These are the latest spy shots of the new Mercedes SL, wearing everlighter camouflage as the full reveal of the brand’s reborn BMW 8 Series Convertible and Lexus LC Convertible. later in 2021 draws closer.
These new images represent our best look yet at the new SL, with elements like the car’s aggressive side skirts and flush-fit door handles being revealed for the first time.
The rest of the convertible’s design has a strong AMG influence, which is no real surprise given Mercedes’s performance division has taken responsibility for the car’s development.
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 AMG E 63 saloon to the colossal AMG GLS 63 SUV.
The previous SL’s long bonnet and relatively short tail have been reflected in the new car’s design, although Mercedes has ditched the previous model’s folding metal hardtop for a new fabric roof, which should shave a few kilos off its kerb weight.
Mercedes also recently teased the new SL’s cabin. It will receive a similar infotainment setup to the Mercedes AMG GT, with a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel ahead of the driver and an 11.9-inch infotainment system mounted 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 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 Gordon Wagener said: “The SL is an icon of the brand with the three-pointed star: this roadster has stood for automotive fascination and desire for decades. A great opportunity and challenge for design, because every designer wants to create icons. The result is a revolutionary interior experience caught between digital and analogue luxury. We created the most iconic SL ever since, the luxury icon of the 20s.”
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. The high-quality combination of analogue world and state-of-the-art digital equipment makes one thing clear: the new SL is the rebirth of an icon for the modern era.”
New 2021 Mercedes SL: engines, chassis and performance
The seventh-generation Mercedes 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 formula has worked, as the car’s central skeleton weighs just 270kg.
Mercedes 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, there are rumours 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, as the body will deform less under hard cornering.
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.
Mercedes has also confirmed that the new SL will be exclusively sold under the AMG banner. It’ll be available with four-wheel drive for the first time, too, using the same 4MATIC+ system as the AMG E 63 S sports saloon.
That means 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 focussed 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, which is set to have an output of more than 800bhp. AMG will also give the SL’s suspension a thorough overhaul in an effort to increase its appeal to keen drivers, although it will still act as a more comfortable alternative to the AMG GT sports car.
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 full-size SL dwindling in importance.
While the SLC now has no future, 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, former AMG boss Tobias Moers explained how the project was developing: “This is a programme that’s really intense,” he said. “The new SL 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.