With just a few months to go until its official unveiling, the reborn Mercedes-Benz SL roadster has been spotted testing in less disguise.
The Porsche 911 Cabriolet rival is set to be unwrapped in summer ahead of a market launch towards the end of the year, with hybridised straight-six and V8 engine options joining the line-up. These most recent images give clues as to how different model variants will be told apart: the prototype with circular exhaust outlets is believed to be an entry-level hybrid variant - likely the SL 450 EQ Boost - while the other's more aggressive pipes and raised rear spoiler mark it out as the top-rung SL 63 AMG.
The prototypes bear a strong resemblance to that which featured in official images released by Mercedes last year, but now the roadster's removable roof can be seen undisguised. The SL shows a clear family resemblance to the AMG GT, with a rounded rear end, long bonnet and a pair of slim horizontal rear light clusters.
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.
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.
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.