With the completely redeveloped SL, Mercedes-Benz continues a tradition that began 60 years ago. The letters “SL” have ever since been synonymous with a symbiosis of sportiness, style and comfort – and with groundbreaking innovations. The new SL has been produced for the first time almost entirely from aluminium and weighs up to 140 kilograms less than its predecessor. Its highly rigid all-aluminium bodyshell provides the basis for agile, sporty handling that has been taken to an entirely new level, coupled with exemplary roll characteristics and ride comfort. Even better driving dynamics come courtesy of the new BlueDIRECT engines; they are more powerful yet at the same time more economical when compared to the outgoing generation.
Other new features include the unique FrontBass® system, which turns the luxury sports car into a concert hall regardless of whether the top is open or closed, and the highly efficient adaptive windscreen wipe/wash system MAGIC VISION CONTROL; it supplies water from the wiper blade to the windscreen – as required and depending on the direction of wipe.
Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars: “There are around 900 million cars in the world and thousands of models. But there are only a handful of automotive icons. Our SL is one of them: it has class, it has style, it oozes comfort and luxury. But it blends all of this with unbelievable sportiness and dynamism. Virtually no other car can meet Gottlieb Daimler’s standard as perfectly as our SL: the best or nothing.”
The new-generation Mercedes-Benz SL takes the meaning of the famous letters “SL” – super-light – literally. Consistent weight reduction is one of the most outstanding design characteristics in the new SL – as was the case in its namesake, the original SL of 1952 with its lightweight tubular frame. For the first time Mercedes-Benz has implemented an all-aluminium bodyshell in a series-production model. Only very few components consist of other materials. The designers use the even lighter magnesium for the cover behind the tank. High-strength steel tubing is integrated in the A-pillars for safety reasons.
The new aluminium bodyshell weighs around 110 kilograms less than it would using the steel technology from the predecessor. “The effect is rather as if a heavyweight-class passenger had got out of the car” says Dr Thomas Rudlaff, responsible for the aluminium bodyshell at Mercedes-Benz. “The result is perceptible and measurable. Less weight means more dynamism and less consumption. In other words: the motoring enjoyment increases, the environmental burden decreases.”
The aluminium structure is not only lighter but also proves superior to the predecessor’s steel construction in terms of rigidity, safety and comfort. This is achieved thanks, among other things, to its intelligent lightweight construction with components optimised for their specific task. Thus, diverse processes are used to make different kinds of aluminium depending on the use the component is to be given: the parts are made by chill casting or vacuum die-casting, worked into extruded aluminium sections or into aluminium panels of different thicknesses. The result: high rigidity, high safety levels and better vibration characteristics.
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 bearing the same name. 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.
Driving pleasure: frugal, powerful engines and agile suspension
Powerful while accelerating, effortlessly superior across all speeds, nimble on winding roads – the new SL provides no end of driving pleasure. Apart from the powerful engines, the sportily tuned yet comfortable suspension, which also boasts an intelligent lightweight construction, proves outstanding. For instance, the steering knuckles and spring links on the front axle are also made out of aluminium to reduce the unsprung masses. The same also applies to virtually all the wheel location components on the rear axle.
The new SL is available with two different suspension systems: the SL features semi-active adjustable damping as standard. The optional active suspension system ABC (Active Body Control) is available as an alternative.
Both suspension variants are combined with a new electromechanical Direct-Steer system featuring speed-sensitive power steering and a ratio that can be varied across the steering wheel angle. This ensures excellent straight-line stability and, therefore, a high degree of assuredness when travelling at motorway speeds and makes the SL very agile. It also reduces the amount of steering required when parking and manoeuvring.
The new V8 in the SL 500 develops 320 kW from its displacement of 4663 cc and thus around 12 percent more than its predecessor despite some 0.8 litres less displacement. The fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 22 percent. At the same time, the torque has increased from 530 Nm to 700 Nm – a gain of 32 percent. Although the displacement remains the same at 3499 cc, the new V6 engine in the new SL 350 develops 225 kW and delivers 370 Nm of torque.
Both engine variants come with a standard-fit ECO start/stop function. The 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission, which has been optimised in relation to fuel consumption and comfort, also contributes to the exemplary, low fuel consumption. The fuel economy of the BlueDIRECT engines takes nothing away from the roadster’s raciness. Quite the contrary: the SL 350 accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds, making it three tenths of a second faster than its predecessor. The SL 500 takes just 4.6 seconds – eight tenths less than the previous SL 500.
Interior: aesthetic, stylish, sporty
The new SL combines its aesthetically honed profile, which follows the Mercedes-Benz tradition, with a luxurious feel. Fine materials, perfectly finished with great attention to detail, distinguish the style and character of the interior.
Compared with its predecessor, the new generation of the SL is much longer (+50 mm to 4612 mm) and wider (+57 mm to 1877 mm), providing more room for more comfort in the interior, too. Shoulder room (+37 mm) and elbow room (+28 mm) have been increased, exceeding the dimensions normally found in this vehicle class. Clear lines create a formally coherent internal space within this comfortable interior. Generously used wood trim extends from the centre console across the dashboard into the doors, creating a pleasant wrap-around effect. Three types of wood along with two different aluminium trim finishes are available. Perfectly in tune with the roadster’s character, it combines the unpretentious atmosphere of a high-performance sports car with the comfortable, stylish ambience one comes to expect in a luxurious touring car.
Design: classic SL proportions
The designers have brought the latest generation of the SL unmistakably to life on the basis of tradition but added new perspectives and visions. The result is a stylishly sporty and elegant luxury sports car with the classic hallmark SL balanced proportions: the long bonnet gives way to a compact passenger compartment that is set well back. A wide, muscular tail end giving the impression of raciness provides the finishing touch. A handful of elaborately styled lines define the powerfully sculpted and yet calm surfaces of the flanks. Finely worked details, a striking tail end as well as ventilation grilles with chromed fins from the dynamic traditional Mercedes-Benz design heritage visually emphasise the SL legend.
An upright classic sports car radiator grille clearly marks out the new SL visually as a prestigious member of the current Mercedes-Benz sports car family. The centrally positioned star is a contemporary reinterpretation of the famous trademark, which now extends into the centre section with its organically flowing contours.
Dynamically slanting headlamps set well to the outside flank the striking front end and give the new roadster its own unmistakable face. The headlamps come as standard with the Intelligent Light System (ILS). With five different lighting functions that are tailored to typical driving and weather conditions, and are activated depending on the driving situation, they offer the driver a much better illuminated field of vision. The striking curved sidelights and the horizontal strip of the daytime running lamps in the far ends of the bumper feature LED technology.
Aerodynamics: new standards
The design of the new SL not only meets high aesthetic demands – it also boasts exemplary aerodynamic qualities.
As such, the roadster merits best marks in its segment in four important disciplines:
- With the lowest drag coefficient (cd = 0.27 in the SL 350);
- With the lowest wind noise that is virtually on a par with a closed saloon;
- With the best comfort for open-top motoring so that you can still have the roof down even at high speed;
- With virtually no accumulation of dirt on the side windows.
Two world premieres: FrontBass® and MAGIC VISION CONTROL
With two innovations, the new SL remains true to its tradition as a technological trendsetter:
- MAGIC VISION CONTROL is a new, intelligent and highly efficient wipe/wash system. The innovative wiper blade concept always applies the washer fluid just in front of the wiper blade lip via the channels integrated into the blade – in both directions of wipe. As a result, no water is splashed onto the windscreen during spraying to disrupt the driver’s visibility, while at the same time cleaning the windscreen perfectly. The water also remains on the windscreen, thus ensuring it is cleaned without troubling the occupants, even with the roof down. For the first time an optional fully heated wiper blade which prevents snow or ice from forming on the blade in winter is available. This heating function also allows warm water to be applied directly onto the windscreen for the first time, even in cold temperatures.
