We’ve spied it testing several times, and now Mercedes-Benz has been gracious enough to release some early photos of the next-generation SL-Class. The key takeaway from what Mercedes shared today is that the new roadster, codenamed R231 and due in 2013, will be about 308 pounds lighter than the current-generation SL.
The big weight reduction was possible due to extensive use of aluminum. Mercedes says the new body alone (of which 89 percent of made from aluminum) weighs 539 pounds, which is about 242 pounds lighter than that of the current SL-Class. The result is that the new car is 20 percent stiffer and up to 308 pounds lighter than its predecessor, which is said to improve the car’s driving dynamics and efficiency. “The effect is rather as if a heavyweight-class passenger had got out of the car and taken his heavy flight luggage, too,” claims Mercedes.
Visually, the car looks remarkably similar to the current SL. Even though these photos are still somewhat obscured by camouflage cladding, it’s clear that key changes include a new front grille, restyled head- and taillights, and LED illumination for the running and taillights. The overall long-nose design remains, as does the power-folding hardtop. Based on these official pictures, Mercedes has been extensively testing the new SL in Dubai.
New standard gadgets include Magic Vision Control, which is a fancy name for a new type of windshield wiper. Rather than douse the windshield in a blast of water, the system uses tiny ducts laser-cut into the wipers to dispense water. The windshield can still be cleared effectively, but without causing water to puddle cover the entire glass. There are three automatic modes for the system designed for summer, winter, and top-down driving. In summer, Magic Vision Control uses a small amount of water to help remove dust and grit. In winter, de-icing fluid is sprayed on the windshield. And when the convertible top is lowered, Magic Vision Control carefully metes out water on downward strokes of the wiper, so as not to spray water into the car’s interior. The windshield wipers also are heated so they remain functional at temperatures as low as -4ºF.
Additionally, the so-called FrontBass system is meant to improve audio quality when driving with the roof open. It uses specially designed spaces in the driver and passenger footwells to house speakers, allowing parts of the firewall to act as resonant amplifiers. Mercedes says this makes for louder, clearer sound even with the roof lowered. It also means there are no speakers in the doors, which makes the doors lighter and allows for larger cubbyholes. The base sound system can be upgraded to higher-quality Harman Kardon or Bang & Olufsen units.
The base powertrain in Europe, badged SL350, will be a V-6 probably displacing 3.5 liters. The base engine here will be the SL550, which has a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V-8. There also will be two AMG versions: the SL63 AMG gets a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 good for about 565 hp, while the SL65 AMG will retain a 6.0-liter V-12 engine with 630 hp. Mercedes will likely divulge more powertrain information in January 2012.
Mercedes-Benz still hasn’t said when the new version of the SL roadster will debut, but we expect to see it at a major European auto show in 2012.