Providing an early holiday gift to its legion of fans, the all-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has been officially revealed -- at least in its SL550 form. As outlined in our earlier "SL-Class spied testing" story, the latest edition of this iconic two-seat sports car breaks new design ground in numerous areas, the most profound being a massive weight-reduction program. A litany of supplemental changes combine to give the 2013 SL-Class better performance and economy plus enhanced comfort/convenience/safety elements in addition to its even more dynamic sense of style.
While its basic proportions carry forward, the new Mercedes-Benz SL-Class does grow a bit, adding nearly two inches in overall length and gaining 2.24 inches in width. However, the switch to M-B's first all-aluminum body structure on a production model cuts about 242 pounds out of the package compared to the current steel-centered SL, and more mass gets trimmed by the increased use of magnesium along with other innovative design touches. Despite weighing some 275-300 pounds less than the current SL550, the new-gen alternative boasts superior strength and platform rigidity.
The new SL-Class makes a stronger visual statement, as well. Its prominent upright SLS-style grille matched with angled bi-xenon headlamps that feature Adaptive Highbeam Assist, LED running lamps and prominent lower air intakes add a more aggressive character to the front quarters. Top up or down, the new SL's profile is further enhanced by tastefully sculpted side contours set off by a more sophisticated take on the signature fender vents and an 18-inch wheel/tire fitment. Rounding out the mix is a more tautly rendered tail that displays what M-B calls "a strong racing character" complemented by stylized LED taillamps and dual chrome exhaust outlets.
Speaking of its top, the new SL-Class will offer two distinct types of flippable lids, one with a glass panel and the other, a full panoramic alternative with M-B's Magic Sky Control that offers instant light/dark transitions at the touch of a button. Both are one-touch electro-hydraulic designs that can cycle up or down in less than 20 seconds and are affixed to magnesium frames that further help lower the car's center of gravity. M-B claims the new SL-Class has superb aerodynamics, and will provide best-in-class isolation from wind and road noise whether running in open or closed mode.
Inside its elegantly appointed and superbly equipped cabin, the 2103 SL-Class shares a good deal of its design language with the latest M-B family offerings but now offers its passengers even more shoulder and elbow room. In addition to a new COMAND infotainment/navigation package with internet access, the SL-Class boasts M-B's new FrontBass system that uses open areas in the aluminum structures ahead of the footwells as tuned resonance chambers for the bass speakers, an innovation that reportedly imparts unprecedented clarity to the audio system under all driving conditions.
Under its hood, the 2013 SL550 packs a new 4.7-liter naturally aspirated/direct- injected V8 that makes 429 horsepower - 12 percent more than the current 5.5-liter. It also churns out 516 lb-ft of torque, a 32 percent gain in that critical area. Fitted with a standard start/stop system and backed with a seven-speed Driver-Adaptive automatic transmission, it promises to be both more fuel efficient and substantially quicker than the current SL550. Mercedes is projecting a 4.5-second 0-60 mph time versus a 5.3 tick factory spec for the present SL550.
To make best use of its more power/less weight pairing, the engineering team appropriately revamped the chassis bits in the new SL-Class. Buyers can go with the standard Agility Control Suspension or opt for M-B's Active Body Control (ABC) suspension option. Either can be paired with the available electro-mechanical Direct-Steer system that can vary the ratio in accordance with steering angle to enhance high-speed stability and low-speed maneuverability.
As you'd expect, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 will come with the usual load of safety standards, including Pre-Safe, Attention Assist and new Neck-Pro head restraints as well as dual rollover bars and front/side/knee air bags. The feature mix also will include M-B's new Magic Vision Control windshield wiper. This more advanced take on a conventional wet-arm system has fluid channels integrated into the blade itself that apply liquid onto the windshield directly ahead of the wiper so that it's never visible to the driver but does a superior job of screen clearing.
In addition to options like Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control with Pre-Safe Braking, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Parktonic with Active Parking Assist, SL550 buyers also can add a personal touch with items like Active Multicontour Seats. Keyless Go, Airscarf neck warmer, a Sport Wheel Package with 19-inch AMG alloys and a hands-free power trunk opener/closer that's activated via a foot gesture beneath the rear bumper. No word yet on pricing -- or the likely arrival date of a more potent AMG variant. However, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 will go on sale here in the spring.