roads around Wagga like to throw deep and nasty potholes at you sometimes. But even dodging them, and with the suspension dialled down to ‘Comfort’, the SL tracks like it’s bouncing between every bump. Fidgety, and not exactly very cruise-y.
We drop the electrically powered top almost immediately, however, and this fades into a petty quibble.
The weather is perfect for the occasion, with clear, blue skies and the thermometer clearly set to ‘Goldilocks’. The wind is gently caressing the tops of our heads and what Mercedes dubs an ‘air scarf’ is breathing warm air down our necks.
Possibly this is a solution to a First World problem they created, but the angle of the enormous central touchscreen can also be adjusted so the sun doesn’t bounce off it and bore your eyes out. Very handy today.
As we draw close to Temora, the flowers are looking spectacular too, but neither of us is happy with how close we’re able to get to them for photos without trespassing on someone’s farm.
This being the country, Jarryd is soon on the phone with a friend who knows a farmer. A few minutes later and we’re on our way to meet the “mayor of Junee”, who agreed to let us into his 56-hectare canola crop.
Martin Honner has never been democratically elected as such, but Jarryd says he “somehow know everything about everything in Junee”.
“It’s got some big wheels,” Martin remarks, after we’ve raised the suspension to its highest setting and come to a stop on his dusty drive.
Several stories later about various local personalities and their comings and goings, Martin leads us by motorbike up a farm track and through several gates.
Initially, my conscience burns with the deep inappropriateness of what we’re doing to a low-slung, two-door convertible and the possible conversation I’ll have to have back at the dealership.
But these thoughts soon wear off. Admittedly the Riverina’s dirt is almost smoother than its tarmac, but the SL is doing its best impression of an off-road Can-Am.
We finally arrive at just what we’re after. Blue sky. Yellow flowers. Green grass. Red leather sports seats. Slightly dusty ‘Obsidian Black’ convertible. The SL 63 is an incredibly pretty thing to look at, aggressive but sleek and classic at the same time. It’s art studded by more art.
We all made it back out safe and sound too. Sorry about the mess on the wheels, though.
2023 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 Roadster
- $374,900 (plus driveaway costs)
- 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, 430 kW / 800 Nm
- 9-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive (AWD)
- 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, 315 km/h top speed
- 13.9 litres per 100 km combined fuel use
This car was provided for testing by Wagga Motors. Visit Wagga Motors for more information.