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LA show: Mercedes-Benz SL updated

Cosmetic surgery: A new nose clip and bonnet accompany driveline updates to Merc’s high-class drop-top.

Mercedes-Benz’s premier drop-top gets a tweak for 2016


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18 Nov 2015

MERCEDES-BENZ has taken the wraps off the freshly updated R231 SL-Class drop-top range at the Los Angeles motor show, revealing styling tweaks that are in line with the AMG GT sportscar.

A comprehensive front end cosmetic makeover is accompanied by mild tweaks to the cabin, along with upgrades to the base car’s powertrain numbers.

The range – due in Australia in mid-2016 – also benefits from upgrades to electronic chassis and safety systems.

On the outside, the SL runs new adaptive, camera-equipped LED headlights that are fitted to a revised front end. The lower bumper valance is redesigned to incorporate larger side air intakes, while the bonnet scores a pair of so-called power bulges down its length.

The rear end receives a new bootlid spoiler, bumper and solid red tail-lights, while new alloy rim designs in both 19- and 20-inch are available.

Inside, the SL’s revisions are less obvious, but what there is takes inspiration from the range-topping AMG GT. A new shift lever, new magnesium-bodied flat-bottom steering wheel and a larger Comand infotainment screen make up the running changes, while minor revisions to dials and pointers can also be spotted.

The new Comand system also incorporates its own wireless hotspot, which allows for remote service functions like geofencing (preventing the car from driving outside a designated area), parked vehicle location detection and remote door locking/unlocking.

An optional driving assistance package can equip the SL with a traffic flow pilot function, using a combination of active radar cruise control and active lane keeping. An active brake assist mode with cross-traffic and pedestrian detection can also stop or slow the SL autonomously.

Active blind-spot monitoring and rear-end collision detection are also included. An optional self-parking feature is also available for the SL.

The roadster’s Vario Roof can now be operated at speeds up to 40km/h previously, the car had to be stationary for the mechanism to work.

Available in four variants, the SL400 benefits from a power-up, with a retune of its 3.0-litre V6 netting an extra 25kW and 20Nm for a total output of 270kW and 500Nm. It will consume 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres, according to Merc.

The SL500’s 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8, meanwhile, gains 15kW for an impressive 335kW/700Nm output, and use 9.0L/100km. Both cars feature Benz's latest nine-speed automatic transmission as standard.

The two big hitters remain unchanged, with the SL63’s 5.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 making 430kW and 900Nm, and the SL65’s monstrous 6.0-litre quad-turbo V12 churning out 463kW and a limited 1000Nm.

Underneath, the SL’s chassis has been tweaked, with all variants able to be optioned with the Active Body Control system, complete with ‘curve tilting’ functionality. In combination with adaptive dampers, plunger cylinders fitted to the car’s spring struts do the job of anti-roll bars, freeing up the dampers to be more comfortably valved.

The curve tilt function can be activated over and above the adaptive damper operation, reducing the feel of lateral (or sideways) load on the SL’s driver and passenger.

A Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific spokesperson indicated that the company would provide specification and pricing details closer to the SL’s launch in mid-2106, but that the current line-up of SL400, SL500, SL63 and SL65 is likely to be retained.

The line-up is currently priced from $228,610 before on-road costs for the SL400, rising to $480,610 for the turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 SL65.

Sales of the big-dollar luxury soft-tops have slowed by 25 per cent year on year, with Mercedes buyers favouring the S-Class Coupe and AMG GT. Forty-nine SLs have been sold to the end of October. Aston Martin, Maserati and Bentley all provide premium drop-top competition in the space.

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