All-new Mercedes SL convertible revealed: drop-top going back to its roots

Published: 28 October 2021

► New 2021 Mercedes SL roadster
► V8 power first, PHEV to come
► Soft-top roof returns

Mercedes has unveiled its all-new SL convertible for 2021. Along with introducing a whole new platform, fresh technologies and a back-to-basics design, the new 2+2 SL is designed to hark back to an era of grand touring prowess the brand has been famous for.

‘We wanted to come back to its origin,’ AMG boss, Philipp Schiemer tells CAR; ‘the original SL was a sports car, with the ongoing generations it was a symbol for a lot of people.’

‘You can only imagine the original SL’s impact. We wanted to take the car back to those roots,’ adds AMG CTO, Jochen Hermann. ‘If you think about the 300SL in the ’50s – how far ahead of its time it was – we wanted to take this car back to that and give it a clear character. The last two SLs were something in between being sporty and a cruiser.’

mercedes sl side

This new-generation SL, then, also aims to bridge the gap between Mercedes-Benz and its AMG skunkworks. ‘AMG took over this car,’ says Schiemer, ‘combining the sportiness and driving dynamics of AMG with the comfort and luxurious appeal of a Mercedes-Benz.’

I need some new SL performance specs

For now, the SL will be available with two power outputs of AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8: the SL 55 and SL 63. Both have all-wheel drive (though this system doesn’t have a rear-drive mode like an E63) and a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

mercedes sl pair

The SL 55 (in white) produces 469bhp and 516lb ft, sprinting to 62mph in 3.9 seconds and topping out at 183mph. The hotter SL 63 (in red), meanwhile, develops 577bhp and 590lb ft, good for a 3.6-second 0-62mph time and a top speed of 196mph.

Later on, the SL will also come with a plug-in hybrid variant under the Mercedes-AMG E-Performance banner – the same powertrain that’ll also underpin the upcoming AMG C 63. That comprises a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine mated to e-motors and a battery pack.

Sounds spicy – is it a sports car?

Mercedes says it’s designed to be as much as a grand tourer as it is a sports car, given the heavy involvement of AMG. So, along with the V8 power from launch and standard all-wheel drive, the new SL can be had with rear-wheel steering and, for the SL 63, AMG Active Ride Control. That’s a semi-active hydraulic anti-roll system designed to kill body roll through the bends – something usually reserved for top-heavy SUVs. The SL 63 can also be specified with an electronic limited-slip differential for the rear axle if you specify the AMG Dynamics Plus pack.

mercedes sl front tracking

‘Sporty does not have to mean rock-hard dampers,’ explains Hermann. ‘It can mean precise and predictable. You don’t need to make a car uncomfortable to achieve these things. With all the systems and modes, including the e-diff, the power split across the axles and the rear-wheel steering, you can make this car very sporty with the push of a button,’ claims Hermann.

Any other clever tech?

Active aerodynamics (which Mercedes calls Airpanel), including a pop-out rear spoiler inset into the top edge of the tailgate, and the new MSA platform the SL is underpinned by comprises an aluminium space frame with optional active engine mounts (part of the aforementioned AMG Dynamics Plus pack).

mercedes sl rear tracking

Choosing a soft-top over a tin-top reduces weight and complexity, too, and Mercedes says it takes just 15 seconds to raise or lower at speeds up to 37mph.

The new roadster has also taken a leaf out of the S-Class’ book with its new portrait infotainment setup running the latest MBUX functionality. Yet Mercedes calls it ‘hyperanalogue’, given the split off, square driver instruments leaving little to distract you. We’ll be the judge of that…

mercedes sl interior

Mercedes’ new SL is expected to go on sale in the first months of 2022.

Read our Mercedes reviews here

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

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