Mercedes-Benz's famed SL nameplate is rooted in racing, but the models that have proudly worn it have tilted towards the grand tourer side of the convertible spectrum for decades. The next-generation roadster tentatively due out by the end of 2021 will reverse this trend, according to one of the company's top executives.
"For me, the most beautiful SL is the original, the 300. And, I think we've taken some of that DNA, starting with the proportions, the surface treatment, things like that. In that respect, the new SL is probably the closest to the first one ever," affirmed Gordon Wagener, the head of Mercedes' design department, in an interview with Autocar.
Enthusiasts who expect a retro-styled SL with pontoon fenders and hubcap-covered steel wheels will be disappointed. Wagener stressed he's "not a fan of retro designs," and that's not the direction the team of stylists he leads took the roadster in. Spy shots taken earlier in 2020 suggest its front and rear ends fall in line with the company's latest design language, and it ditches the current car's power-retractable hardtop for a soft top.
The change is significant, because it underlines the company's commitment to delivering a lighter, nimbler SL. It should weigh about 300 pounds less than the current model — which tips the scale at 3,826 pounds — thanks in part to the widespread use of aluminum in its construction. In turn, this will make it more engaging to drive. AMG is developing the car alongside the next-generation GT, though it's ensuring the two cars don't overlap.
"The GT is more of a race car, and the SL is more of a sports car. You will clearly see the differences," said Wagener. Both models will ride on the same basic platforms, according to earlier reports.
As we've previously reported, the seventh-generation SL is expected to offer over 800 horsepower and 735 pound-feet of torque in its most powerful configuration. These numbers will come from a plug-in hybrid powertrain built around an evolution of the twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 that powers the current model. The palette of available engines will also include a straight-six and a less powerful V8, but the mighty V12 won't return.
Additional details about the seventh-generation Mercedes-Benz SL will emerge in the coming months, and it might arrive in showrooms in time for the 2022 model year. In the meantime, the German firm is focusing on launching the next S-Class, which is scheduled to make its full debut by the end of 2020. The lineup will again include short- and long-wheelbase sedans, but the two-door coupe and convertible models will not be replaced.