Mercedes' classic drop top gets a refresh for Los Angeles
In the world of roadsters, none are quite as well-known as the Mercedes SL. The nameplate has been around since 1954, and has graced the flanks of brilliant coupes and convertibles across the 61 years since its foundation. For the latest update, Mercedes hasn't messed with the formula too much. Instead, the German brand has tidied up the design of its current model, and packed in suspension technology that tilts the car into bends.
There might be plenty of new technology under the skin, but Mercedes hasn't changed things too much on the outside. The old car always looked slightly awkward up front, so the new car has had its bulbous nose tidied up with new LED headlights and a diamond grille, while the car's bonnet has been given two "power domes" to invoke a connection between classic SLs and the new model.
The SL has also been fitted out with Active Body Control, a system that tilts the car into corners for sharper handling. The system is able to lean by 2.65 degrees, and it lowers the car by 13 mm at high speeds for favourable aerodynamics. If you're particularly keen to take your sports convertible off road, you can also raise the ride height by 50 mm (1.97 in)
While the rest of the world is working on downsizing, Mercedes has stuck with bigger V6 and V8 engines for its classic convertible cruiser. Underneath the SL400's long, low bonnet is a V6 with 270 kW (367 hp) and 500 Nm (369 ft lb) of torque – that's an extra 25 kW (35 hp) and 20 Nm compared to the car it replaces.
If you're not the sort of person who likes base models, the SL500's V8 makes 335 kW (455 hp), which is enough to shoot it from 0-100km/h (62 mph) in just 4.3 seconds – 0.6 seconds faster than the V6 model. Both engines are hooked up to a new nine-speed automatic gearbox with five different shift modes.
For power-hungry buyers, AMG's engineers in Affalterbach offer up the V8-powered, 430 kW (585 hp) SL63 AMG alongside the V12 SL65, which is packing an extra 33 kW (45 hp) an a ridiculous 1000 Nm of torque.
There's not much difference between the two AMGs when you line them up on a runway, because the less powerful V8 takes 4.1 seconds to hit 100 km/h, just 0.1 of a second more than the V12. What's more, both cars are electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), which means there's no real performance benefit to paying more for the SL65.
As you'd expect, choosing the V12 does carry an environmental penalty: the SL 65 uses 11.9 l/100km (19.8 mpg), which is 2.1 l/100km worse than the SL 63 V8 manages - then again if you're driving an SL, you're probably not going to struggle to pay the fuel bill.
To bring the SL's technology into line with the rest of the range, Mercedes has fitted the car out with its full suite of active safety features. That means auto braking assist, lane-keeping assist, blind spot warning and Steering Pilot, which is able to keep the car in the middle of its lane on straight roads and slight bends when you've got cruise control turned on.
The updated SL is on display at the Los Angeles Motor Show, where Gizmag is on the ground covering all the action.