Mercedes-Benz SL Unveiled Ahead of Formal Debut at Detroit Auto Show

Mercedes-Benz has made its SL roadster lighter and more powerful for the 2013 model year. Ahead of the car’s debut in January at the Detroit auto show, the automaker revealed product information and photos on Thursday.

Special attention has been paid to the car’s chassis, which is made almost entirely of aluminum. Mercedes said that the SL550, the only SL model previewed Thursday, weighed about 275 pounds less than its predecessor, which would give it improved handling and a sportier demeanor.

Despite the weight loss, the 2013 SL is larger over all than the outgoing model. Stretching 2 inches longer and 2.2 inches wider, the new SL also receives a more upright front fascia, in keeping with the redesigned SLK roadster and CLS sedan. Armed with a broad sense of brand genealogy, the front end may evoke the styling of classic SLs. The new design also undoubtedly would help the newest SL meet stringent pedestrian impact safety regulations.

Under the hood is a direct-injected, twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8 engine, coupled to a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The engine produces 429 horsepower at 5,250 r.p.m., and a remarkable 516 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 r.p.m. Mercedes claims that the SL550 accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds.

There will be a choice of three power-operated tops: the standard, body-colored version, a glass-roofed variant and the glass roof with optional Magic Sky Control. Intimations of ’70s glam-rock bands aside, Magic Sky Control is the feature, first commercialized on the SLK, that changes the roof glass from dark to transparent at the push of a button.

The car’s various infotainment features are corralled through the brand’s COMAND telematics system. Safety is addressed with features like a lane-departure warning system, along with brakes that are automatically applied if the car detects an emergency. The windshield wipers have been calibrated to deliver washer fluid evenly and in a manner that doesn’t obstruct the driver’s vision, Mercedes said.

Pricing and fuel economy figures will be announced closer to the car’s sale date, in the spring. To coincide with the introduction, Mercedes will offer a limited SL build, the Edition 1, equipped with Magic Sky Control, 19-inch wheels, custom interior touches and a special paint job.

Thursday’s announcement contained no information about an AMG variant, but if history holds, a trip to the brand’s in-house tuning shop for the SL would be expected later in the year or early in 2013.