2013 SL Revealed

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The speculation is over. Mercedes-Benz has revealed the next generation SL. Lighter, quicker and embodying clever new technology, the 2013 SL500 again raises the bar in the premium luxury roadster segment.

2013 SL Revealed
Evolution rather than Revolution for the new SL

We reported last month on developments for the next generation SL. While much technical information was forthcoming from Mercedes-Benz, non-camouflaged images were not. The bulky cladding intended to obscure the new SL’s true shape did not fully hide what seemed to be a conservative, evolutionary design. These just-released images of the final design confirm our suspicions.

Driven by EU mandated nose and hood design parameters, the shape of the new SL - along with those of arch rival BMW - certainly can't be described as sleek. The bulky coachwork is evident here. Ever taller wheel/tire combinations will be required to balance the design's mass.

EU pedestrian safety drives designs

Daimer AG chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche summed the SL’s position on the marketplace succinctly: “There are around 900 million cars in the world and thousands of models. But there are only a handful of automotive icons. Our SL is one of them.” Indeed.

We covered much of the new car’s fabulous technology in last month’s 2013 SL Update. The new SL500 is 125kg lighter and produces 53hp more than 2011’s edition. Technology marches on and the fact that the 2013 V6 SL350 – likely a Europe only edition – produces more power (306hp) than a 2006 V8 SL500 starkly illustrates this.

Is this new car as pure and attractive as the original R230 design introduced in spring of 2002 as a 2003 model? Arguably no. European designers had far more freedom during previous design cycles. Today, strict regulations regarding hood, bumper and grille design must be incorporated in any new model. By 2015, the EU demands that automakers’ products make collisions survivable when they occur between a pedestrian and a car moving at 40kph (24.9 mph).

“The new SL illustrates the conundrum of the regulations: How to marry the fundamentally chunky nose with an attractive and stylish midriff and tail.”

A fundamental driver in today’s designs is the mandated three inch clearance between mechanical items and the underside of a hood. This gap provides a crush zone to soften the blow when a pedestrian’s head contacts the hood when struck by a car. Future pedestrian safety measures may include ‘active’ hoods and infrared sensing technology. So, the bluff noses we see today on are here to stay.

Bluff nose sets the tone for the new SL's shape. We see some Ferrari 456 influence in the fender vent/rocker crease and side body peak line. Lower weight and a standard 435hp will make this new SL most rewarding to drive. Alloy unit body is a Mercedes-Benz first.

Prior generation R230 series design (SL65 here) was less restricted by design regulation. Low nose profile led the design. Note the rake of the nose, side view mirror placement and the notch down aft of the mirror to an aggressively raked beltline. Circular fuel filler door looks jarring today. This lean design is difficult to achieve given today's EU regulations.

Design Compromise

The new SL illustrates the conundrum of the regulations: How to marry the fundamentally chunky nose with an attractive and stylish midriff and tail. Interest in overall design harmony dictates the remaining aspects of the design should should remain, well…related. Hence tails and belt lines are expanding. Compare the new SL with the original 2003 R230 SL shape and all becomes clear.

Oh, we shouldn’t forget to mention Mercedes-Benz is also offering new apps for the new SL: in addition to a free news app and a Facebook app, there are optional Mercedes-Benz apps for stock prices and a car park finder. A Yelp app to look for restaurants is available for the US market. Yes, it’s a new world on all fronts for the latest SL…


Roy Spencer, editor MercedesHeritage.com
Photography from Daimler Media.

New SL engine technology.


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5 Responses to “2013 SL Revealed”

  1. It would seem the bureaucrats will, eventually, stifle all beauty, anywhere they may find it. Sad.

  2. by Paul Arenson on December 29th, 2011 9:06 am

    Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

  3. I like the “bluff nose”. It’s more aggressive looking than the previous model as a “sports car” should. The best part is it doesn’t look a bit like a Lexus/Nissan/Hyundai whose makers seem to have gone to the Aerobubble Blister school of design. Unfortunately the tail does look like everything else. Is that a Camry in front of us? The good news is you can punch the throttle and minimize the time anyone has to look at the rear of the car.

  4. Ray : What’s that ? punch the throttle and minimize the time anyone has to look at the rear…is that after you’ve hit someone ?

  5. […] Regardless, we and Mercedes-Benz are thankful for SL65 buyers, posers or otherwise. Were there no posers, there would be no 600+ hp SLs, or Lambo Aventadors or Corvette ZR1s and the automotive world would be much the poorer. With no supercars to eviscerate, Top Gear would likely go off the air which would be a shame. All we can say is bravo Mercedes-Benz for giving us outrageous, overpowered street cars. Some SL65 specifications follow. They will be available in September of this year and will be very expensive. For details on the extraordinary technology in the new generation of SL, click here. […]

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