The upcoming Mercedes SL will be based on the same platform as the firm's AMG GT models in a bid to boost sales through higher performance
15 December 2016

The next Mercedes-Benz SL is set to be built on the same platform as the AMG GT models, in a move aimed at providing with the new roadster with added performance potential and dynamic flair following dwindling sales of the current model.

The switch in platform follows a decision by Mercedes to hand the lead engineering responsibilities for the new SL to AMG, which has secretly been developing the upmarket roadster at its Stuttgart headquarters in a development programme running parallel to its own GT roadster, first revealed at the Paris motor show in September.

The shared platform will provide AMG with greater economies of scale in development, production procurement and engineering operations, according to sources familiar with the German car maker’s future new model plans.

They say the decision to twin the SL with the GT has allowed AMG to channel resources into further derivatives of the GT, including a planned hard-core Black Series model that will sit above the recently introduced GT R at the very top of the Mercedes-Benz performance car division’s line-up when it is launched later this decade.

Arriving in 2019

Scheduled for introduction in 2019, the new rear-wheel drive SL will adopt the same underpinnings as the two-year-old GT coupe and its more recent roadster with a front longitudinally mounted engine and transaxle mounted at the rear for optimal weight distribution.

The new driveline layout replaces the more conventional E-Class based set-up used in the past two generations of the SL.

In further synergies between the SL and the GT line-up, the new upmarket roadster is also set to feature a specially tuned version of its AMG sibling’s largely aluminium double wishbone suspension system, with the likelihood of an optional Air Body Control set-up with multi chamber air plungers featuring on selected models.

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz SL

The Mercedes SL is perhaps the most splendid, single-minded luxury convertible in the world

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

Despite the common mechanical base, the new SL is planned to receive a less dramatic cab backwards silhouette than the GT roadster with the A-pillars set further forward to provide it with longer and more versatile interior.

Autocar can also confirm the new SL will also receive an aluminium body structure and the carbon fibre torque tube from the GT in a move, insiders suggest, will see a substantial reduction in kerb weight in an effort aimed at providing the new model, which goes under the internal codename R233, with vastly improved performance and economy.

Further weight saving has come from a decision to replace the existing model’s folding aluminium roof structure with a more traditional fabric hood as part of an extensive restyle for the eighth incarnation of the classic Mercedes-Benz model, whose roots can be traced back to the original SL launch in 1954.

Plans to resurrect the SL coupe

Along with the SL roadster, Mercedes is also mulling plans for resurrection of the SL coupe. If approved, the eighth-generation SL will be the first to feature such a model since the fourth-generation SL in 1981.  

In a move that harks back to the fourth-generation model launched in 1971, Mercedes bosses have also provided the greenlight to plans to provide the new SL with a two-plus-two interior layout.

Autocar has been told the space behind the front row of seats will be used for the integration of two small rear seats complete with three-point harnesses – a move an AMG insider suggests is aimed at seeing the new SL more closely rival the Porsche 911 cabriolet for all-round load carrying ability. 

The new SL will come with the choice of two direct injection petrol engines in varying states of tune. Included is Mercedes' new M256 in-line six-cylinder complete with an integrated electric motor with up to 15kW that acts as a starter generator for mild hybrid properties.

Featuring an electrically driven turbocharger powered by a 48-volt electrical system as well as a conventional gas driven turbocharger, the recently unveiled 3.0-litre unit kicks out 402bhp in an initial standard tune, or some 40bhp more than the solder turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine used by the existing SL400.

A more highly tuned version of the new in-line six-cylinder petrol engine is also planned to feature in a mid-range E50-badged AMG Performance version of the new SL with up to 450bhp.

Also earmarked to power the new SL is Mercedes-Benz’s M176 petrol engine. A development of the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 originally unveiled in the GT, it is planned to replace the twin-turbocharged 4.6-litre V8 M278 designated engine used by the existing SL500. Set to make its debut in a facelifted version of the S-Class in April, the new unit is claimed to deliver over 470bhp in an initial state of tune.

