The Mercedes SL hasn’t ever been particularly interested in being a sports car, but for the latest version, it’s all change. This time, Daimler has tasked its AMG division to take the development lead, just as it did for the SLS and the more recent GT. And after a protracted teaser campaign which included the release of Merc’s own ‘spy shots’, we can finally see the results.
The silhouette bears some resemblance to the GT (just check out that exceptionally long bonnet), but not a single part of the body structure is shared with that car, Mercedes says. The SL is built around a new aluminium space-frame architecture with 50 per cent better transverse rigidity than the GT, and 40 per cent improved longitudinal rigidity. No unwanted flex going on here.
You also get double wishbones front and rear, with the front suspension setup featuring a multi-link layout neatly packaging all five links within the wheels on each side. Unlike the SL’s predecessors, air suspension isn’t on the menu - all models use lightweight tempered steel springs working with adaptive dampers.
Those dampers are linked to make them more effective at combating body roll, and the front ones are also able to prop the nose up by 30mm. Handy if you have any particularly aggressive speed bumps where you live. The final piece of the dynamic puzzle is rear-wheel steering, which turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts up to 62mph, and in unison above that speed.
The stiff bodyshell, trick suspension and all-wheel steering should make this by far the sharpest SL ever. That’s good news, as from launch, Mercedes will only offer two powerful engines - a V8, and, erm, a V8. The SL55 uses the familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, good for 469bhp. This makes possible a 3.9-second 0-62mph time and a 183mph top speed.
Go for the SL63, and you have that same V8 but with 577bhp on tap, dropping the 0-62mph time to 3.6 seconds and upping the top speed to 195mph. The ‘63 also includes adaptive engine mounts that stiffen when the V8 is under load, and slacken when it isn’t for the sake of comfort. Interestingly, both models are all-wheel drive only, although rear-wheel drive versions could emerge further down the line. A hybrid is also planned.
Since the R230 generation, a folding hard-top roof has been one of the SL’s biggest selling points. Nowadays, fabric roofs are so good, there’s not much need for a tin roof, so it’s a rag top that the latest SL adopts. Neatly, there’s no compartment cover for the ‘Z-fold’ roof - when retracted, the front section of the roof ‘cap’ sits flush with the SL’ rear bodywork.
It takes 15 seconds to open or close the three-layer roof, a process which can be done at speeds of up to 37mph. Compared to the old metal roof, the new setup is 21kg lighter, trimming the SL’s overall fat while giving a lower centre of gravity. It’s still not a light car, though, tipping the scales at nearly two tonnes.
That’s because the SL is no stripped-out drop-top. There are big, comfy-looking leather seats inside (and a small set in the rear to make a 2+2 arrangement), an 11.9-inch MBUX infotainment screen, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
Pricing at this stage is a bit of an unknown, although we can be pretty sure that we won’t see any on UK roads until well into 2022. At some point, we will also see an all-new AMG GT based on the same platform, although it’ll be more focused than the outgoing car and coupe only, our colleagues at Auto Express report, as the SL serves as an indirect replacement for the GT Roadster.