Mercedes is set to pull the wraps off the all-new AMG-developed SL roadster on 28 October.
The new top-flight grand tourer is set to be the first SL created by the brand’s AMG performance division. It will be offered with four-wheel drive, a stiffer body structure and, potentially, a thumping 800bhp electrified powertrain.
We’ve already spied a pre-production example of the new SL ahead of the official release, revealing a design with clear AMG influence. Familiar features include the same Panamericana radiator grille as the Mercedes-AMG GT and the company’s trademark square exhausts, which are found on everything from the E 63 saloon to the GLS 63 SUV.
The previous SL’s long bonnet and relatively short tail is a design theme that continues in the new car, although Mercedes has ditched the previous model’s folding metal hardtop for a new fabric roof, which should save a few kilos.
Mercedes has also teased the new SL’s cabin. It will receive a similar infotainment set-up to the Mercedes-AMG GT, with a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel ahead of the driver and an 11.9-inch infotainment system in the centre of the dashboard.
To prevent glare from the sun becoming a distraction when the roof is down, the instrument cluster has its own visor, while the angle of the infotainment screen can be electrically adjusted to a more vertical position.
An optional head-up display can show information in three dimensions on the screen in a range of styles that can match the format of the configurable views shown on the car’s main screen. The car’s audio system comes from long-time partner Burmester.
Mercedes has dubbed the SL’s interior concept the “hyperanalogue” cockpit, claiming it takes inspiration from the original 300 SL Roadster of the 1950s. The firm describes the concept as a mix of “analogue geometry and digital work.”
The seats are designed in such a way that they appear more compact, and have headrests integrated into the backrests for a sleeker look. They can be trimmed in a range of finishes, including two-tone nappa leather, nappa leather with diamond stitching, or a combination of nappa and Dinamica fabric.
Mercedes design boss Gorden Wagener said: “This roadster has stood for automotive fascination and desire for decades, and represents a great opportunity and challenge for design. The result is a revolutionary interior experience caught between digital and analogue luxury.”
Mercedes also says the new SL will be more versatile than its predecessor. It’s the first SL since the R129, launched in 1989, to have a 2+2 seating layout – and those rear seats will have enough space for passengers up to 150cm tall. A wind deflector will also be available to prevent buffeting at high speeds.
Mercedes-AMG boss Philipp Schiemer said: “The interior of the new Mercedes-AMG SL pampers drivers and passengers with sophisticated luxury. The new SL combines the highest levels of comfort and quality in its interior, coupled with just the right amount of sportiness.”
New 2021 Mercedes SL: engines, chassis and performance
The seventh-generation SL’s chassis will use a blend of aluminium, steel, magnesium and fibre composites in its construction to help keep weight to a minimum. Mercedes says the car’s central skeleton weighs just 270kg.
The brand is also keen to stress that there’s nothing in the SL’s chassis carried over from any of its existing models – not even the AMG GT Roadster. However, previous AMG boss Tobias Moers hinted that the new architecture will also be used to underpin AMG’s replacement for the GT.
The new SL’s body is 50 per cent more rigid than the AMG GT Roadster across its width and 40 per cent stronger over its length. Mercedes says these improvements will translate into more precise handling and better agility.
Mercedes has also lowered the SL’s centre of gravity. The pick-up points for the subframes and axles are as low down as possible, while the engine will be mounted low, and close to the cabin.
The range should open with a 43-badged SL powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six petrol unit. Meanwhile, the flagship SL 63 will likely be powered by AMG’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, giving 604bhp.
Former AMG boss Tobias Moers (now Aston Martin CEO) previously told Auto Express that AMG will look to offer a hybrid version of every model Mercedes sends its way. He also hinted that the SL, as a heavier sports car focused on touring, could be a natural fit for a heavier electrified powertrain with an enormous power output.
Mercedes is already developing such a powertrain for the upcoming range-topping AMG S 73 e PHEV luxury saloon, which is set to have an output of more than 800bhp.
New 2021 Mercedes SL: a set-up for the new AMG GT
In 2019, sports cars contributed to slightly more than one percent of Mercedes’s total sales worldwide, with around 28,400 cars sold. That’s a rise of 48 per cent over 2018 but, by the firm’s own admission, the AMG GT line-up accounts for most of that, with the compact SLC roadster now banished from the line-up and the full-size SL dwindling in importance.
The brand’s decision to build the new SL with AMG hinges on the shared use of a new lightweight, aluminium-intensive platform that will eventually underpin the next AMG GT.
Speaking to Auto Express before his switch to Aston Martin, Moers explained how the project was developing: “The new SL is aligned with maybe the next generation of GT. I think it’s time to change the attitude of SL a little bit and bring back a bit of the history of this touring DNA of SL – make it sportier, and other things.”
Timeline: six generations of Mercedes SL
W198 (1954-63): Iconic Gullwing lasted for three years before Roadster replaced it. Four-cylinder 190 SL was the affordable alternative.
W113 (1963-1971): ‘Pagoda’ model came with a removable hard-top. 230, 250 and 280 models all came with six-cylinder engines.
R107 (1971-1989): As well as a roadster, Mercedes produced the four-seat SLC coupé up until 1981. This was the first SL with a V8.
R129 (1989-2001): SL moved into the nineties with V12 power introduced for the first time. AMG versions also appear.
R230 (2001-2011): Introduced folding hard-top roof first seen on the SLK, as well as adaptive body control and other hi-tech aids.
R231 (2012-2020): Outgoing SL was a heavily updated version of the R230 that used an all-aluminium body for the first time.