Yes, the first Mercedes SL was a racing car, an intricate tubular trellis space chassis under a body with its doors hinged at the top. The engine was a 3.0-liter overhead six-cylinder with direct injection when most manufacturers had never even considered injection, direct or otherwise. It was daring, beautiful, mean. Above all, the W198 Gullwing Coupe was a winner. As in it’s won. Many.
Every SL since the first has been something different, machines of elegance and sophistication, but rarely aggressiveness. They were Mercedes-Benzes built for the titans of industry and entertainment. Entrepreneurs loved them and inherited riches wore them like bespoke tuxedo jackets. Now here’s the latest SL, the R232, and it’s not even a Mercedes-Benz at all.
No, this SL is a Mercedes-AMG. Benz lost his memory, as the development of the open car was transferred to the buttoned lunatics of the performance store. Every new 2022 SL – whether it’s an SL 55 or SL 63 – carries AMG’s “Panamericana” ridged grille. In a way, the design is a throwback, mimicking the W194 300 SL endurance racer in 1952 who first carried the style. And the last big factory victory for the original W194 Gullwing was a shout across Mexico in the 1952 Carrera Panamericana.
This seventh (or eighth if you count the first 300 SL roadster as a separate model from the Gullwing) generation SL is also the first to have four seats. And the first open version not offered with at least one removable hardtop. The new rear seats are actually more theoretical than the seats. Like in a 911, this is a place to throw a gym bag or let a dog lie down. What holds them back for passengers is that most human beings are equipped with legs.
The R232 was also the first SL with all-wheel drive. And it’s only available with all-wheel drive. Like so many German blitzenwagens (that could be a word in German) with massively powerful turbocharged V8s, four-wheel drive is practically a safety feature. If the goal is to burn-out blazingly, go buy a Dodge.
The 55 and 63 trim levels are powered by AMG’s twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. With the turbos tucked between the rows of cylinders, the SL 63 goes wild with 585 horsepower. The SL 55 uses the same engine with an output of 476 horsepower. The 63 gets extra boost pressure and goose software to provide the extra oomph.
The torque production is prodigious. The 63 peaks at 800 newton-meters between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. That’s 590 pound-feet of growl in American terms. The 55 is down to 700 newton-meters, which translates to 516 pound-feet. Both SL models use the nine-speed AMG “Speedshift” transmission which uses a “wet start clutch” in place of a conventional torque converter. The all-wheel drive system is the familiar 4Matic + system that distributes torque serenely to all four wheels based on a computer’s assessment of the current traction temperament.
On a press reader, there are so many opportunities to rate a vehicle as mechanically sophisticated as the new SL. There was no rain around Palm Springs, Calif., And there was no runway for hard launches. With that in mind, this big beast feels quite capable of beating the 3.6 seconds 0-100 km / h (62 mph) times AMG’s claims for the 63. And the 55 feels faster than the. 3.9 ticks AMG says it can do it.
But it’s not the engine that’s the most impressive for this AMG creation. This is a brand new chassis that does not share any parts with previous SLs and is only remotely linked to other Mercedes products. It is an AMG native platform that uses five links at all four corners. The five linkage systems aren’t new to Mercedes, but AMG has now stuffed them under the nose of the car. Not just under the nose, but in the front wheels themselves. For suspension fetishists, this is great.
For those of us who are less obsessed with the design of the suspension, what matters is how precisely everything works on this wide-beam brute. It’s Lawrence Taylor who arrives at the ends to infiltrate the athletic backfield. All-wheel drive kills some of the kicks that come with great horsepower, and too much feedback that makes a machine engaging, but it’s an open-top roadster that helps tackle corners like few others. convertibles. It’s not as instantaneous in its reflexes as a Porsche 911, but it makes up for that with better ride quality. It has a structural integrity oddly reminiscent of the large (and much cheaper) Honda S2000, but with a much more accommodating and luxurious interior.
There are a lot of technologies that make something this big so nimble. Active suspension control, hydraulic anti-roll stabilization, and rear wheel steering all contribute to this. It can be intimidating to consider maintaining something so complex over a decade or more of ownership. So, have your business rent it for you and pull out at the end of the term. This is not a car for plutocrats who are reluctant to capitalize on their success. Partnership agreements have to be designed as complex as this car.
Yes, it would be better if the engine had a more exciting character like AMG’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. Of course, it would be more fun with the rear wheel drive. And no, a turbo V-8 doesn’t deliver the same satin linens and smooth sounds as a V-12. But this? It’s pretty damn good too.
And a hybrid is promised for the near future. Why not wait? Or why wait?
All the gadgets you’d expect from a six-figure car are taken care of. The interior is more comfortable than any suite in any hotel on the peninsula; the seats are covered with leather upholstery sufficiently buttery to spread over brioche toast; and there’s an on-board audio system that’s so intimidating you’ll want better ears. None of this comes as a surprise.
But there is still something a little soulless about this new SL. Perhaps we are all now bound by the SL expectations forged in youth. For this old writer it is the delicate and easy going W113 Pagoda-roof SL made between 1963 and 1971. With a stroke of affection for the indomitable R107 from 1971 to 1989 and Bruno Sacco’s masterpiece R129 from 1989 to 2001. They are so much of a part of their time that they have become timeless.
The R232 is impressive. But timeless is still a tricky trick to pull. Maybe a little Benz would help.
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