2022 Mercedes-AMG SL gets a major makeover to take on the Porsche 911

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The seventh-generation SL has arrived to prove once and for all that the V8-powered roadster isn't dead. Making this point required undergoing a significant transformation: the SL now comes from Affalterbach rather than Stuttgart and it will exclusively be marketed by Mercedes-AMG. It also gains a power-folding cloth soft top, a pair of rear seats, and standard all-wheel-drive for the first time in its history.

In recent decades, the SL has been more of a grand tourer than a true sports car. This ends here, and the mutation starts with design. Its proportions have been completely rejigged. It's now characterized by a long hood, a short trunk lid, and short overhangs on both ends. Its front fascia falls perfectly in line with Mercedes-Benz's current design language by adopting angular headlights and the Panamericana grille mounted relatively low. Out back, horizontal rear lights are integrated into a more rounded panel, and there's a massive air diffuser.

Ditching the power-folding hard top has its merits. We're told the power-operated cloth unit weighs 46 pounds less, a reduction which lowers the center of gravity. It can be operated in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 37 mph, and buyers will have three colors to choose from.

From certain angles, the new SL looks like a logical evolution of the GT Roadster. AMG is quick to point out that it developed the model in-house from the ground up and that it does not share a single component with the last-generation SL or with the topless version of the GT.

While the SL was designed for performance, AMG couldn't help but include a big serving of technology. The driver faces a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the center stack is dominated by an 11.9-inch touchscreen that displays the latest generation of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system. Interestingly, the screen can be electronically tilted from 12 to 32 degrees to reduce glare.

Rear seats make a comeback in the SL after a long hiatus. It's a four-seater, but it's a four-seater in the same way that the Porsche 911 is a four-seater: we don't recommend putting adults back there. AMG notes the space can also be used as a storage compartment for golf bags.

At launch, the line-up will include two models called SL 55 and SL 63, respectively. Power for the 55 model comes from a 4.0-liter V8 that's twin-turbocharged to develop 469 horsepower from 5,500 to 6,500 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque between 2,250 and 4,500 rpm. Step up to the 63 and you'll unlock a more powerful version of the eight that develops 577 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. AMG pegs the 55's zero-to-60-mph time at 3.8 seconds, while the 63 can perform the same task in 3.5 seconds. Top speed hasn't been announced yet.

Power reaches the four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission linked to a pair of shift paddles and a performance-tuned 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system. The system is fully variable, meaning there's no set torque split between the front and rear axles; it distributes power as needed. Rear-wheel steering is standard on both models, and the 63 benefits from a limited-slip rear differential.

AMG announced that a hybrid system — likely the one inaugurated by the four-door GT — will be made available at a later date.

Mercedes-Benz dealers across the nation will begin receiving the 2022 SL during the first half of 2022. Pricing information hasn't been released, though we expect that it will cost more than the current model (which started at around $100,000) because it's AMG-only.

The 55's list of standard features will include the aforementioned MBUX software, Mercedes-Benz's AirScarf neck-level heating technology, sport seats for the front passengers, and a Burmester surround-sound system. Even if it costs six figures, buyers will be getting a lot for their money. Selecting the 63 will bring an Active Ride Control suspension system with a front-axle lift, active engine mounts, a head-up display, a driving mode named RACE, and yellow-painted brake calipers. Options? You want 'em, and the SL has 'em. Most of the 63's extra goodies can be added to the 55, including the front-axle lift, and 63 buyers can order a carbon fiber package, among other add-ons.

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