Like the 911 Cabriolet, the new SL gets a soft-top roof and 2+2 seating.
We were disappointed by the news that two of Mercedes-Benz's grandest models, the S-Class Coupe and S-Class Convertible, would not be returning for a new generation. At some point, one felt that the glamorous SL-Class might follow the same fate. Fortunately, Mercedes hasn't entirely given up on low-volume aspirational models and an all-new SL-Class has now finally been revealed.
Leaked exactly a month ago, we can now take in the lines and all of the dramatic changes that have been made to this all-new convertible. It's a continuation of a legendary Mercedes nameplate dating back to the 1950s, yet not a single component of the new SL was carried over from its predecessor or the AMG GT.
With sharper, more angular lines and a lighter soft-top roof that saves 46 pounds on its own, the new SL has set its sights on agility and dynamics more so than its predecessor. Mercedes has not been shy about naming the superb Porsche 911 Cabriolet as this car's top competitor, which says a lot.
For the first time since 1989, the SL adopts a 2+2 seating configuration. It's no surprise, then, that it's longer than its predecessor. The car has a steeply raked windscreen, an AMG-specific grille with 14 vertical slats, and the long hood which prior SLs have come to be known for. From the side, the flared wheel arches surround standard 20-inch AMG alloy wheels.
The rounded rear end is far sportier than the outgoing model with slim taillight clusters and an active rear spoiler integrated into the trunk lid. The new electric soft top has a weight-saving Z-fold design and can be opened or closed in around 15 seconds at speeds of up to 37 mph.
Climb inside and the new SL mixes the best elements of various other Mercedes models. The turbine-style air vents have been a Mercedes design staple for some time, while the large center screen is similar to what's offered in the new S-Class. This is an 11.9-inch touchscreen, but here it has a nifty party trick; it can be electronically adjustable in inclination from 12 to 32 degrees to reduce glare. This is a brilliant feature, especially in a roadster where one will often have to compete with harsh sunlight.
The new SL also gets an aviation-style instrument panel with a 12.3-inch LCD screen and an integrated visor, door panels that flow into the dashboard, and a Burmester surround sound system. The MBUX infotainment system and "Hey Mercedes" voice recognition system make it easier than ever to interact with the car. Materials have been carefully chosen, with the AMG Performance steering wheel covered in Nappa leather or Nappa leather and Microfiber. The same material covers the seats. Notably, the soft top has a three-layer design to keep the cabin quiet when the roof is up.
Of course, the big news is the adoption of a 2+2 layout, although we don't expect those rear seats to offer much space at all. "The new 2+2 concept combines agile driving dynamics with a high level of comfort and unrestricted suitability for everyday use," said Jochen Hermann, Chief Technical Officer of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.
While there may be two extra seats, maximum trunk capacity has declined. Owners will have to make do with between 7.5 and 8.5 cubic feet of space.
Speaking of agile driving dynamics, the new SL seems well-equipped to live up to that description. Two models, the SL 55 and SL 63, will be available initially. A 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged handcrafted V8 AMG engine powers both. Whereas the SL 55 makes 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, the SL 63 turns up the heat with 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. The SL 55 will be able to hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and the SL 63 will do the same in 3.5 seconds. Both engines are paired with an AMG Speedshift nine-speed multi-clutch transmission (MCT). Notably, Mercedes says a performance hybrid is currently in development.
Another first for the SL series is a standard AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system, replacing the previous SL's rear-wheel-drive setup. This allows the new SL to put its power down more effectively than before.
The SL 55 gets a Race Start function, an AMG Drive Unit on the steering wheel, and an AMG Ride Control steel spring suspension. To this, the SL 63 adds an electronically controlled rear-axle limited-slip differential and an AMG Active Ride Control suspension with a front axle lift system. The latter is another first for the SL and can raise the front end by 1.2 inches when encountering steep driveways or speed bumps. The front axle lift system, active engine mounts, and Active Ride Control are all options on the SL 55.
The chassis was designed as a lightweight composite aluminum structure with an aluminum space frame that includes a self-supporting structure. Not only has this enabled enhanced packaging, but it ensures better rigidity and superior overall driving dynamics.
Mercedes has increased the torsional rigidity of the body shell structure by 18 percent compared to the outgoing model. Compared to the already superb AMG GT Roadster, the SL's transverse rigidity is 50% higher. An active air control system that reduces lift, the soft top that lowers the center of gravity, an active rear spoiler that changes positions based on speed, and the multi-link front axle are other changes implemented that show how committed Mercedes was to making the new SL great to drive. Another highlight is standard active rear-axle steering. Up to speeds of 62 mph, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to those in front to improve agility.
As mentioned, the SL 55 and SL 63 will initially be available. The SL 55 comes standard with hands-free access, the Airscarf neck-heating system, massaging front seats, a surround-view camera, and a heated steering wheel.
The SL 63 adds MBUX augmented video for navigation, a head-up display, the AMG Track Pace system, and yellow-painted brake calipers. An AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber package and an AMG aerodynamics package are available, but the scope for customization is far greater than only these packs.
"The new SL combines the sporty genes of the original SL with the driving performance typical of AMG," said Philipp Schiemer from Mercedes-AMG GmbH. "The high-quality combination of analog 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."
Mercedes has yet to reveal pricing for the new SL, but considering the outgoing model began at around $90,000, we expect the new one to start at well over $100k. Both the SL 55 and SL 63 will begin arriving at US dealerships in the first half of 2022.