For 60 years the two letters "SL" have had a mystical resonance among automotive enthusiasts. They stand for powerful sportiness, exciting design, effortlessly superior style, technical innovations and the ultimate in engineering artistry. The SL inherited these genes from its forefather, designed as a racing car. In 1952 it came to the international race tracks, saw and conquered. It was from this car that Mercedes-Benz derived the first series-production model in 1954, the legendary 300 SL gullwing. And ever since, Mercedes-Benz has been setting the bar high in the luxury sports car segment with the SL over five model generations.
The unique combination of systematic sportiness, refined luxury and yet unrestricted suitability for everyday use at the same time is what makes the Mercedes-Benz SL the dream car it is – and it is also what lies behind its success where sales are concerned. The SL was always ahead of its time technically – even when it was rolling off the production line for 18 years at a time, as was the case with the SL bearing the internal code R 107 (from 1971 to 1989). Over 650,000 SL vehicles have left the production halls in Sindelfingen and Bremen since 1954, and from the last model generation alone – which celebrated its premiere in 2001 – nearly 170,000 specimens found their way into the hearts of the enthusiasts amongst fans of high-calibre sports cars.
The new generation of the Mercedes-Benz SL now being presented is the sixth to follow the 1952 racing car. In the unique tradition of the SL it is entering its era as an athlete, refined aesthete and innovative trendsetter with an extraordinarily high utility value. Mercedes-Benz is initially offering the new SL with two engines – as the SL 350 with a V6 engine and as the SL 500 with a V8. The new BlueDIRECT engines have an output of 225 kW (306 hp) in the SL 350 and 320 kW (435 hp) in the SL 500 (a 12-percent increase over the predecessor).
Moreover, the new SL breathes new life into the meaning of the famous abbreviation "SL" – super-light – through systematic weight reduction. For the first time ever, Mercedes-Benz is implementing an all-aluminium bodyshell in series production. The newly developed vehicle weights approximately 110 kilograms less than a comparable bodyshell made of sheet steel. Nevertheless it is even more rigid – and safer – than its predecessor. Mercedes-Benz has achieved this through a systematic intelligent material mix of aluminium alloys and aluminium components which are tailor-made for the respective requirements, combined with just a few portions of high-strength steel and magnesium.
Although the new SL is even more comfortable and has more safety devices on board than its predecessor and therefore does actually sacrifice some of the weight saved through the aluminium bodyshell, the scales show some astonishing figures: the new SL 500 (1785 kg) weighs around 125 kilograms less than its predecessor. On balance, the SL 350 (1685 kg) is even 140 kilograms lighter – all thanks to a host of other intelligent enhanced details to reduce weight, which Mercedes-Benz has also implemented in the new SL in addition to the aluminium bodyshell.
And these measurement results do not just impress as figures on the page; they are very much perceptible and tangible in practice, too. The resulting increase in longitudinal and lateral dynamics facilitates superb performance with a decided passion for cornering. The greater track width at both the front (+ 38 mm) and rear (+ 77 mm) axle serves the handling which is at once sporty and agile and keeps the car under safe control. Drivers will find the new SL even more agile than its predecessor – sheer pleasure for those of a sporty orientation.
There are two suspension variants from which to choose. The SL is supplied as standard with semi-active adjustable damping (lowered by ten millimetres in the AMG sports package). The active suspension system ABC (Active Body Control) is available as an optional extra. Unique the world over, it has been enhanced especially for the new SL.
In keeping with the Mercedes-Benz tradition, the new SL couples its sharpened athletic profile and agile nimbleness with a luxurious ambience. Its high-quality equipment and appointments contribute to the exquisite motoring pleasure that can be experienced every kilometre of the way. Fine materials, finished with great attention to detail, shape its style and character. The levels of comfort here – unique in the segment of luxury sports cars – blend with high everyday practicality, for the new SL shines with top marks where open-top motoring, suspension comfort and comfort on long journeys are concerned – plus its exemplarily low background noise, which is comparable with that of a saloon. This all adds up to the fact that this vehicle is a Gran Turismo in the very best sense of the word.
The safest and the most sparing
Thanks to the crash-optimised aluminium structure, standard-fit PRE-SAFE® and assistance systems on the same high level as the S-Class, the SL is the world's safest roadster.
What's more, it is the most frugal one in its class. The SL 350 consumes 6.9 litres over 100 kilometres, which is virtually 30 percent less than its predecessor (CO2 159 g/km). The SL 500, too, posts a persuasive set of efficiency figures: 9.1 litres per 100 kilometres (minus 22%) correspond to 212g/km CO2.
The design, meanwhile, displays all the classic proportions so characteristic of the SL. Right from the first glance the masculine-looking roadster with a broad tail end is immediately identifiable as a member of the current family of sports cars from Mercedes-Benz. It emphasises its autonomy through a multitude of details created with loving care.
The sixth generation of the SL also offers a vario-roof that can be retracted into the boot using an electrohydraulic mechanism to save space, converting the SL into a roadster or a coupé, depending on the driver's wishes and the weather. Unlike its predecessor, three versions are available for the new SL: painted, with a glass roof or with the unique panoramic vario-roof featuring MAGIC SKY CONTROL. The transparent roof switches to light or dark at the push of a button. When light it is virtually transparent, offering an open-air experience even in cold weather. In its dark state the roof provides welcome shade and prevents the interior from heating up in bright sunlight.
With two innovations, the new SL remains true to its tradition as technological trendsetter:
MAGIC VISION CONTROL is a new intelligent, high-efficiency windscreen wiper/washer system. Its system of channels supplies water to the windscreen just in front of the laser-cut wiper blade lip. As a result, when spraying, there are no gushes of water on the windscreen to disrupt visibility, and yet the windscreen is kept clean.
Also unique, the Frontbass system uses the free spaces in the aluminium structures in front of the footwell for housing the bass loudspeakers. As a result, the new SL features clear, crisp bass sounds that facilitate a concert hall ambience even with the top down.
Both innovations are part of the extensive standard equipment of the new SL.