Shown on Monday, Jan. 9: 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550.
What is it? The latest in a line of German roadsters inspired in part by an American automobile dealer named Max Hoffman some 60 years ago. The various iterations of the car have since served to showcase the Stuttgart automaker’s latest technology — in this case, an aluminum structure that recalls the alloy body of an earlier model, the 1952 300SL racecar.
Is it real? Absolutely, although those who have been waiting patiently for the new SL — the last one was introduced about 11 years ago — may have to pinch themselves to be sure it’s really here.
What they said: With a body unit that is 90 percent aluminum, the new roadster weighs 275 pounds less than its predecessor. Seven years in development, the body showcases a number of sophisticated material forming and welding techniques. Mercedes said the new car was superior to that of the previous car in rigidity and safety; Gunter Fischer, SL-Class program manager, said in a media presentation here that the 2013 SL structure sets a benchmark for roadster torsional rigidity. But the car isn’t all serious business: cavities in the body unit serve as resonating chambers for the sound system’s woofers.
What they didn’t say: It’s judgment day for Mercedes-Benz. While the SL roadster constitutes only a small portion of the automaker’s portfolio, it figures large in its reputation.
What makes it tick? A 4.6-liter direct-injected, turbocharged V-8 that develops 429-horsepower — 12 percent more power than the maker’s previous V-8. Torque is up a whopping 32 percent, at 516 pound-feet. In a media presentation, Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG, said that the V-8 offered the performance of the previous V-12 with the fuel economy of the previous V-6.
How much, how soon? The SL550 will be in dealer showrooms in the United States this spring. It can be yours for $105,000; don’t forget to add in $875 for destination and delivery charges.
How’s it look? Like the evolutionary offspring of its predecessors. The chrome-trimmed vents on the body side, the star on the grille and a gently rounded form evoke classic SL styling, but the aggressive and elaborate headlamps take it to another place.