Few models can match the history of the Mercedes SL. The original stands among the greatest cars of all time. The second-gen Pagoda was an icon. The Nineties R129 was a legend. Then there's the last-gen model, not particularly pretty at inception and left unloved in the lineup for the better part of a decade. The nameplate needs a breath of life. It's getting one for 2022.
The first step to its reinvention was throwing out literally every part of the last one. The new R232 model doesn't share a thing with the previous model, instead riding on a new AMG-developed platform to be shared with the upcoming next-gen AMG GT. The switch allowed it to adopt four-wheel steering and all-wheel drive as standard, both firsts for the SL.
AMG's involvement in the process also means it's quick. The SL is more about grand touring than raw performance, but it still has the latter in spades. The slower SL55 makes 469 hp and hits 60 in 3.8 seconds, while a more potent version of the same engine in the SL63 is good for 577 hp and a 0-60 sprint of under 3.5 seconds. Both trims employ a 9-speed multi-clutch transmission.
Don't let the numbers and the available carbon-ceramic brakes mislead you. This isn't really a track car, even if AMG names the 911 C4S and Turbo as key competitors. They refer to it more as a "cruiser," "grand tourer," or "digital roadster," framed around luxury and cutting-edge tech. That means air springs on the top-end model, along with a new hydraulic system that replaces a conventional anti-roll bar. Like a hydraulic version of the 48-volt anti-roll systems in countless big SUVs.
The SL also offers big, plush massaging seats, Mercedes' latest generation of driver-assistance tech, and a Burmester 3D audio system, all cruising-oriented tech you likely won't see on the upcoming all-new AMG GT. Daily driving should be made easier by the rear seats and the available front-axle lift system, a first for an AMG. The power, insulated, folding soft top can go up in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 37 mph.
The design, too, is new inside and out. The SL ditches the awkward lines of the old model for a look reminiscent of a smoothed-over AMG GT. There are no bulging fenders, no big wings, just a taut and handsome body less imposing but more classically pretty than any of the AMG GT roadsters. Inside, Mercedes calls the SL's cockpit "hyper analogue," a curious term for a design defined by two giant screens. Mercedes says it refers to the configurable screens and their digitized versions of analog displays. I think the SL interior looks fantastic, though I'd stop short of inventing phrases to describe what is essentially a variation on the already great S-Class interior.
There's no word on pricing, but the previous SL550 started at $114,545. The SL55 will probably cost more than that, but less than the previous SL63's MSRP of $155,995. First deliveries are slated for sometime in the first half of 2022.
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