- Also unique, the FrontBass® system intelligently uses the free spaces in the aluminium structures in front of the footwell as resonance spaces for 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, and frees up space in the doors.
Both innovations are part of the extensive standard equipment of the new SL.
The safest roadster
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. The rigid aluminium bodyshell forms a sturdy passenger compartment along with precisely defined deformation zones in the front and tail ends. In the event of the vehicle overturning, A-pillars made out of a mix of steel and aluminium and two roll-over bars protect the passenger compartment. The restraint systems including the two-stage driver and passenger airbags have been further developed. A headbag integrally covers the side head-impact area. An additional thorax airbag in the seat backrest can protect the upper body in the event of a side impact. Another new feature is the crash-responsive NECK-PRO head restraints developed by Mercedes-Benz which are fitted as standard in the SL.
An active bonnet and a front end with a large, yielding impact area help ensure pedestrian protection.
A safety highlight comes in the form of the standard-specification anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®, developed by Mercedes-Benz and the only one of its kind in the world. If it recognises that there is an acute risk of an accident, it reacts reflexively by activating preventive measures to protect the occupants, so that the belts and airbags can exercise their protective effect optimally in the event of a subsequent impact which might ensue. Additional post-crash measures supplement the integral safety concept and facilitate rapid assistance: regardless of the severity of the impact, the doors can be automatically unlocked after an accident, the interior lighting activated and the side windows lowered by 50 millimetres to ventilate the interior more effectively. The steering wheel can also be moved upwards.
Standard-specification: ATTENTION ASSIST and ADAPTIVE BRAKE
In the new SL, too, a unique combination of driver assistance systems helps prevent accidents. These include the standard-fit drowsiness detection system ATTENTION ASSIST and the ADAPTIVE BRAKE. The latter features ABS, acceleration skid control (ASR) and active yaw control, and offers comfort and convenience functions in addition to safety functions.
The ADAPTIVE BRAKE works in conjunction with the equally adaptive brake lights. In emergency braking situations, it uses flashing brake lights to warn vehicles behind.
PRE-SAFE® Brake: autonomous partial and emergency braking in response to a serious risk of a rear-end collision
As an option DISTRONIC PLUS proximity control and PRE-SAFE® Brake, which is already well proven in other Mercedes-Benz models, are available. Both work on the basis of the same radar sensors. Once a serious risk of a rear-end collision is detected, the PRE-SAFE® Brake warns the driver initially and can initiate autonomous braking if the driver fails to react, and so either prevent the accident or at least mitigate its severity. PRE-SAFE® can also activate occupant protection measures.
HANDS-FREE ACCESS – ‘kick’ to open
One of the new products and features from Mercedes-Benz is a system known as HANDS-FREE ACCESS. Standard on the new SL for the first time anywhere in the world, and it allows drivers to operate the boot lid without using their hands. This work is taken care of by a hydraulic drive system, for which the control signals are given by the SL owner without touching anything, but by making as though to kick the area of the rear bumper with their foot; doing so activates this fully automatic comfort-increasing equipment. Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer to offer a system which not only opens but also closes the boot lid automatically.
With the innovative convenience function HANDS-FREE ACCESS there is no longer any need for drivers to have to get annoyed by having to put their purchases and other objects down on the – often dirty – ground when out shopping and when they literally have their hands full, in order to reach for the handle. Should an unintentional ‘kick’ result in the boot lid opening or closing without the driver wanting this to happen, a second kick will correct it. When this occurs, the automatic system interrupts the procedure and reverses the effect of the signal given in error by actuating the boot lid against the original direction of movement – in the case of unintended opening, the second kick closes the boot lid again.
An appropriate safety program facilitates unhindered use of the HANDS-FREE ACCESS system. An acoustic signal provides the information that an opening or closing procedure has been initiated, and an automatic reversing function stops the boot lid as soon as the system recognises that there is an obstacle blocking the boot lid.