Mercedes SL (2012): the new R231 scoop

Published: 20 May 2011

Mercedes is readying the new SL for launch in 2012 and CAR’s new artist’s impressions reveal how the new Merc SL will look. Mercdedes' top-line roadster appears to doff its hat to the SLS sports car as well as the smaller SLK roadster. It's a slick, conservative style as you'd expect from the SL.

Codenamed R231, the next Mercedes SL is new from bottom to top. Loosely based on the rear-wheel drive components set of the E-class, the roadster-coupe gets a longer wheelbase to facilitate entry and egress for the greying clientele. But Merc is promising some very cutting edge tech too.

So the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL sticks with a folding hard top?

For sure. But the retractable hard top can now be fitted with a variable-tint glass roof named Magic Sky Control, so you can blank out those pesky sunbeams on the Cote d'Azur.

The L-shaped headlamps give way to more conventional rectangular lights, and the wideband grille will be positioned more upright for superior pedestrian protection. The rear end is dominated by XXL wraparound taillights inspired by the CLS coupe.

What about inside the new Merc SL?

Inside, we find a more user-friendly cockpit with more accessible ergonomics, extended memory functions and new seats developed and built together with BMW.

The most revolutionary innovation is perhaps the active suspension named Magic Ride Control. An evolution of the ABC active body control device, MRC employs a camera which scans the road for potholes and other irregularites. The findings are relayed to the ABC computer which can respond within fractions of a second and with an accuracy of one millimetre.

Magic Ride Control? Sounds like a magic carpet!

The advanced road reader looks 20 metres ahead and remains fully active up to a speed of 60mph when it gradually gives way to a tauter fixed setting. Not stiff enough? Then go for the sports pack which firms up the chassis software for about 10 seconds before assuming a more spine-friendly calibration.

Engines in the new R231 Mercedes-Benz SL

While the new SLK will for the first time be available with a diesel engine, the next Merc SL sticks to a petrol-only line-up.

The range starts with 306bhp SL350 powered by a 3.5-litre V6. One step up ranks the 435bhp SL500 equipped with a twin-turbo 4.6-litre V8. The 525bhp SL63 AMG will be replaced by an even more potent 5.5-litre biturbo model good for 571bhp.

While the 517bhp SL600 bites the dust, the V12 survives in the SL65 AMG the output of which is tipped to increase from 612 to 630bhp. The seven-speed autobox will eventually be replaced by an even more efficient nine-speeder with integrated hybrid module.

This should ensure the new SL is more efficient. Which might explain why the fuel tank will reportedly shrink from 80 to 75 litres – to help make more space for passengers and luggage.