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Does it work? Mercedes’ curve tilting function

Published: 01 July 2016

► Mercedes' curve tilting function
► Car leans into corners, up to 2.65deg
► Part of optional Active Body Control

Doesn’t sound like much, 2.65 degrees. There’s 360 of the blighters in a full circle, after all. Yet this is the maximum amount the recently revised Mercedes SL can lean into corners, like a tilting Pendolino train, using the new ‘curve tilting’ function built into the optional Active Body Control suspension system. And although it can be difficult to spot the difference in a photo, on the inside you can definitely tell there’s something sneaky going on.

The SL is only the second Mercedes to get curve tilting capability after the 2014 S-class Coupe. It’s intended primarily as an aid to comfort (hence it isn’t offered on AMG variants) and in the S-class it feels decidedly weird, the sensation that the car should be rolling – but isn’t –serving to further disrupt your engagement with the steering. So what’s it like when fitted to the smaller, sportier SL, and exactly how does it work anyway?

Active anti-roll tech is increasingly commonplace, mostly using active anti-roll bars that torque themselves up with hydraulics or electric motors to resist lateral forces, softening off again for the sake of comfort when you’re back in a straight line.

Mercedes’ curve tilting takes this process to the next extreme; abandoning anti-roll bars altogether, it is instead able to actively raise the suspension spring platforms on the outside of the turn and lower them on the inside, creating an effect somewhat romantically compared to a motorcyclist putting their knee down. But the SL really does lean into the bend like it’s gunning for a lap record – the impression of action enhanced by years of experience that suggests a rapidly moving vehicle should lean away from a curve not into it.

Active from 9mph to 111mph, curve tilting uses onboard cameras to spot upcoming corners, preparing the car to defy physics. This may explain how there’s no sense of reaction in the SL – it simply cants into the corner like it’s the most natural thing in the world and goes round. Challenge a particularly sharp turn at unwelcome speed, and you’ll hear a kind of tsk-tsk-tsk sound and feel a moderate pogoing motion, but in less extreme circumstances it simply helps this hulking chunk of roadster feel more stable and precise.

A view to a tilt: how the system works

Does it work? Mercedes’ curve tilting function

1) Not on AMG

Only available on SL400 and SL500 models (not the AMG SL63 or SL65), curve tilting is part of the £3080 Active Body Control option.

Does it work? Mercedes’ curve tilting function

2) Easy as ABC

To switch it on, simply press the Dynamic Select button, then select CV (for curve, presumably); it doesn’t work in Comfort or Sport.

Does it work? Mercedes’ curve tilting function

3) Cornering 123

Now fling your £70k+ status symbol at the nearest bend and quietly cheer as the missus fails to look up from Hello magazine to berate you.

Did it work?

Yes. Counteracting the lateral load means less sliding around in the seats, helpfully disguising your speed to anyone else on board. That the SL manages to carry this off without completely alienating you from the steering is worthy of further merit. But then, since it comes as part of a £3k optional package you’d almost expect it to serve you a cocktail as well.

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By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

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