BY MATT BROGAN
MERCEDES-BENZ has pulled the silk sheet from its all-new SL-Class coupe-convertible revealing a stunning 2+2 seat sportscar and replacement for the equally gorgeous AMG GT Roadster.
Like the GT, the R232-series Sport Leicht will sell under the AMG moniker, the first time the SL nameplate has moved away from its parent’s branding in more than 70 years.
The SL rides on all-new platform and showcases a frontal design dominated by Mercedes’ CLS-inspired Panamericana grille and headlight treatment.
The streamlined profile includes pop-out doorhandles for improved aerodynamic performance and reduced wind noise, and a three-layer fabric roof that’s not only quieter, but also 21kg lighter.
The folding roof can be raised or lowered in 15 seconds at speeds up to 50km/h, the lighter structure certain to lower the SL’s centre of gravity, improving handling considerably.
Weight savings continue with an all-new composite body structure combining aluminium, carbon-fibre, and magnesium which also increases rigidity by 18 per cent over the outgoing model.
At the rear, the SL is identified by quad exhaust outlets and AMG performance diffuser, wide LED taillights (with six settings), and optional Aerodynamic Package including active underbody panels and more substantial rear diffuser.
The leather-clad interior of the four-seat SL boasts the latest driver assistance and infotainment technology Mercedes-Benz has on offer.
The dashboard is dominated by a “floating” 11.9-inch portrait-oriented MBUX infotainment screen and 12.3-inch instrument panel which join a new head-up display system with fighter-aircraft-style augmented reality technology.
AIRSCARF neck-level heating joins heated seats and a heated steering wheel, the latter ‘AMG Performance’ type electrically adjustable for that “just right” driving position.
“We at Mercedes-AMG consider it a great honour to have had the privilege to develop the new edition of this sports car icon. When we were tasked with the overall development of the new SL, we were able to start from scratch without building on the existing structure,” Mercedes-AMG chief technical office Jochen Hermann said.
“We are proud of the result, which once again demonstrates the high level of engineering expertise in Affalterbach.
“The new 2+2 concept combines agile driving dynamics with a high level of comfort and unrestricted everyday use,” he added.
Under the bonnet the SL-Class features Mercedes-AMG’s biturbo 4.0-litre V8 in two states of tune. SL 55 4MATIC models output 350kW/700Nm – for a 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 295km/h – while the range-topping SL 63 4MATIC+ makes a tyre-shredding 430kW/800Nm – good for a 0-100km/h dash of 3.6 seconds and 315km/h top whack.
Drive is sent to all four wheels via a nine-speed auto with launch control and Mercedes-Benz’s proven 4MATIC system with variable torque distribution and front-rear electromechanically controlled clutch arrangement. Six driver selectable modes are available via a steering wheel toggle including Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, and Race.
A rear electronically controlled limited slip diff is standard on SL 63 variants while Active Ride Control suspension promises even sharper handling and a “significantly improved ride”. Composite steel high performance brakes are standard issue, but 19, 20, and 21-inch wheels will be available.
A plug-in hybrid variant is also understood to be in the works, but only V8 petrol power will be offered when the model goes on sale in Australia in the second half of next year. Pricing and local specifications will be outlined closer to the model’s Australian launch.
As a guide, the 2020 (R231-series) Mercedes-Benz SL 500 was priced from $292,500 plus on-road costs. It was powered by Merc’s 4.7-litre biturbo V8 making 335kW/700Nm which offered a 0-100km/h time of 4.3 seconds and an electronically governed top speed of 250km/h.
”The new SL combines the sporty genes of the original SL with the driving performance typical of AMG. At the same time, it offers luxury and comfort at the absolute top level,” Mercedes-AMG chairman of the board of management Philipp Schiemer said.
“This combination is unique in the sports car segment and is also reflected in the interior, where the highest levels of comfort and quality meet the right helping of sportiness.
“This high-quality combination of [the] analogue world and state-of-the-art digital equipment makes it clear that the new SL is the rebirth of an icon for the modern era,” he concluded.