BMW might have the 6-series, Jaguar the XK, and there's Maserati's GranCabrio to consider too, but nothing is quite like the SL, Mercedes' big roadster which mixes coupe security with roadster style. And there's a new one on the way in 2012, which our spies have snapped on test in mainland Europe.
The current Mercedes SL has been around since 2002, so this one must be new, right?
Correct. The previous SL lasted from 1989 to 2002, and the current big Merc drop-top has had a ten-year life and undergone two facelifts – the new SL (codenamed R231) will be launched in 2012 and be new from folding hard-top to bottom.
The rear will feature huge, CLS-style wraparound rear lights, the nose will take design cues from the smaller SLK, and under the skin the next-gen SL is loosely based on the rear-drive architecture of the E-class, with a longer wheelbase to increase cabin space.
Driving those back wheels will be a new selection of petrols engines; there’s no diesel planned, even though the SLK is about to be unveiled with an oil burner at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show. The SL350 runs a 302bhp 3.5-litre V6, a twin-turbo 4.6-litre V8 with 429bhp powers the SL500, but the SL600 is dead. Buyers after big power must opt for AMG models, either the 563bhp twin-turbo 5.5 SL63, or the upgraded SL65, in which the V12 survives with 621bhp. There’s a seven-speed auto to begin with, but it’ll be eventually be replaced with a nine-cog (yes, really) slusher with a built-in hybrid system.
Big news is Merc’s new Magic Ride Control, which is an evolution of its Active Body Control suspension system. A camera scans the road (up to 20 metres ahead, and at speeds up to 60mph), and the MRC computer then dissects the information and reacts within fractions of a second to surface irregularities.
Want more Magic? The folding metal roof can be optioned with an SLK-aping Magic Sky Control roof, which can switch from clear to dark in just a couple of seconds.
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