Mercedes-Benz has released images of the upcoming SL roadster undergoing winter testing, ahead of its official reveal later this year.
The reborn convertible, which is set to be unveiled this summer, will square off against the Porsche 911 Cabriolet with a range of hybridised straight-six and V8 engine options.
These latest images show multiple SL variants side by side in minimal disguise, highlighting two different fabric roof options. This confirms Autocar’s previous reports 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.
Mercedes also confirmed that the 2+2-seat SL will be sold under the AMG brand only and will be offered with fully variable 4Matic+ all-wheel drive. While much of the SL's development was handled virtually, final on-road testing will soon include the north loop of the Nürburgring, hinting at the car's sporting ambition.
Previous spy images gave clues as to how different model variants will be told apart: prototypes with circular exhaust outlets are believed to be an entry-level hybrid variant - likely the SL 450 EQ Boost - while ones seen with more aggressive-looking pipes and raised rear spoiler are expected to be the top-rung SL 63 AMG.
The prototypes bear a strong resemblance to that which featured in official images released by Mercedes last year. The SL shows a clear family resemblance to the Mercedes-AMG GT, with a rounded rear end, long bonnet and a pair of slim horizontal rear light clusters.
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.
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 will be offered only as a roadster, like its predecessor. It is expected to go on sale in the UK towards the end of 2021.
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.