The sixth-generation Mercedes-Benz SL roadster scheduled to be unveiled next month at the Detroit auto show will have a new, all-aluminum body shell.
The 2013 SL that goes on sale next spring will weigh 275 pounds less than the current car because of the rigid new aluminum structure.
The SL550 will be powered by a new direct-injection V-8 engine and feature two new technologies:
- The Magic Vision Control windshield wiper and washer channels water to the windshield just in front of the wiper blade and eliminates splash. It also makes it less likely that washer fluid will fly into the passenger compartment when the roof is down. The wiper blade is heated.
- To improve sound from the audio system when the top is up or down, the FrontBass system uses free spaces in the car structure ahead of the foot wells as resonance chambers for the woofer speaker system. The result is better sound, while freeing up space in the doors and interior.
The 2013 SL is one of three redesigned or refreshed Mercedes models planned for 2012 introductions. The GL SUV will be redesigned and the GLK SUV will receive a midcycle refreshening next year.
Mercedes' U.S. sales, excluding Sprinter and Maybach, have climbed 12 percent to 219,443 units this year through November. Sales of the SL have dropped 39 percent through November to 1,350. Full-year SL sales peaked at 13,717 in 2002.
Replaces 2003 model
The SL replaces the fifth-generation version that went on sale in March 2002 as a 2003 model.
The 2013 SL's aluminum body shell weighs 242 pounds less than the current car's steel construction.
"The effect is as if a large passenger has stepped out of the car," Thomas Rudlaff, who has responsibility at Mercedes-Benz for the aluminum body shell, said in a statement. "Less weight means improved performance and efficiency. In other words, the driving pleasure increases and the environmental impact decreases."
Because of the car's lower weight, Mercedes-Benz said it could add more high-technology assistance systems to the SL.
The 2013 SL550 is powered by Mercedes' new 4.6-liter V-8 engine with 429 hp -- a gain of 12 percent -- but improved fuel economy.
The engine has a start-stop feature and is combined with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Federal regulators have not yet set U.S. fuel economy.
The new SL also has an agility-control suspension system as standard equipment. The active body control suspension is optional. Both are combined with a new electromechanical direct-steer speed-sensitive system that varies based on the angle of the steering wheel. It also provides better directional stability at high speeds and makes it easier to maneuver and park, Mercedes-Benz said.
The SL will continue to feature a retractable hardtop available in glass or a transparent Magic Sky Control that switches between light and dark with the push of a button.
Both hardtop roofs feature a magnesium frame that is 13 pounds lighter than the frame on the outgoing model.
The SL also has a hands-free access system allowing the driver to open and close the trunk by moving a foot below the rear bumper.
When the car goes on sale in the United States this spring, Mercedes-Benz will offer the Edition 1 model with standard AMG 19-inch wheels, upgraded interior and exterior paint and an improved surround sound system.
Mercedes-Benz has not released pricing but the 2012 SL550 starts at $104,525 including destination and the SL63 AMG costs $141,315.
A new-generation SL63 AMG will go on sale later in 2012.