A vision of sporting luxury

BEHOLD the new Mercedes-Benz SL, the pinnacle of the company’s vision of sporting luxury – at least until we see an AMG version. Performance is up, weight is down and the packaging looks more appealing than ever.

The bodyshell is now made entirely of aluminium as opposed to steel, better living up to its ‘Sports Lightweight’ badge. Even though extra safety equipment has been added, reducing the overall effect of the engineers’ work, the new SL is up to 140kg lighter than the old model in a like-for-like comparison.

Two models have been announced to begin with; the SL350 sitting beneath the SL500. It’s the SL500 that’s most interesting for technology. The old 5.5-litre naturally aspirated V8 has been replaced with a turbocharged 4.7-litre V8, which produces 46bhp and 125lb.ft more while representing a potential for 22% less fuel consumption.

The combination of more grunt and less weight slices 0.8 seconds off the SL500’s 0-62mph time, at just 4.6 seconds. After all, the torque increase alone is equivalent to the total output of some medium-sized petrol hatchbacks. The new SL350 is no slouch either, taking 5.9 seconds to reach the same speed, 0.3 seconds less than before.

It keeps the same capacity V6 engine, but retuned to give slightly less power and slightly more torque. In its new configuration it uses 30% less fuel, which is a huge margin if it can be matched on the road.

As part of a ‘BlueDirect’ system of eco-enhancements, both engines are fitted with stop/start functions as standard. Used wisely they can substantially improve fuel economy in heavy traffic.

To the chassis now, and there are two suspension setups available: the standard semi-active adjustable damping and then the optional fully active ABC (Active Body Control) if handling is a priority.

On both systems various suspension components have been made out of aluminium rather than steel to save unsprung mass and improve suspension sensitivity and response.

Facially the SL fits into the striking current Mercedes family styling trend, and few cars are better at turning heads. Combined with its size and instantly recognisable profile, the new SL will have an awful lot of presence on the road.

Prices are yet to be confirmed, but it will go on sale in July.