This article is part of STYLE’s Luxury Column There are few cars that have been more defining of a category than the Mercedes SL. From the 1950s through to the 90s, the SL was the epitome of elegant luxury – a design icon not just reflecting the design cues of the time, but defining them. Simply electric: Mercedes is bringing sexy back with the EQS The Mercedes-Benz 1956 Gullwing 300 SL is one of the most beautiful and desired cars on the planet, fetching prices of two million dollars and more on auctions. It was one of the most innovative cars of its time and the gullwing doors made it second to none. The appealing roadster defined the design of generations of luxury convertibles. In 1963, the 280 SL, dubbed the Pagode, became another design classic due to its unusual pagoda-shaped roof. In terms of innovation, it boasted four disc-brakes, unlike most other cars. The SL was always not just a design icon, but also a technology hub, ensuring that drivers can have the pride of not just having the most elegant car of its time, but also one of the most advanced. In the 70s and 80s, the SL became the symbol of success, famously driven by Bobby Ewing in the TV show Dallas. The SL was the car you would drive to underline that you made it. Refinement, status and elegance on wheels. Over time, the allure of the SL faded dramatically. It morphed from an agile design icon to an oversized and unattractive grand tourer. The decision to go for a hardtop was one of the worst decisions ever in the history of automotive design, rendering the SL into an increasingly ugly duckling. I remember seeing the predecessor of the new SL for the first time some years ago, and asking myself “why?” Why did Mercedes allow the most iconic car to become a caricature and a design failure? Why was elegance replaced with opulence dressed up badly? Hollywood glamour? More like Hallyu glamour – luxury brands turn to K-pop Following the money, it seems like customers also agreed. Sales of the SL plummeted, its desirability at an all-time low. Mercedes left the market of luxury convertibles to BMW, Lexus and Porsche. But finally, in 2021, the SL is back. While I doubt that its family look, resembling the AMG-GT, will ever get close to a design icon defining its generation, at least it is the first SL that brings back a stronger focus on aesthetics and contemporary elegance. As an open-air driver and enthusiast, I appreciate the return of the soft-top. The overall looks could convince me to consider the new SL as a future alternative to my Porsche 911 Convertible. The new SL interior is stunning and combines technology with elegance and a futuristic, yet familiar look and feel. However, I am asking myself: why a V8? We are living in 2021 and, in my opinion, Mercedes lost an opportunity to use the SL to propel itself at the forefront of electric luxury. Launching the “rebirth” of the SL, as Mercedes puts it, with a technology that will soon be obsolete is a missed opportunity. The new SL could have been to Mercedes what Model S was for Tesla . A highly desirable car that redefines the future and brings the brand to the forefront of innovation. It could have been the first electric luxury convertible combining practicality with beauty. My research has shown that one of the biggest predictors of success in luxury is the ability to influence and innovate – through the eyes of consumers . While the new SL is a change in design and technology from its predecessor, it could have been a generation-defining car if reborn electric. Launching it as a petrol car is playing it safe, which in luxury is never a good strategy. The genes of the most desired SLs were nested in innovation and influence, leading to cars that changed people’s perception, that inspired them through visceral experiences never seen before, and that made other cars of its time obsolete. A limited-edition Lamborghini or a pint-sized Ferrari? This month’s best boys’ toys Hence, while I love that Mercedes has given birth to a beautiful and much improved car, it does not feel like the best that could have been done. And isn’t it the best or nothing that the brand promises? Since you can’t make a first impression twice, it’s a missed opportunity to place Mercedes back at the top of innovation and luxury. Now others may take the charge. Food for thought. Want more stories like this? Sign up here. Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .