For more than 50 years, the Mercedes-Benz SL has occupied a special place atop the German automaker’s lineup. The current-generation SL, armed with timeless sheetmetal and the brand’s latest and most innovative technology, has admirably carried on the tradition. As the all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class prepares to take the stage at the 2012 Detroit auto show, there’s no doubt the Benz faithful will have higher expectations than ever for the latest-generation of the iconic roadster.
At first glance, the 2013 SL-Class, which will come to the U.S. in SL550 trim to start, appears to be an evolutionary step over the outgoing car from a design standpoint, especially from the rear, where the familiar triangular taillights have been tightened and treated to redesigned LED lighting. Its profile is also similar and is dominated by its long hood. The fender vents remain but grow vertically and are now accented with two chrome fins. The most drastic departure takes place up front, where its upright grille is flanked by two massive headlights, similar in scope to the flagship SLS AMG and other recent Benz offerings. The headlights illuminate the road thanks to bi-xenon lamps with fiber-optic accents. Daytime running LED lamps on the lower bumper complete the lighting treatment.
Style aside, the most significant news for the 2013 SL is the literal take on the meaning of the letters “SL,” which stand for sporty and lightweight. For starters, this is the first SL constructed almost entirely of aluminum. The body is stronger than the predecessor’s steel construction thanks to a number of unique techniques such as chill casting, MIG welding, and friction stir welding, a technique Lieberman describes as laying “two pieces of metal next to or on top of each other and [going] at them with a tool spinning so fast it melts the alloy, joining the pieces together.” The aluminum diet program is good for a 275-pound reduction compared to the outgoing SL550, despite its larger dimensions (1.97 inches longer and 2.24 inches wider). Estimated curb weight is a tad over 3900 pounds.
Under the hood, the 2013 SL550 will receive the 4.6-liter, direct-injected, twin-turbo, V-8 engine that has made its way throughout much of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. Power is rated at 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, a significant boost to the outgoing car’s 382 hp and 391 lb-ft. Mercedes has estimated a conservative 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. Despite the performance gains, the SL will also be thriftier at the pump thanks to a revised seven-speed transmission and ECO start/stop technology.
In addition to its lighter curb weight, Benz says the SL will also be more agile courtesy of two suspension options that include parts constructed of massive and high-strength aluminum components. The Agility Control Suspension system comes standard, while the optional Active Body Control that debuted in the last-gen car will also do its part to help keep the roadster flat and planted through the curves. Finally, the 2013 SL will feature speed-sensitive, electromechanical Direct-Steering with variable ratios.
Among the technological debuts on the SL is FrontBass, a system that essentially utilizes dead space within the footwell for audio subwoofers. Also premiering on the 2013 SL is Magic Vision Control, which feature windshield wiper blades with integrated spray nozzles designed to wipe water away efficiently, preventing overspray. The trunk will be offered with Hands-Free Access, allowing the owner to simply swipe their foot below the bumper to open and close the lid. Finally, the SL will come standard with the automaker’s latest safety gadgets, including Pre-Safe, Attention Assist, and Adaptive Brakes. After its Detroit show debut, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL is set to hit U.S. dealer showrooms in the spring of next year.
Inside, passengers are surrounded by supercar-like elements pulled from the SLS AMG. For example, the crosshair HVAC vents, gear shift knob, and metallic-faced instrument gauges mimic the SLS AMG, while rich wood and leather options look stunning. The steering wheel features a special touch, with “Mercedes-Benz” engraved in cursive on the bottom spoke. Last but not least, open-air driving is still possible with the push of a button. The retractable top operates faster and is also 13-pounds lither thanks to magnesium construction. The top will also be offered with two glass options—a simple glass roof or the Magic Sky Control roof, which debuted in the SLK.