The SL moniker once stood for sport leicht, but at 4220 pounds, the current 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster is anything but light. That said, the next-generation SL — due in 2012 — will be the first of several Mercedes-Benz models to use a substantial amount of lightweight carbon fiber composite materials.
Daimler AG has partnered with Toray Industries, a Japanese textile maker, to develop and produce car parts made from carbon fiber composite materials. The move mirrors BMW’s partnership with U.S.-based carbon fiber supplier SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, which is designed in part to supply components for the 2013 Megacity electric vehicle. Toray is the world’s largest carbon fiber supplier, and has even supplied Ferrari with carbon fiber for its cars.
Together, Toray and Daimler will work on lightening some of Mercedes’ vehicles through the use of carbon fiber reinforced plastics. Although Mercedes has not disclosed what parts will be made from the material, they’re likely currently made from metal. Carbon fiber parts will therefore significantly reduce the car’s weight, but may carry a substantial cost premium.
Carbon fiber could replace a number of metallic parts, but some suggest the SL’s folding roof may be be fabricated from the material. The current steel roof is rather heavy, and also requires a large hydraulic mechanism to stow and deploy the structure. Using a carbon fiber roof could potentially allow the SL to shed some pounds and utilize a smaller folding mechanism, which could subsequently improve cargo space.
We’ve yet to see finite details on the new SL, but based upon spy photos of the car, it appears the next-gen roadster will bear resemblance to the SLS AMG. In fact, many upcoming Mercedes-Benz models will ape the SLS. According Hans-Dieter Futshik, director of Mercedes’ passenger car design, the SLS will influence the shape of the company’s sports cars, including the SL and SLK.