Currently reading: New 2021 Mercedes-Benz SL drops disguise in latest images
AMG in charge of reborn sports car, which is undergoing dynamic testing ahead of arrival next year
5 mins read
12 October 2020

New spy shots give us our best look yet at the upcoming eighth-generation Mercedes-Benz SL ahead of is official reveal next year.

The prototype bears a strong resemblance to that which featured in official images released by Mercedes earlier this year, but for the first time the roadster's removable roof can be seen undisguised. The SL shows a clear family resemblance to the AMG GT, while a sporty new exhaust tip design suggests this is the top-rung SL63 variant.

It's not clear what material the roof is made from, but camouflage on previous protoypes seemingly confirmed Autocar’s previous reporting that the SL will arrive with a traditional fabric hood in place of the folding hard-top arrangement that has been used for the past two incarnations.

The SL is set to be revived as a lighter, faster and more engaging model partly inspired by the brand’s motorsport roots, which is why overall development duties have been assigned to the AMG performance division. It will be the first time AMG has overseen development of any SL across its previous seven generations.

Under its thinning camouflage, the SL shows off a long, sloping bonnet, prominent rear haunches and an angular front grille design. The rounded rear end is similar to that of the Mercedes-AMG GT sports car, which will share a platform with the SL in its next iteration.

Last year, then-AMG boss Tobias Moers confirmed that the SL, which will go on sale by 2021, will be “aligned” with the next AMG GT. The duo's shared aluminium-intensive platform, known as the Modular Sports Architecture (MSA), will increase the economies of scale and overall profitability of two of Mercedes’ most exclusive model lines.

“We’re bringing back the historic DNA of the SL," he said. "It's far sportier [this time round]. It will have a perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort, because it’s still kind of a cruiser, too.”

He also confirmed that the eighth-generation SL would be offered only as a roadster, like its predecessor. It is expected to go on sale in the UK towards the end of 2021.


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SL and GT sharing

As well as sharing a common platform structure, the two upmarket Mercedes sports cars are expected to share axle assemblies, suspension, steering systems, 48V electric architecture and hybrid drivetrains, among other components, in a move to cut costs and boost production efficiency. The new SL and GT will be built alongside each other at Mercedes’ plant in Sindelfingen, Germany.

Early plans to base a successor to the smaller SLC off the same underpinnings have been abandoned following a recent decision not to replace the junior Mercedes roadster due to dwindling sales.

Early prototypes of the new SL were spied testing on track with the new platform underneath a shortened S-Class Coupé body. They gave away little about the car’s mechanical set-up, which is rumoured to run a transaxle arrangement with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox integrated within the rear axle assembly, like on the GT. However, the overall dimensions of the engineering mules suggest the production version will be slightly larger than the existing SL, which is 4630mm long, 1870mm wide and 1310mm tall.

The adoption of the MSA platform is claimed to have had a positive effect on the styling of the new SL, whose proportions are said to be more in keeping with earlier incarnations of the classic roadster than the current model, which shares a platform with saloon models such as the C-Class, E-Class, CLS and S-Class.

A Mercedes source told Autocar that the new SL receives a longer bonnet and more rearward-positioned cabin, which were visible in the most recent images. “The new platform has given us more freedom,” the source said. “There’s more distance between the front axle and the front firewall. This gives it more traditional proportions.”

The decision to replace the folding hard-top of today’s SL with a more compact fabric hood is also said to have provided greater scope in the styling of the rear of the new model. “It’s much more shapely, especially at the rear, because it is no longer dictated in height and width for the packaging of the hard-top roof,” the source added.

In a further departure from today’s model, it is also expected that Mercedes will provide the 2020 SL with a 2+2 seating layout. Autocar has been told that AMG is keen to give the new SL the same sort of practicality as the Porsche 911, with a set of rear seats capable of accommodating adults for short journeys or, alternatively, luggage as an extension of its boot.

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SL to get hybrid line-up

Mercedes plans to offer the SL with a limited range of hybridised in-line six-cylinder and V8 petrol engines in a line-up that’s likely to include both standard and AMG models.

The range is understood to start with an SL 450 EQ Boost model running a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder developing around 365bhp, along with an added 22bhp in combination with an integrated starter motor.

Further up will be the SL 53, which will run a more powerful AMG-tuned version of the SL450 EQ Boost’s mild-hybrid drivetrain with around 430bhp and added 22bhp through electric assistance.

Among the V8-powered models will be the SL 500 EQ Boost. It is due to receive a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 with a similar power output to the SL 53, but significantly more torque. Topping the range will be the SL 63. It is likely to be offered in two states of tune, with the most powerful model running a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 capable of in excess of 600bhp and more than 30bhp of electric boost. It is unclear if Mercedes will continue with the V12-powered SL, although, given the potential output of the SL 63, it would seem unlikely.

All engines for the new SL will come as standard with Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic gearbox, with the AMG variants set to adopt the Speedshift electronics package for faster shift times. Suggestions are that Mercedes could offer 4Matic four-wheel drive alongside standard rear-wheel drive, although this has yet to be confirmed.

Despite the SL’s market repositioning, it won’t completely abandon the luxury focus, so expect the interior to be almost as opulent as Mercedes’ other high-end models. It will be more driver-focused than cars such as the S-Class Coupé, but there could still be plenty of the brand’s latest driver assist systems drafted in, including its semi-autonomous Drive Pilot function.

Additional reporting by Rachel Burgess

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Join the debate


1 October 2018

AKA cost-cutting, but all those fat golfers want a cushy ride.

5 October 2018

Soon their number 1 choice will be the Tesla roadster 

25 January 2020

Soon their number 1 choice will be the Tesla roadster 

Yeah if they're idiots

1 October 2018

Present model and the BMW Z series are so girly cars. Sorry if any you guys out there have one, but I always try to get a peep of the face beind the wheel. If its not a should have been lol, but this is much more bisexual and even has the hormones to please everyone

18 April 2019

Nice bit of casual sexism / homophobia there! If your car makes you feel like a real man - good for you. 

(rolling eyes)



24 April 2019

Are you some sort of throwback from a different era? One of misogynistic, homophobic judgment where a car is better when driven by a man. 

1 October 2018

Copy their look; it's almost perfect!   Better than the new Z4.


Is the Mercedes SL going to be the cool car to have over the BMW?   A freind gave me a go of hers' and I've got to say it was rather good actually.   Was also in an E-Class, in the rear getting driven from the airport, and it was superb.


I'm really not a fan of Mercedes (I'm neutral) but their products have really impressed me of late.

1 October 2018

Apart from recent AMG-engined versions, when has the SL in its previous generations ever been vaguely sporting. It is/was a Californian boulevard cruiser that was never happy anywhere near a race track.

1 October 2018

 Bit jelly mould, don’t like Chrome strip on rump, quite like reshape of Window behind B’ pilllar, and that’s about it....I’m not a fan I’m afraid.

19 April 2019
Peter, what is the point in commenting on an Autocar drawing?


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