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First Look: 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL

Giving meaning to “Sporty” and “Light.”

by on Dec.16, 2011

Mercedes puts the new SL on a rigid diet.

For six decades, Mercedes-Benz has stretched the definition of SL – the letters attached to its flagship 2-seat roadster supposedly standing for “Sport” and “Light.”  But with the launch of the all-new 2013 Mercedes SL, those words – and initials finally take on their true meaning.

After months of peering at grainy spy shots and teaser images we can finally present the first official shots of the new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL – while reporting that the next-gen roadster will be as much as 300 pounds lighter, depending on trim, than the outgoing SL line.

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The new roadster will make its formal debut at the Detroit Auto Show little more than three weeks from now but here’s a first peek.

Visually, it’s an all-new look, with the 2013 SL borrowing many of its cues from the maker’s flagship SLS supercar, including the more upright grille and headlamps – though you might also perceive a few subtle details lifted from the small Mercedes SLK.

The new SL550 will feature a downsized V-8 that still delivers 12% more power.

The hood and body side panels are more deeply sculpted than the outgoing SL, with the overall look meant to portray a car that is more nimble, as well as elegant.  The maker says it put a premium on aerodynamics, as well as weight, which should mean improved performance, better mileage and, it claims, interior noise levels “virtually on a par with a closed sedan.”

The driving strategy behind the development of the new SL was simple, proclaims Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of the Mercedes brand and Chairman of parent Daimler AG, “the best or nothing.”

While we’ll have to wait for a test drive to see if the maker achieved its goal it clearly did more than just dress up the old SL platform in a new skin.  The 2013 roadster development program aimed to take weight out wherever possible, and the new model is the German maker’s first production car to adopt an all-aluminum body shell.  That saves about 242 pounds, the maker says.

The new Mercedes SL debuts 60 years after the original SL roadster.

“The effect is as if a large passenger has stepped out of the car” says Dr. Thomas Rudlaff, responsible for the aluminum bodyshell at Mercedes-Benz. “The result is perceptible and measurable. Less weight means improved performance and efficiency. In other words, the driving pleasure increases and the environmental impact decreases.”

Only a small few components are made of steel – high-strength steel tubing used in the A-pillars, for example, for rollover strength — and they were counter-balanced by the integration of even lighter magnesium for such key pieces as the cover panel behind the fuel tank and roof.

A look inside the new SL

While we’ll have to wait for some details, we’ve learned that the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 will feature a 4.7-liter V-8 making 429 horsepower – about 12% more than the 8-banger in the outgoing roadster, even though it’s 0.8 liters smaller in displacement.  Paired with a 7-speed adapative automatic gearbox it will also adopt fuel-saving Stop/Start technology as standard equipment.  On the performance side, Mercedes claims 0 to 60 times have been cut nearly a full second to 4.5 seconds.

The SL will offer two different suspensions, the Agility Control package the standard feature.  An Active Body Control, or ABC, suspension is optional.  The new SL also will adopt a new electromechanical Direct-Steer system that can vary its ratio depending upon steering angle.

The 2013 SL will feature Mercedes' first series production use of an aluminum body shell.

Mercedes claims two firsts for the new SL, including FrontBass, which mounts a subwoofer in the floor in front of the driver, rather than in back, and Magic Vision Control. That system eliminates the normally messy windshield wiper sprayer, fluid instead flowing out of the wipers directly onto the windshield.

The new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 will roll into U.S. showrooms by spring, almost precisely 60 years after the launch of the original SL.

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