What do you do when the market for sports cars and convertibles has all but dried up?
Many have wondered whether Mercedes-Benz might walk away from its SL roadster line but, it seems, that isn’t going to happen. Instead, the German automaker is doubling down with an all-new model and it’s offering some fresh insight into what’s coming.
You’ll have to use your imagination a bit, as today’s news release gives us a sort of X-ray look at the next-generation SL. But the focus on the underlying body structure is significant because it reveals a lot about what the new roadster will be like thanks to a spaceframe that’s both stiffer and significantly lighter.
“The development team in our bodyshell design area was faced with an extremely appealing, but also challenging task: when we were commissioned to undertake the overall development of the new SL,” said Jochen Hermann, chief technical officer of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.
A mix of materials
The roots of the Mercedes-Benz SL date back to 1952, when the automaker adopted the revolutionary spaceframe approach for a new roadster that would be the envy of the competition. Over the years, of course, the two-seater would become heavier and more complex, among other things adopting a folding hardtop roof, rather than the original ragtop design.
The German automaker attempted to get back to a simpler version with the 1996 launch of the smaller SLK. But, wary of declining demand, it pulled the plug on that model a couple years back, leading some to suspect the SL would follow off into the sunset.
Insead, said Hermann, “We started from scratch, so to speak, without building on any existing structure. We can be justifiably proud of the result, which proves, once again, the high level of development competence in Affalterbach. On the one hand we have managed to reconcile the high package demands, while on the other we have been able to achieve excellent rigidity values in all areas in conjunction with a favorable weight, so providing the basis for agile driving dynamics and exceptional comfort.”
Back to its Sport Leicht roots
By bringing together a mix of aluminum, steel, magnesium, and composites, Hermann’s team claims to have shaved plenty of mass off the next-gen SL. The emphasis on lightweighting makes sense, of course, as it not only enhances fuel economy and performance, but also falls in line with the fact that SL is short, in German, for Sport Leicht, or Sport Light.
The new spaceframe weighs in at 595 pounds. Exactly how much weight will be saved overall hasn’t been revealed yet. And it’s likely that the next SL will have to add mass for new safety features, as well as all the tech gear and creature comforts today’s buyers demand.
The development team does note that the multi-material approach will pay off in another way, a news release from Mercedes noting that, “Compared to the previous model series, the torsional stiffness of the bodyshell structure increased by 18 percent. The transverse rigidity is 50% higher than that of the AMG GT Roadster, while the longitudinal rigidity is 40% higher.”
New SL roadster to debut later this year
Add a lower center of gravity and the new SL should show marked improvements in performance and handling. Spy shots indicate the next-gen SL will return to a ragtop, a move that, on its own, would further reduce weight and lower the car’s CG.
Expect to see more about the 2022 Mercedes-Benz SL in the months ahead, with the new roadster to formally debut later this year.