A new Mercedes-Benz SL comes around once a decade, and as we’re now into the 2020s, it’s time for another one. This time, however, it’s a little bit different, as it’s been developed not by Stuttgart, but Affalterbach. Welcome, everyone, to the new R232 Mercedes-AMG SL.
The new roadster effectively replaces the GT Roadster and is built on a new aluminium composite structure not shared with any other Mercedes. Aside from the lightweight metal, the car also features magnesium, fibre composites and steel in its construction to deliver increased stiffness, with torsional rigidity up 18% over the R231 SL. Transverse and longitudinal rigidity have also risen by 50% and 40% over the GT Roadster.
On the outside, the streamlined design has evolved from the GT Roadster, sporting the slim tapered headlights (with the W223 S-Class‘ Digital Light technology) and triangular taillights that define Mercedes’ latest design language. At the front, you’ll find the typical AMG slatted trapezoidal grille that harks back to the 300 SL race car from 1952, along with large air intakes with a “jet wing” design and a chrome splitter.
Along the side, the SL continues to feature a long bonnet, short overhangs and a fast windscreen rake, while strong shoulders and flared fenders provide some added muscle. There are also fake front fender vents and flush pop-out door handles, and for the first time since the ’90s R129 the SL comes with a fabric roof instead of the folding hardtop introduced on the R230, opening in 15 seconds and operable at up to 60 km/h. The change has blessed the SL with a 21 kg weight saving and a lower centre of gravity.
Switching to a soft-top has also allowed for a more svelte rear end, equipped with an active bootlid spoiler and a large rear diffuser with quadruple integrated exhaust exits. The wheels range from 19 to 21 inches in diameter and are designed to work with the lift-reducing front end, the new Airpanel active grille shutters and the aforementioned retractable door handles and active rear wing to deliver a drag coefficient of 0.31.
To enable the SL to slip through the air even easier, the new R232 comes with an Aerodynamic Package, consisting of larger front flics and an even bigger rear diffuser, as well as an active carbon fibre front underbody spoiler. The latter lowers at speed to increase the underbody’s Venturi effect, reducing lift by 50 kg at 250 km/h for greater steering precision and stability. The rear wing also raises at lower speeds.
Revealed earlier this year, the interior has also been given a comprehensive redesign and now seats four for the first time since the R129 – although only those up to 1.5 m tall can fit at the back. The cabin is dominated by a massive 11.9-inch portrait touchscreen that runs on the latest Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) and can be tilted electrically from 12 to 32 degrees to prevent sunlight glare.
Other styling cues include turbine-style round air vents and a NACA duct-shaped centre console design lifted from the AMG GT. As standard, you get an AMG double-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel and sports seats with integrated headrests, while heavily-bolstered AMG Performance seats are available as an option. The SL’s pioneering Airscarf system is standard on eight-cylinder models.
This suggests that there will be other engine options offered, but at launch the SL will only come with AMG’s monstrous M177 4.0 litre twin-turbocharged V8. There will be two variants available – on the familiar SL 63, the mill churns out 585 PS from 5,500 to 6,500 rpm and 800 Nm of torque between 2,500 and 5,000 rpm. This one gets from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.6 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 315 km/h.
Mercedes is also introducing a lower-powered model that resurrects an iconic nameplate – the SL 55, which makes 476 PS and 700 Nm from 2,250 to 4,500 rpm, gets to 100 km/h barely any slower at 3.9 seconds and can hit 295 km/h. Both versions come with an AMG Speedshift MCT 9G nine-speed automatic gearbox and the variable AMG Performance 4Matic+ system that can switch between rear- and all-wheel drive.
A plug-in hybrid model will be offered later on, likely utilising the powertrain from the GT 63 S E Performance. This should pair an uprated 639 PS/900 Nm version of the V8 with a 14 PS electric motor and a more powerful rear-mounted 204 PS/320 Nm motor. Total system output is rated at 843 PS and an astonishing 1,470 Nm, with the GT 63 S also capable of 12 km of pure electric range through a 6.1 kWh battery.
Under the skin, the new SL rides on five-link suspension all around, with the suspension links, steering knuckles and hub carriers made from forged aluminium to reduce unsprung weight. Coil springs and two-valve adaptive dampers come as standard, with the SL 63 also fitted with AMG Active Ride Control roll stabilisation and an electronic limited-slip differential (optional on the SL 55).
All SL models are also fitted with active rear-wheel steering with up to 2.5 degrees of angle, as well as composite cross drilled brake discs (carbon ceramics optional). The car’s dynamics can be controlled using the AMG Dynamic Select with Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual and, on the SL 63, Race modes. There’s also a separate AMG Dynamics system with Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master settings – linked to the Dynamic Select modes – for adjusting the chassis and stability control.
GALLERY: 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL 55 4Matic+
GALLERY: 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+