The announcement of a new Mercedes-Benz SL is always a very special occasion. Not only is it one of the most iconic and revered cars of all time, but its also a very rare moment indeed. In 60 years, there have only six versions of Benzs brilliant sports tourer.
The first details of next years all-new SL have only just been released, with claims of significant improvements. But how exactly does the new car compare with the current one?
On the outside:
2012 Mercedes SL
Previous Mercedes SL
As with the rest of the sporty Mercedes models, the SL gets the same design treatment that debuted on its more hardcore sibling, the SLS AMG, along with more contoured side panels. The front end is more aggressive and upright than the face of the current car, but the classy and elegant looks that are expected from an SL are still there in abundance.
There are also little design details that hark back to some of the notable SL models of the past. The completely unbroken roofline is uncannily similar to the profile of the iconic SL Pagoda of the 1960s, and the wide rear end bears a resemblance to the one on its predecessor. Theres also the trademark side vents that have been an SL feature since the legendary Gullwing.
2012 Mercedes SL Rear
Previous Mercedes SL Rear
Not only is the new Benz more aerodynamically efficient that the car it replaces the claimed coefficiency of 0.27 is reportedly the best in class but its also substantially lighter than before. The new body is made almost entirely out of aluminium, a first for a mass-produced Merc, and would have been a whopping 110 kg heavier had it been made out of steel.
On the inside:
2012 Mercedes SL Interior
Previous SL Interior
Just as the previous SL had a cabin that was resembled the one on the flagship at the time, the SLR McLaren, the new SL has an interior thats reminiscent of the dash in the SLS, with a more upright centre console than before and an improved perception of quality.
As the new car is 57mm longer and 50mm wider than before, theres a slight increase in space for the driver and passenger, with minor improvements to knee and shoulder room. The car is still, as before, strictly a two-seater.
2012 Mercedes SL Dashboard
As befitting for a luxury product, there are many ways to upgrade the materials in the cars cabin for example, there are reportedly three types of wood and two grades of aluminium trim available for the dashboard. Theres also some nifty standard equipment, such as the new bass stereo system that has speakers mounted near the front foot well instead of the door cards.
Under the skin:
This is where the new SL starts to become more and more impressive. The structure is almost entirely made out of aluminium, with even magnesium being used in places such as the folding roof mechanism. This makes the new SL range, according to Mercedes, up to 140kg lighter than the previous car, depending on the model, whilst the new structure is 20% stiffer than before. Quite appropriate, given the SLs name is an acronym for Sport, Lightweight.
Engine details for next years SL are sparse at the moment, though two petrol powerplants have been confirmed a revised 3.5 V6 for the SL350 and a new 4.7 V8 thatll feature in the SL500. Both engines claim better economy and emission figures of up to 29% over their current counterparts, with both coming with stop/start, BlueDIRECT efficiency components and a seven speed automatic gearbox as standard.
Despite a decrease in power (though a claimed increase in torque) for the V6, and the V8 being almost a full litre smaller than the unit it replaces, performance figures are still promising acceleration times to 60 have been improved by 0.3 (350) and 0.8 (500) seconds, no doubt as a result of the significant weight loss. Revised suspension components also claim an increase in agility and cornering capability, and the suggested improvements bode well for the performance orientated AMG variants that are expected to be announced at a later date.
The changes to the new car arent just mechanical some new electronic gizmos are making their way into the SL range. The folding metal roof can now transform the car from coupe to roadster in under 20 seconds, and also comes with the option of a sunroof that can alter the amount of light that enters the cabin. Other examples of notable and quirky equipment includes headlamps that automatically adjust to different conditions, windscreen wipers that squirt cleaning fluid during up and down strokes and a boot that can be opened by moving your foot near the rear bumper.
We all knew that the new SL stood a good chance of being better than the car it replaces. However, the statistical improvements are mightily impressive, especially considering that the current SL isnt what youd call an archaic and outdated piece of kit.
With the weight loss and increased rigidity, along with extra pace from the two engines we currently know of, the new SL can seemingly back up the svelte yet sporty styling with properly impressive performance. Those who had criticised the slightly numb responses of the current car it does weigh nearly two tonnes, after all! will most likely prefer driving next years new model. In almost every single area, the 2012 car is a seemingly substantial improvement over its forbearer.
Well have to wait for the reviews to come out sometime next year to see if it can walk the walk, and whether or not it can give rivals a run for their money. Jaguars XK and the BMW 6 Series are capable competitors, and the exotic drop-tops such as the Maserati GranCabria and Ferrari California are in the firing line of the more potent SL models.
Theres no words on pricing just yet, but expect the RRP to increase slightly, given the technology that underpins it and the hi-tech kit that come as standard. Not that itll put too many buyers off, as its still as classy and as desirable as ever. Based on first impressions, the new SL has a very good chance of being one of the highlights of the New Year.
Want huge savings on your new SL?
carwow is the smart way to buy your new SL, getting you amazing no-need-to-haggle deals from main Mercedes dealers.
Unlike other sites we let you compare upfront offers from multiple dealers. There’s no pressure on you to buy, you can contact the dealers at any time directly without them being able to hassle you.
If you’re happy with an offer, deal directly with that main dealer, leaving a deposit, and decide on whether you want to collect your car from their showroom or have it delivered as usual.
There are never any hidden costs or online payments and best of all it’s completely free! Start getting offers on your new SL.