Mercedes doesn’t seem to know what to do with its flagship sports cruiser. Over the years it has gotten heavier, with more awkward styling and continued complexity. Now it has diluted and complicated the mix even more with four-passenger seating and all-wheel-drive. These are firsts for the fabled Mercedes SL line.
Over the years Mercedes has watered down the SL
Mercedes has taken the SL far from its gullwing 300 SL roots. There have been previous SLs with rear seating, but not as the buyer’s only choice. Yes, it makes the SL more livable, but that wasn’t ever its mission. It starts to lose that classic long-nose, short-deck proportions we loved in previous SLs.
The all-wheel drive adds more complexity and weight. Mercedes has a habit of overengineering itself into corners, as with the ABC leveling system on 2000s CL 500 coupes. Whether this latest drivetrain arrangement proves to be worth adding hundreds of pounds remain to be seen.
Though all-wheel drive is standard for the SL, most drivers will leave it in rear-wheel drive.
It uses the rear axle as the dominant drive arrangement. So it will engage the front using a clutch that provides torque split. Mercedes says that the front-drive unit can be turned off completely and still be driven with the rear-wheel drive. That is the mode we expect over 99-percent of SL owners will be driving in.
Another expected feature found on many SLs is the retractable hardtop, which is no longer available. A soft-top is the only one available. Mercedes says it drops 46 lbs over the retractable top and lowers the center of gravity in the process.
There’s lots of power with the SL 55 and SL 63
Both the SL 55 and 63 get the 4.0-liter V8 with twin turbos. With the SL 55 comes 469 hp. The 63 jumps to either 577 hp or 590 hp, depending on certain options.
With the new suspension, there has also been added more complexity. A hydraulic suspension system is now employed. The good news is that Mercedes says it eliminates the need for roll bars. On the SL 55, it goes for two-way adjustable dampers. For the SL 63, a fully active suspension is the upgrade.
Mercedes engineers are finding new ways to complicate cars
The SL’s interior gets “an exciting combination of analog geometry and digital world.” Again, Mercedes engineers have found new paths to complexity. Look at the controls on the steering wheel, for instance. And we don’t know yet how many menu changes are available with the main screen to decide whether it, too is overcomplicated.
Mercedes has not divulged pricing yet. 2021 models were usually just above or below $100,000. So expect this new SL to be way north of $100 Gs.