New Mercedes-AMG SL |
For the first time in its hallowed history of almost seven decades, the legendary SL is now officially badged a Mercedes-AMG – and the rebirth of the icon sees it return to its origin with a classic soft top and sporty character.
When the first SL was unveiled in 1952, followed by the road-going 300 SL “gullwing” production sports car two years later, the AMG tuning company – now the official performance arm of Mercedes-Benz – was nothing more than a vague idea in the minds of founders Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher.
Established in 1967, AMG was a small, fledgling company when the first SL with a V8 powerplant arrived in 1971, during the SL’s “Pagoda” period. Produced for 18 years, this derivative was followed by the R129 in 1989 – the first Mercedes-Benz SL to sport official AMG versions – the 500 SL 6.0 AMG, SL 60 AMG (V8), SL 70 AMG (V12), SL 73 AMG (V12) and the impressive SL 55 AMG (V8). In 1999, Mercedes-Benz (then DaimlerChrysler AG) took a controlling interest in AMG, and the R230 range was the first to showcase an exclusive AMG Black Series model derivative.
In 2005, AMG became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, and five years later, the SLS AMG – the first car entirely developed by AMG – was presented as the heir to the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and spiritual successor to the 300SL Gullwing. Following the SLS AMG and during the tenure of the sixth generation (R231) SL-Class, Mercedes-AMG was tasked with the overall clean-sheet development of the new SL (R232).
Combining Sportiness and Luxury
The new, seventh-generation SL, available only as an AMG model, is the first to have a standard 2+2 seating configuration.
The exterior design creates a repositioning of the icon and signifies a return to its sporty roots – as exemplified by the power bulges on the long bonnet (reminiscent of the original SL generation), the short overhangs, and the sharply raked windscreen. Doing away with the Vario-roof hardtop of the preceding three generations, the soft top is seamlessly integrated into the overall design. The soft top weighs 21 kg less than a vario-roof, with a lower centre of gravity, and opens and closes in about 15 seconds.
The typical SL proportions are further emphasised by the AMG-specific grille, slim and sharply defined digital light LED headlights, extremely thin LED rear lights, large alloy wheels filling the voluminously sculpted wheel arches.
The luxuriously appointed interior transports SL tradition into the modern era with a roomier 2+2 layout and minimalist design, culminating in a “hyper analogue” layout – a combination of analogue and digital geometry. This is exemplified by the digital 12.3” instrument cluster integrated into a three-dimensional visor (to reduce glare and improve legibility) and a tilting 11.9″ touchscreen panel. The latest generation MBUX system offers state-of-the-art functionality and AMG-specific content in five display styles.
The sculpted AMG sports seats have integrated head restraints and Airscarf as standard. AMG Performance seats are optionally available.
New Architecture, Active Aero
The bespoke chassis of the new SL comprises an aluminium space frame with a self-supporting structure for maximum rigidity and typical AMG driving performance. Torsional rigidity is 18% higher than the previous model, transverse rigidity is 50% higher than the AMG GT Roadster, and longitudinal rigidity is improved by 40%.
Aero efficiency is optimised with active air control systems, including the two-piece Airpanel louvres, a retractable rear spoiler with five angular positions and a hidden underbody carbon profile.
The even aerobalance ensures consistency in driving characteristics, regardless of whether the electric soft top is up or down. A range of aero-optimised 19”, 20” or 21” alloy wheels further reduces drag and balances weight distribution.
AMG Hybrid Power, All-Wheel Drive
Two output levels of the AMG 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine will be available at market launch, with an AMG E-Performance hybrid drivetrain to follow later. And for the first time in its almost 70-year history, the SL is now available with 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive technology and active rear-axle steering as standard.
In the flagship SL 63 4Matic+, the revised V8 engine now develops 430 kW and 800 Nm torque – propelling the roadster from zero to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 315 km/h. The V8 unit in the SL 55 4Matic+ develops 350 kW and 700 Nm torque, enough to sprint from standstill to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 295 km/h. Both units are coupled with the AMG Speedshift MCT 9G transmission.
Debuting in the flagship SL, the AMG Active Ride Control suspension enables optimal steering and load-change behaviour, while the active rear-axle steering enables agile, stable handling. Six Dynamic Select driving modes (Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Individual and Race) are standard for the SL 63 4Matic+ and optional for the SL 55 4Matic+.
Numerous equipment options offer a diverse range of individualisation, ranging from sporty-dynamic to luxurious-elegant. Specification and pricing for South Africa have not yet been announced, but, in all likelihood, the new 2+2 roadster will be launched locally in the second quarter of 2022.
Report by Ferdi de Vos | Images © Daimler Global Media