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New Mercedes-AMG SL continues the legend

 Published 29th November 2021
General Guides  New Launches 

The hero returns, hurtling out of the sun in a flash of light and dragging the sound of thunder in its wake. The world is saved, and innocent children and small fluffy animals everywhere can once again sleep safely in their beds. At least that's the impression you get reading the presentation material for the new Mercedes-AMG SL.

You could argue that Mercedes has given the hyperbole department free reign. But you could also argue that the AMG version of the SL really is one of the most iconic sports cars in the world, and that the latest edition really is a stupendously exciting thing to behold.

Almost 70 years ago, the decision from Mercedes-Benz to grow the brand through motor racing produced the first SL. It worked. In its debut year of 1952, the 300 SL produced a spectacular one-two victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and took the first four places in the Nürburgring Grand Jubilee Prize for sports cars. In 1954, the magnificent 300 SL “Gullwing” was born and the SL legend was etched into motoring consciousness. To this day, the letters SL still denote automotive royalty.

The latest version definitely isn't packed with 1950s technology though.

The defining characteristics of the SL remain. The long wheelbase, short overhangs, sweeping bonnet, and the seats set way back over the powerful rear end. Sculpted wheel arches and the way the massive alloy wheels sit flush with the outer skin give the car an aggressive edge to the overall looks. The AMG-specific radiator grille emphasises the effect of width of the front and, with its 14 vertical slats, gives a nod to the original 300 SL racing sports car from 1952. Other distinctive touches include the razor-thin LED headlamps and the equally sharp LED rear lamps.

Mercedes-AMG SL

Hard top to soft top

The one change you might notice from the previous SL is the return to the classic soft top. Not only does it enhance the roadster looks, but Mercedes also took the opportunity to save a big chunk of weight and lower the centre of gravity, which suggests the new version is going to be even “sportier”. It's a quick roof too. You can pop the roof up or down in just 15 seconds, and at speeds up to 37mph.

It's not just the fabric roof that suggests Mercedes-AMG has focused on performance and handling in the new SL.

The chassis is a lightweight composite aluminium affair, and the brand-new body shell is full of things like aluminium, magnesium, and fibre composites, as well as a bit of steel where the strength is really needed around the windscreen and roll bar system for safety. The new SL is lighter and stiffer than the previous model so it should change direction like a housefly.

It also features active aerodynamics with a perfect balance between low drag for speed, and reduced lift for stability. There's something called “Airpanel” on the new SL, which features a series of louvres behind the air intakes that channel air into the engine for cooling only when it's needed. The rest of the time they remain closed, which then channels the air underneath the car to reduce drag and hold the car steady at speed.

Mercedes-AMG SL

F1-style aerodynamics

Hidden underneath the car is another optional aerodynamic element that Mercedes has applied its racing expertise to. A carbon component tucked underneath and just in front of the engine, reacts to the setting of the AMG driving modes and automatically extends downwards as the speed increases. This creates the venturi effect, which is basically what sucks a racing car down onto the track and allows it to tackle bends at ridiculous speeds. The retractable boot spoiler serves a similar purpose at the rear, adapting to the speed to maximise traction or minimise drag depending on the circumstances. And in the case of the SL, that boot spoiler starts to rise up and do its thing at around 50mph, so it's not going to be a dead giveaway to the local constabulary if you accidentally wear your lead-filled shoes one day.

But be warned, Mercedes has made lead-filled shoes completely unnecessary in the new SL. We've kept you waiting long enough so let's get to the really interesting bit: what's hidden beneath that swooping bonnet.

At launch, the new Mercedes-AMG SL will be available in two versions. Both will feature the same hand-built, 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine, but with a few minor differences.

In the SL 55 4MATIC+ you will have to make do with a paltry 476bhp. With that you'll have to be satisfied with a positively glacial top speed of 183mph, and a sprint to 60mph that takes an absolute eternity (or 3.9 seconds). If such pitiful figures are beneath you, we're going to suggest you should probably lease the range-topping SL 63 4MATIC+ instead. That gives you a much more practical 585bhp, a sprint time of 3.6 seconds for easy overtaking, and a much more manageable top speed of 195mph.

We are, of course, joking.

Both versions are appropriately powerful to wear the AMG badge. You also get lots of other clever bits of engineering like all-wheel drive, a nine-speed automatic gearbox, active suspension and ride control, rear-wheel steering for lightning-fast cornering, and six driving modes to make the most of the comfort and performance you'd expect from an SL.

There isn't really much we can add at this point. It's a Mercedes-AMG SL. What more could you possibly want from your lease car?

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