Mercedes SL (2012) first official pictures

Published: 15 December 2011

All-new SLs seem to come around as often as Halley’s Comet, but here are the first Stuttgart-sanctioned shots of Mercedes’ sixth generation premium roadster – the 2012 Mercedes SL. If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s already had more lenses pointed at its disguised bodywork than Pippa Middleton’s derrière – and CAR’s own renderings earlier this year weren’t far wide of the mark.

So what’s the big news with the new 2012 Mercedes SL then?

It’s all new. The current version of Mercedes’ flagship coupe-cabriolet – the R230 – was launched in 2002 and has undergone a couple of facelifts, each of which notched up the aggression a touch. Stylistically, the new SL moves further in that direction – but big changes under the skin help it shed significant bulk. As a result, Mercedes claims the new model (codenamed R231) is true to its ‘sport lightweight’ SL moniker, being up to 140kg lighter than its portly predecessor, which weighed up to 1970kg depending on spec. Weight-loss has been achieved through the extensive use of aluminium in the body-shell – steel only being used for rollover protection in the A-pillars.

Current Mercedes design language is evident at the business end, the wide-mouthed grille and angular LED headlamps lending it a super-sized SLK-look. It’s a visage that stays true to the traditional SL cocktail of bold elegance, being long-of-bonnet, with an unapologetically large three-pointed star harking back to the ‘Bobby Ewing’ R107 SL of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Sculpted flanks and SLS-aping vents with chromed fins lend muscularity to the side view, whilst the rear is dominated by oversized CLS-alike wrap-around tail lights extending into the hind quarters. There’s function in the form too – Mercedes claims the new SL is the most aerodynamic car in its sector, helping it set new standards for refinement and noise suppression, roof up or down.

An abundance of space and comfort should satisfy the SL’s core demographic – it’s longer and wider than its predecessor by 50mm and 57mm respectively, resulting in class-leading cabin room according to Mercedes. Inside, the SL’s dashboard architecture doffs its cap to both SLK and SLS, with chromed air vents and switchgear similar to its sporting stablemates.

What’s under the bonnet of the new SL?

It’s a case of more from less with the SL500. The boot badge still lies, but in the opposite direction this time – it’s a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 as opposed to the current 5.5 unit. Power has been hiked to 429bhp, whilst it drinks 22% less fuel, and hits 62 mph in a claimed 4.6 seconds. That figure trumps the current SL500 by a healthy 0.8 seconds and matches the original SL55 AMG in a straight-line drag.

There’s also an SL350 to mark the entry point into SL ownership, powered by a 302bhp 3.5-litre V6 that can achieve north of 40mpg and sprint to 62mph in 5.9 seconds. Standard-fit start-stop technology and a seven-speed automatic, optimised for economy, helps the SL’s environmental halo glow.

‘Semi-active’ damping and steel springs are standard-fit on the SL350, whilst Merc’s self-levelling hydraulic dampers – dubbed Active Body Control – feature on the options list.

It’s a new Mercedes – so is it loaded with new tech?

Yes, it’s business as usual from the prolific innovator that is Mercedes, so the new SL packs enough toys to keep the silver-haired brigade busy thumbing its handbook for a while.

Headlining the gizmo-count is Magic Vision Control, a clever wash-wipe system integrated into the wipers, which ensures the driver’s vision can never be obscured by washer fluid on the windscreen. It also allows drivers to spray the windscreen roof-down without wetting the bonce.

Also new is Frontbass, which utilises the natural bass enclosure created by the aluminium cavity forward of the footwell, to produce ‘concert-hall’ sound quality and negate the requirement for hefty speaker enclosures in the doors. There’s also a hands-free boot-lid opening function – wave a nine iron under the rear bumper and it opens, ending the need for hand-to-bodywork contact at the luggage end.

Magic Sky Control – the panoramic glass roof already seen on the smaller SLK, also makes an appearance and switches from transparent to darkened glass at the touch of a button.

When can we get our hands on a new SL?

It’ll go on sale in the UK next July – with prices and specification to be confirmed nearer the time.