E63 engine to be used further up the range

Further up the new SL line-up will be the M177 engine recently unveiled underneath the bonnet of the E63. As with the less heavily tuned M176, it features two twin-scroll turbochargers and AMG’s cylinder management system allowing it to close down four cylinders on part throttle loads for added fuel savings. Set to replace the twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 in a replacement for the SL63, the new engine, which is assembled by hand at AMG’s Affalterbach operations near Stuttgart, develops 603bhp in the new E63.

Meanwhile, the future of the range topping SL600 and SL65 remains unclear. Mercedes-Benz officials contacted by Autocar suggest the high power output of the latest twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engines combined with ever tightening emission regulations has raised doubts on whether the German car maker will provide the new SL with an updated version of its existing twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 petrol engine.

“From an image standpoint, it would be a great loss to the SL to go without the V12. However, the new V8 provides outstanding performance and economy – and there is still more to come from it in the future,” said an insider.

Read our review of the Mercedes-AMG E 63

Join the debate


15 December 2016
I don't think the looks of the current model has helped its cause, it looks oddly proportioned while not being particularly attractive to look at. Also, Mercedes appears to continue to try and sell the SL as a sports car when, despite its name, it has always been a GT and that's not helped its cause, especially with the advent of the GT which to many customers appears to be model duplication from Mercedes. So perhaps the focus for the next SL should be a proper Grand Tourer and even do a coupe version too in addition to a drop top. And make the interior more unique and special too as sitting in a SL feels like sitting in a Mercedes saloon!

15 December 2016
Stay at home mom Kelly Richards from New York after resigning from her full time job managed to average from $6000-$8000 a month from freelancing at home… This is how she done


15 December 2016
Firstly I agree with Saucerer - the current SL is just ugly, no two ways about it. It's possibly the ugliest SL ever.

Secondly where I disagree is that a coupe version is needed - no it's not, how will it exist between the S-Class Coupe and the AMG GT? Especially since the S Coupe also has 4 seats. This does not make sense to me, and will only serve to confuse potential customers. Also, a SL does NOT need to compete with a 911 for heaven's sake. And keep it a two seater with a reasonable boot - that's all that's needed from a GT.

Thirdly, to differentiate it from the S-Class Coupe/Cabrio, in terms of dynamics it must sit between the former and the AMG GT, but must NOT go 911 chasing.

Fourth, considering keeping a hard roof - maybe in carbon-fibre to keep weight down. If Ferrari and McLaren could have a lightweight hardtop developed, so could Merc. This will again differentiate it from the S-Class Cabrio.

Last but not least - make it beautiful.

15 December 2016
The SL always used to be the flagship sporty(ish) Merc, with all the SLR/SLS/AMG models above it, it's a bit overshadowed now...

15 December 2016
The large V12 is utterly critical to the range, just as it is to proper Ferraris. A 4.0 V8 will not do.

15 December 2016
Mikey C and eseaton were right. The Merc SL has been a bit overshadowed by its more glamourous sisters - the SLS and now the GT. Years ago, the SL was the epitome of Merc classy engineering - thanks partly to the V12. To push aside the SL to the sidelines, downgrading it to the V8 goes to show Merc's ignorance of its former flagship.

de_design2  l  Exclusively Bespoke®

15 December 2016
DdWorks wrote:

Mikey C and eseaton were right. The Merc SL has been a bit overshadowed by its more glamourous sisters - the SLS and now the GT. Years ago, the SL was the epitome of Merc classy engineering - thanks partly to the V12. To push aside the SL to the sidelines, downgrading it to the V8 goes to show Merc's ignorance of its former flagship.

I don't think even Merc's wealthiest customers are asking for a V12, otherwise there'd be a V12 AMG GT by now. A good V8 would do, within a good looking car, and the current SL is just ugly, terrible.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week