New 2021 Mercedes SL roadster promises to be a driver’s car

New Mercedes SL will be lighter and stiffer than the previous model for improved handling

  • SL to be Mercedes’ flagship convertible
  • Aggressive styling previewed
  • All-new lightweight platform is more rigid than outgoing model

As the 2021 Mercedes SL roadster nears production, the brand has revealed further details of the car’s new platform and lightweight body.

The new seventh-generation SL is being developed by Mercedes’ AMG performance division, so we expect it to be a more driver-focused car than the outgoing model. It will be available with 4MATIC+ four-wheel drive for the first time in the model’s history, a system that has already been introduced to several of Mercedes’ high-performance models, including the AMG A 45 hatchback and the E 63 saloon and estate.

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When it launches, the new SL will replace the now-discontinued Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet. Prices are likely to start at around £85,000 and the SL will be a direct rival to the BMW 8 Series Convertible.

2021 Mercedes SL roadster: chassis and construction

According to Mercedes, the underpinnings of the new SL is constructed from a mix of aluminium, steel, magnesium and fibre composites to reduce weight, with the bare platform pictured above weighing in at only 270kg.

The platform’s design is entirely new from the ground up, with no parts or elements carried over from current or outgoing models. The body is more rigid than the current AMG GT Roadster model as well, with 50% more rigidity across the width and a 40% improvement across its overall length. Mercedes says the car’s rigidity improvements make it more agile to drive and more precise, with less body lean during cornering.

Further improvements have been made to make the new SL better to drive, including a lower centre of gravity. To achieve this, the engine sits lower and closer to the centre of the car. Mounting points for the front and rear axles and subframes are lower than before too.

Styling

In the most recent spy shots, the AMG influence on the styling of the SL is clear to see, with the ‘Panamerica’ front radiator grille and squared quad exhaust system that are reserved exclusively for AMG models.

The front end appears to feature a slightly squared-off nose, sharp bonnet creases, large air intakes and an upswept headlight design. Large alloy wheels are fitted, with flared front and rear arches giving the car an aggressive stance.

A rear diffuser was also visible through the camouflage and an electronically deployable rear spoiler also features, along with narrow rear light clusters that appear to be similar to the recently launched S-Class. The car will probably borrow other styling cues from the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe. The biggest change for this model will be a fabric roof instead of a folding metal one.

The SL will be sold as a ‘2+2’, meaning the rear seats will be good for short journeys or children. The boot should also be bigger because a folded fabric roof is more compact than a folded metal version. Switching to a soft top brings weight and centre-of-gravity benefits, too.

Engines and performance

The engine range is likely to start with an entry-level SL 43 model powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, while a more powerful SL 63 model is likely to use the 604bhp twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine from the E63 line-up. It’s thought mild-hybrid technology will feature, and a plug-in hybrid can’t be ruled out either. Mercedes is working on an electrified powertrain with around 800bhp for the AMG GT 4-door, and this seems a strong candidate for the SL - especially as AMG will produce hybrid models of every car it launches.

Interior and technology

The interior will receive a welcome refresh; the current car has been on sale since 2012 and looks very dated inside when compared with any Mercedes on sale right now, let alone the Mercedes S-Class. We expect it’ll follow the lead of the new S-Class, with a massive portrait touchscreen running the firm’s latest MBUX infotainment system.

As a flagship model, we’d expect the new SL to get all of Mercedes’s latest safety technology, including features like adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition and a driver alertness monitor. New driver assistance tech is likely to include blind-spot monitoring and lane change assist.

See where the outgoing;Mercedes S-Class places on our list of most innovative cars.

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