After making a big deal about the SL’s folding hard-top roof for years, Mercedes is ditching the arrangement for the next-gen version of the car. It seemed likely anyway - the rumour mill suggested the hard-top was to go, and since soft-tops are so good now, it makes sense to go with the simpler, lighter option.
Official Mercedes shots of some new SL prototypes confirmed this new direction for the car, although, at the time, the camouflage was still pretty heavy. Now, the SL has let its disguise slip a little, giving us a much better look at how it’ll shape up when revealed in full.
It looks a lot more compact and purposeful than the R231 SL, helped in large part by the shorter rear overhang made possible by a less complicated roof. It should be more focused to drive than the last one, too, with Mercedes-AMG taking care of the car’s development. This will likely involve a platform share with the next-generation AMG GT.
We’re pretty sure the starting point of the range will involve a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six-powered ‘SL53’, using ‘EQ Boost’ mild hybrid assistance to improve efficiency and combat lag. A 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8-powered ‘SL63’ will also arrive at some point, threatening to pinch AMG GT sales.
So, although this SL will be a sportier car than the last one, Mercedes can’t make it too hardcore. Providing further distinction from its platform-mate, it’s rumoured the SL will adopt a 2+2 seating arrangement.
This would make it the first SL designed to seat four from the off - the R231 and R230 only had seating for two, while the R129 and R107 had optional rear benches which were only suited for small children.
As for the prototype you can see here, its oval tailpipes lead us to believe it’s an SL53. Another test mule has been spotted with trapezoidal exhaust exits and an active rear spoiler, marking it out as an SL63.
The new SL should make its debut later in 2021, with the all-new AMG GT arriving in 2022.