The reinvented Sport Leicht gains rear-wheel steering and a touchscreen that tilts forward. One of the longest-running nameplates in Mercedes’ portfolio, the SL has been around for nearly 70 years. The R232-generation model is finally here and it represents a great departure from its aging predecessor as basically everything has changed. From the platform and design to the technology and posh 2+2 interior, the new Sport Leicht rethinks the roadster’s formula for 2022.
Serving as a replacement for the GT Roadster as well, the new SL is no longer a Benz-branded model as it will be sold exclusively as an AMG. The styling follows the three-pointed star’s latest design language with a sharper exterior featuring the menacing Panamericana grille with vertical slats flanked by angular headlights similar to those of the CLS.
The sleek side profile features pop-out electronic door handles as on the latest S-Class, and by switching from a metal top to a three-layer fabric roof, the engineers shaved off about 46 pounds (21 kilograms) of weight. It boasts a heated rear window made of glass and the top can be folded or raised in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h). Making the roof significantly lighter has lowered the center of gravity, which should translate into better handling.
Moving at the back, quad exhausts flanking a diffuser denote we’re dealing with a high-performance AMG model. Wide taillights give the derrière an imposing look while the active rear spoiler is neatly integrated into the tailgate and comes with no fewer than six settings. On the subject of aero, Mercedes will sell the new SL with an optional Aerodynamic Package with beefier flics for both bumpers, active aero in the front underbody, and a chunkier rear diffuser.
Revealed in July, the leather-lined, four-seat interior and uses the latest MBUX infotainment system featuring a large portrait-oriented display. Measuring 11.9 inches, the touchscreen tilts forward (inclination from 12° to 32°) for ease of use and is joined by a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster as well as a head-up display with augmented reality tech.
As you would expect from a high-end Mercedes convertible, the Airscarf neck-level heating system with vents built into the front headrests comes as standard equipment on the new SL. It will be offered with an AMG Performance steering wheel and a choice between the standard electrically adjustable AMG sports seats or the optional AMG Performance seats.
The revamped SL will be available in the United States in SL 55 and SL 63 flavors, with both featuring a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine. The base model offers 469 horsepower (350 kilowatts) and 516 pound-feet (700 Newton-meters) of torque while the hotter variant dials output to a meaty 577 hp (430 kW) and 590 lb-ft (800 Nm).
For the first time ever, the SL is available with all-wheel drive, specifically the 4Matic+ setup with variable torque distribution and an electromechanically controlled clutch linking the permanently driven rear axle with the front wheels. The engine’s output is channeled to the road via a nine-speed automatic transmission equipped with a launch control function.
Optional on the SL 55 and standard on the SL 63, the electronically controlled limited-slip differential at the rear increases traction and stability of the BMW 8 Series Convertible rival during high-speed cornering. The roadster also benefits from rear-wheel steering to reduce the turning circle and sharpen up handling.
Mercedes-AMG isn’t willing to talk about pricing and availability at this point, but we’re expecting the new SL for the 2022 model year.