A very long time ago – before even I was born – Mercedes produced a model called the 300SL, also known as the Gullwing. ‘SL’ in those days stood for Sport Lightweight or Sport Leicht in German – which was more recently borrowed by BMW for the carbon-fibre clad M3 CSL (Coupe Sport Leicht).
Whilst Mercedes has continued producing an SL model since those early years, the Sport Leicht acronym has become somewhat tarnished, with recent versions topping a whopping 2,000 kg on the scales.
Something had to be done to put the SL on a diet, either that or rename it. Which is precisely what Mercedes have done. The diet, not the naming convention.
Next month, Mercedes-Benz will present a completely redeveloped SL Roadster made for the first time almost entirely from aluminium. The full aluminium bodyshell of this newly developed vehicle weighs around 110 kg less than a comparable steel bodyshell and is claimed to reduce the SL’s overall weight by 140 kg compared to its predecessor.
The designers use an even lighter material, magnesium, for the rear panel whilst high-strength steel tubing is integrated into the A-pillars.
“The effect is rather as if a heavyweight-class passenger had got out of the car and taken his heavy flight luggage, too” says Dr Thomas Rudlaff, responsible for the aluminium bodyshell at Mercedes-Benz.
“The result is perceptible and measurable. Less weight means more dynamism and less consumption. In other words: the motoring enjoyment increases and the environmental burden sinks.”
In terms of rigidity, safety and comfort, the aluminium structure proves superior to the predecessor’s steel construction. This is achieved thanks, among other things, to its intelligent lightweight construction (Aargh, there’s that intelligent word again!) with components optimised for their specific task.
There are two further innovations that Mercedes would like us to take note of, Magic Vision Control and FrontBass system.
Magic Vision Control is a new high-efficiency windscreen wiper/washer system which channels water to the windscreen, just in front of the wiper blade lip and in the direction the wiper is moving. As a result, when spraying one no longer sees a water splash on the windscreen to disrupt one’s view ahead, and yet the windscreen is kept perfectly clean.
Likewise the innovate FrontBass system uses the free spaces in the aluminium structure in front of the footwell as resonance spaces for the bass loudspeakers. As a result the new SL features clear, crisp bass sounds that make are claimed to provide a concert hall ambience even with the top down.
Both features are standard on the new Mercedes-Benz SL and will be explained in painful detail when the model is revealed next month.