Mercedes SL (2012): the new R231 scooped

Published: 09 December 2009

This heavily cladded test car affords one of our first glimpses of the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL. The next-gen roadster remains a coupé-cabriolet near the top of the Merc range, despite being deposed by the flash new SLS AMG sports car.

Codenamed R231, the new SL has in fact been co-developed alongside the new Gullwing. That means the two share many under-the-skin hardware including the aluminium spaceframe technology, which is exceptionally rigid – as well as promising to make the new SL lighter than today's heavyweight model which spans from 1.8 tonnes to comfortably over 2000kg.

What else is new on the new 2012 Merc SL?

Details remain quite scarce at present, but by studying the new E-class and other recent Merc debutants, we have a pretty good idea of forthcoming engines used to power the rear wheels:

SL350 CGI, 3.5-litre V6, c290bhp
SL500, 5.5-litre V8, c390bhp

And being a Merc, presumably some barmy fast versions too?

AMG models will be a given – if not from 2012 launch, then soon after. Today's 5.5-litre V12 in the SL600 is up in the air (its profligate excess is at odds with the caring sharing new decade) yet many markets still demand a V12. Even if the new V8s provide more than ample power and performance.

This test car is so heavily disguised, it's difficult to make out any meaningful design changes to the 2012 SL. The door mirrors are now on stalks, rather than sprouting from the A-pillars, but most of the proportions appear to shadow those of today's SL. Expect an evolutionary design, then, pepped up with the latest family look.

Expect SL prices to start around £65,000 in today's money.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet