The latest generation of Mercedes-Benz’s long-running grand touring convertible, the SL, has been spotted by spy photographers ahead of its 2021 launch.
It’ll share a platform with the next-generation Mercedes-AMG GT, called the Modular Sports Architecture.
In fact, AMG is leading development of the SL for the first time in the nameplate’s 66-year history. Aligning the GT and SL will help economies of scale and profitability of these two high-end models.
Outgoing CEO Tobias Moers told Autocar last year, “We’re bringing back the historic DNA of the SL. It’s far sportier [this time round].”
“It will have a perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort because it’s still kind of a cruiser, too.”
In addition to sharing a platform, the SL and GT are expected to share components such as their suspension, steering systems, hybrid drivetrains and a 48V electric architecture.
They’re expected to diverge in one respect, however; while the GT will remain strictly a two-seater, the SL will become a 2+2.
The range is expected to open with an SL450, featuring Mercedes’ turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six and 48V EQ Boost mild-hybrid system, with a combined output of 272kW.
The Mercedes-AMG SL 53 should run a more powerful tune of this powertrain with a combined output of 337kW.
Though we don’t yet know if Mercedes will continue its long history of V12-powered SLs, we expect AMG’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 to appear, mated to the 48V mild-hybrid system.
In SL500 form, it should match the SL 53 in power but out punch it in torque, while the Mercedes-AMG SL 63 should produce at least 469kW.
As part of its plan to make the new SL more athletic, Mercedes-Benz appears to be focussing on cutting weight. That’s appropriate for a car whose name means Super Leicht (Super Light).
There’s a distinct resemblance to the AMG GT in the seventh-generation SL’s rounded hindquarters. Its derriere is that much more pert than the current car as, for the first time since the R129-series SL ended production in 2001, the SL will feature a soft top.
The retractable metal hardtop is officially out at Mercedes-Benz, despite the German company leading the charge with the trick tin top in its SLK.
That model’s successor, the SLC, was recently discontinued while newer Benz convertibles like the E-Class and S-Class convertibles have featured soft tops.
Like its predecessor, the new SL is expected to retain aluminium construction. The current GT’s body is 93 per cent aluminium.
There’s some precedent for a 2+2 SL. In its second generation, the SL was available with a hard top and a fold-down rear bench that was about as comfortable as that sounds. The following R107 generation introduced a coupe variant, the SLC, which also featured a second row of seats.