Is a four-cylinder SL still worth six figures?
Mercedes-AMG has officially debuted a new base version of the SL 43 that slots in below the V8-powered SL 55 and SL 63 while bringing a lower price tag and an electric exhaust gas turbocharger with technology derived from Formula 1.
When this car was revealed over a year ago, it was uncertain whether it would come to the USA, but the SL 43 is now confirmed to arrive at local dealerships this summer with a price tag of $109,900. That makes it over $27,000 cheaper than the SL 55, but it does mean that you have to make do with a four-cylinder engine in an SL. While the four-pot in the new C63 was already a controversial choice, its use in a car of the SL's stature takes Mercedes-AMG's downsizing strategy to the extreme.
Four cylinders or not, the new SL 43 is certainly not devoid of power. The 2.0-liter turbocharged M139 engine with its electric exhaust gas turbocharger and electric motor produces a total of 375 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. At 4.8 seconds for the 0-60 mph run, the rear-wheel-drive SL 43 takes exactly a second longer for this sprint than the SL 55. Thanks to its unique turbocharging setup, the manufacturer claims spontaneous throttle response. An electric motor measuring just 1.6 inches is directly integrated into the turbocharger shaft; by driving the shaft directly, the compressor wheel is accelerated before the exhaust gas flow comes into play.
Because the shaft of the turbocharger is driven directly, drivers will experience immediate responsiveness, higher torque at low revs, and constantly high boost pressure.
A 48-volt onboard electrical system operates the turbo, and it can function at speeds of up to 170,000 rpm.
The 48-volt system means that the SL 43 is essentially a mild hybrid. This introduces several benefits, such as a gliding function, recuperation for optimized efficiency, and a smoothly functioning start/stop function.
The transmission is an AMG Speedshift nine-speed multi-clutch unit with a wet start-off clutch replacing a more conventional torque converter setup. Software has been calibrated to deliver short shift times most noticeable in Sport and Sport+ driving modes. The SL 43 will eventually top out at 170 mph if you find yourself fortunate enough to be driving one on an unrestricted section of the Autobahn.
Unlike the SL 55, the SL 43 does without the standard AMG Ride Control suspension (adaptive damping is optional) with its lightweight coil springs and powerful aluminum shock absorbers. Instead, it comes with a standard AMG suspension. As with other news SLs, it's the first production car from Mercedes-AMG to come with a multi-link front axle with five links arranged within the rim.
There is nothing obvious besides the SL 43 badge on the back to tell you that this is a base model, as it bears the same aggressive yet elegant styling of the V8 models. Sharply angled headlights, the familiar Panamericana AMG grille, and quad-exit tailpipes are some of the highlights. The front fascia, rear apron, and tailpipe trim accents are unique.
Customers can select from 12 paint colors, three soft-top roof colors, and several wheel designs. As usual, there are also multiple packages that can change up the exterior, including the AMG Exterior Chrome Package and AMG Night Package.
Compared to the previous metal vario roof, the new electric soft-top saves 46 lbs and lowers the vehicle's center of gravity. It can be opened or closed in 15 seconds at up to 37 mph.
From behind the wheel, it's also hard to tell the SL 43 apart from its pricier siblings. It comes with Mercedes' hyper analog interior design, a strange description for an interior that relies so heavily on its center 11.9-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster. Here, the MBUX operating system has five display styles and AMG-specific content like the available AMG Track Pace.
Black Nappa leather upholstery is standard, and there are six optional colors to choose from. The seats are power-adjustable, heated, and cooled for maximum comfort.
Many may scoff at a four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG SL that costs over six figures, but the SL 43 promises to introduce a unique driving character to the drop-top since it is lighter than the V8s, while the combination of the advanced turbocharger that delivers greater responsiveness and the purity of its RWD setup may just make this the most balanced of the range.
Yes, it won't have the soundtrack and sheer power of the V8s, but the SL 43 deserves to be appreciated on its own merits and not judged based on anyone's preconceived notions of what an SL should be.
Having driven the SL 55 already, we said it was so good that you didn't need an SL 63. Can the new SL 43 repeat this pattern and render the SL 55 unnecessary? It's a question we hope to answer as soon as we have the opportunity to drive it.
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