First Look: 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

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.

something is off with this design.. it doesn't look like a 100K car.. it looks as if they pieced it together instead one cohesive design. Look at other cars in this category and then tell me this car is good looking.. it's simply not..
I agree entirely with the need for monochromatic interior colors. The black and tan layout has become cliche for German automobiles, descending to the VW Golf. It reminds me of the old Ford Model T sales pitch, "Any color you want, as long as it's black".
I'm sorry but I think MB really failed on the styling! Not only has the car lost its elegant, solid look, it has taken cues from several other cars that just don't belong on a premium vehicle. It's a mix of creases and odd curves layered on a droopy canvas. The SL has always demonstrated reserve, simplicity, and solidity in its presence. It no longer looks like one machine cut from a single billet (of aluminum). Starting with the nose, the headlights are at odds with the grille. The hood is just plain distracting with its outward creases, center creases, and chrome-laden vents! The lower air dam looks tacked on and has busy corners. The Corvette-like scoop and 'broken' lower rocker panel are awkward, look like they came off a kid's car, and are not in keeping with the curved side panels. The rear fender trails downward yet the tail sweeps upward with its Bangle-esque trunk lid. The rear view offers the best perspective even though it's reminiscent of past 7-series BMWs. The top looks weak, almost tacky. SAD!
As an owner of a 2004 SL55 AMG with just over 15,000 miles, I would seriously consider trading up to this 2013 SL 500 with that increased HP. I like the less dramatic interior...anything but red. If the handling characteristics are similiar to my AMG, this will be a good upgrade.
I like this new design, but I am hoping that the two-tone interior that we are seeing, is an OPTION. One of the things I have loved about MB cars, are there monochromatic interiors, where when you order a tan interior, the ENTIRE interior is tan, with the possible exception of the top of the dash, which might be dark brown. I absolutely HATE the half black/half another color interiors. I would love an ALL red interior or an ALL gray interior, like the ash interior in my '04 SL. I hope they don't make it too much like the SLS. The SL is supposed to be a COMFORTABLE, luxury cruiser, NOT something you take to the track. I hope MB keeps this in mind. I want a BEAUTIFUL, comfortable, luxurious car. If I want a true sports car, with racing seats, etc., I'll buy a Porsche. Please MB, keep the SL beautiful and comfortable.

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