Mercedes has revealed its all-new SL, and the initials – which stand for sporty and lightweight – have never been more appropriate. The roadster is up to 140kg lighter than its predecessor, while new six and eight-cylinder engines are faster and cleaner than ever before.
The car’s illustrious bloodline stretches back to the original SL from 1952 – a model still highly coveted in the classic car market. But this 2012 version has its eyes fixed on the future, with an all-aluminium body and a raft of groundbreaking technology.
For the first time in a production model, Mercedes has produced an all-aluminium bodyshell, to dramatic effect. It weighs 110kg less than the steel body from the outgoing car. Other measures, such as aluminium suspension components, take the total saving to 125kg in the SL 500 and 140kg in the SL 350. This improves rigidity, agility and efficiency.
Two engines, both with stop-start as standard, will be available from launch. The SL 500 features a new 429bhp 4.7-litre V8, while the SL 350 gets a 302bhp 3.5-litre V6. Smaller than the 5.5-litre engine it replaces, the new V8 is around 12 per cent more powerful, yet fuel returns have improved by 22 per cent to 29.8mpg. The V6 engine is almost 30 per cent more economical, at 41.5mpg.
Performance should be more thrilling than ever, though, with the SL 500 covering 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds – eight-tenths faster than the old car. And the SL 350 shaves three-tenths off its time, taking it down to 5.9 seconds.
The new profile is still unmistakably an SL, with its long bonnet and cabin set well back in the wheelbase. Chromed fins on the car’s flanks are a nod to the original SL, while the upright grille and big three-pointed star continue a theme that began on the SLS AMG.
In the search for more interior space, the new model has grown by 50mm in length and 57mm in width, despite its dramatic weight-loss. The cabin clearly takes inspiration from the SLS, with its bullseye air vents and gently tapered centre console. Three types of wood and two aluminium trim finishes are available, so you can tailor the interior to your taste.
A revised folding hard-top retracts into the boot quicker than before, and has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeve. It’s available with three finishes – painted, with a glass top or a panoramic vario-roof. The latter, which also features on the new SLK, can be switched from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button. A magnesium frame means it’s 6kg lighter than the old hood, too.
A number of innovations debut on the SL. Magic Vision Control is Mercedes’ name for a wiper system that applies the washer fluid from within the blade – eliminating those hairy moments when the spray obscures the windscreen. The blades are also heated to prevent ice welding them to the glass in the winter.
A new FrontBass system uses free spaces in the footwells to amplify the speakers, and frees up space in the doors, while the bootlid can be opened by waving your foot under the rear bumper.