Mercedes-Benz has released images of its next-generation SL, which is being developed by AMG and will revert to its soft-top sportscar configuration. And, although the final design is hidden under camouflage, it will incorporate cues from the iconic ‘50s original.
“Following extensive digital development, test-stand runs and simulator trials,” Benz says, the 7th-generation SL (R232) “is now entering a scheduled phase of wide-ranging dynamic driving tests – at the Immendingen proving ground and also on public roads.”
The Three-pointed Star did not reveal much else, apart from saying the new SL, which will be launched in 2021, would “go back to its roots, which began in motorsport in 1952.
Manana Nhlanhla's beautiful and iconic 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL was featured in the 6th episode of SentiMETAL.
That echoes a statement made by Mercedes-Benz design chief Gorden Wagener, who previously told Autocar that the iconic SL would return to its sportscar roots, not only in terms of its sinuous styling, though – the new model will be based on the aluminium-intensive MSA (modular sports architecture) platform, which Mercedes-AMG division will also use to produce the next generation of the GT (and its various variants).
What’s more, like the upcoming BMW 4 Series Cabriolet derivative, the next SL will feature a lighter folding soft-top instead of the retractable hardtop (Vario Roof), which has featured on the iconic model since the 5-generation R230.
The upcoming R232-series SL is being developed by AMG and will share its underpinnings with the next-generation GT model.
Judging from these images, the newcomer has a classic long bonnet, a sharp nose and cab-back profile, but it has lost that fleshy rump/3-quarters that designers have been obligated to add to the SL's shape to help accommodate the bulky components of a retractable hardtop in addition, of course, to availing usable measure of boot space.
The SL won’t be a full roadster however, it will have a 2+2 seating configuration, although the rear seats will be small (more suited for children), which would make it marginally more practical than the current car (for what that’s worth).
Since the curvy Fifties and Sixties models, the SL first became blockier (with the R107 “Panzerwagen” model), then longer and portlier (from the Nineties R129 and Noughties R230) and finally, the much-criticised bluff-nosed and cumbersome boulevard cruiser that is the R231, which came to market in 2012 and was facelifted about 4 years ago.
Through the generations, the SL has grown in dimensions and morphed into a grand tourer. We tested the SL500 in late 2016.
“For me, the most beautiful SL is the original model,” Wagener told Autocar. “We’ve taken some of that DNA, starting with the proportions, the surface treatment, things like that. In that respect, the new SL is probably the closest to the first one ever.”
Which is great news and, although the SL will share its platform with the next GT/GT C Roadster, they will remain very distinctive products. Wagener added: “The GT is more of a race car and the SL is more of a sports car. You will clearly see the differences.”
The Vario Roof was practical, but detracted from the previous SL's dynamism and elegance. That's why the soft-top's back.
Remember, the R232 will be a luxury car first and foremost. Such is the stiffness of the upcoming SL’s all-aluminium architecture that the package won’t suffer a significant loss in torsional rigidity without a folding hardtop. What’s more, advances in materials technology mean the designers believe they can achieve close to the R231’s noise-suppression qualities with a weight-saving soft-top, Whichcar reports.
We also expect that the SL, like the next-generation S-Class, will incorporate Level 3 Highway Assist autonomous driving technology, the next version of AirMatic+ active suspension (which scans the road to pre-arm the air suspension and dampers for bumps ahead) and perhaps even active anti-roll bars that facilitate flat cornering at a wider variety of speeds. Cabin materials and finishes will be first-class.
In terms of powertrains, the R232 and AMG versions are likely to share axle assemblies, suspension, steering systems, a 48V electric architecture, as well as turbocharged straight-6 and twin-turbo V8 hybridised powerplants mated with 9-speed automatic transmissions (AMG derivatives will feature 9-speed Speedshift ‘boxes).
The quartet of trapezoidal exhaust tips suggest that the car at the rear is an AMG derivative in disguise.
Autocar reports that the range is likely to begin with an SL 450 EQ Boost powered by a 3.0-litre turbopetrol producing 272 kW, along with an added 16 kW from the integrated starter motor. There will also be a hotter SL 53 AMG, with 321 kW from a beefed-up version of the former’s straight-6 engine (and 16 kW of e-assistance). The SL 500 EQ Boost will feature a torquier turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 and the top-of-the-range SL63 AMG will produce “in excess of 447 kW” and 22 kW-plus of electric boost in S guise.
“It’s kind of a burden to be responsible for the SL, but we had to make sure this iconic car had a bright future,” AMG boss Tobias Moers said earlier this year. “The weight of responsibility is heavy but what we’re doing is good. We are taking the new all-aluminium SL back to its roots: it’ll be sportier, but also better for everyday use.”