Here’s a Holiday Season teaser for you. What do the letters ‘SL’ – as in Mercedes-Benz SL – stand for? If you said ‘Sexy Lines’ you’d be, er, wrong.
SL actually stands for ‘Sport Leicht’ which, pronounced in your finest guttural German, translates into ‘Sport Lightweight.’
Only trouble is, it’s been quite a few decades since the SL has been anywhere close to being light in weight. Maybe that oh-so-cute ‘60’s 230SL with its funky pagoda-style hardtop, was the last true Jenny Craig Benz SL.
All that changes with the stupendous new 2013 SL that gets its global debut at next month’s Detroit auto show and lands in showrooms Stateside just in time for Spring. How come? It boasts a bodyshell made from a weight-saving, lightweight aluminum.
Crafting the body in aluminum reportedly saves an impressive 242 pounds – roughly the size of the average linebacker – compared to making the same thing in steel. When it comes to delivering zippy performance and improved fuel economy, shedding poundage is a good thing.
As you’ll see from the photos, the Benz design folks have done a fine job of re-sculpting the lines of this iconic two-seater. As predicted, it steals design cues from the thundering Mercedes SLS supercar, especially in the front-end, to add plenty of visual muscle and a bulldog stance.
Disappointingly, it’s grown in size – why does everything have to be supersized? Now it has gained almost two inches nose to tail and two-and-a-quarter in the beam so as to accommodate our spreading waistlines. But it does mean more interior space for shoulders and elbows.
As before, this new SL comes with folding hardtop, which now glides effortlessly into the trunk space in a super-fast 20 seconds. It’s also available with Mercedes’ quite brilliant ‘Magic Sky Control’ glass roof that goes from transparent to dark at the flick of a switch.
This super-smart technology was first introduced on Merc’s smaller SLK sports car and works a treat. It protects against mid-day Florida sun, but makes driving on a star-lit Florida night quite breathtaking.
At launch, just one engine will be on offer – a new 4.6-liter direct injection V8 – that, for some strange reason powers the new SL550 model. I guess calling it the SL460 doesn’t sound quite so impressive.
It sounds like a fabulous engine. Compared to the previous version, it packs an impressive 429 horsepower despite having 0.8-liters less displacement. But most impressive is the increase from 391 lb-ft of torque to a whopping 516 lb-ft. That’s a 32 percent hike.
Now when you hit the gas, zero-to-60mph sprinting is covered in just 4.5 seconds – down from 5.3 of the previous SL550. This puppy is quick.
And as you’d expect, this new SL is packed with cool new technology. Everything from new wipers that sprays just the right amount of water in front of the wiper, to bodyshell cavities that act as audio system woofers, to a trunk lid that opens and closes with a swing of the foot.
No word on pricing yet, but don’t expect too much of a change from the current base MSRP of $103,650. Spring can’t come a moment too soon.