by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

The New-Generation 2013MY Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Roadster: Comprehensive Product Information

The name "SL" - initially intended as nothing more than an abbreviation for "super" and "light" - has been a symbol of the Mercedes-Benz legend for five generations. The latest SL is more than a follow-up to a successful predecessor. Rather, the car sets its own agenda, pointing towards the sports car of the future. Like its grandfathers, it is also a groundbreaker in that high performance doesn't involve the usual tradeoffs in comfort and everyday drivability.

The sixth generation of the iconic Mercedes-Benz SL roadster is being launched in 2012 with an all-new aluminum unit body, even more useful technology and a redesigned version of its well-known retractable hardtop. While the SL550 for the 2013 model year is about two inches longer and wider than the model it replaces, its aluminum body is more than 200 pounds lighter than the previous model.

From Coupe to Roadster

The fully-retracting electric hardtop of the current SL enhances the open-air passion of a high-performance luxury roadster, yet combines it with the practicality of a quiet, weather-tight coupe, including a standard panorama roof. At the push of a button, the roof is opened or closed in less than 20 seconds. During this transformation, an intelligent tilting mechanism ensures that the roof and rear window "spoon" and retract into the top section of the trunk to preserve a good deal of useful trunk space.

The World's Safest Convertible

With its pop-up roll bars and a myriad of other electronic safety systems, the SL has been acclaimed as "the world's safest convertible." Every aspect of vehicle safety is considered - from crash avoidance through safety systems such as Attention Assist, Distronic Plus, PRE-SAFE Brake and ESP stability control to the fastest possible rescue of its occupants in the event of an accident.

Occupant protection is optimized by a high-strength aluminum body, smart front airbags, knee bags, side air bags and head-thorax bags, seat belt tensioners, belt force limiters and a sensor-controlled roll bar (a Mercedes-Benz invention in the fourth-generation SL).

Exclusivity is Standard

The Mercedes-Benz SL is extraordinarily well-equipped, with particular attention to comfort and exclusivity. Two-zone automatic climate control, GPS navigation, panorama sunroof, leather-covered seats, rich wood trim, multi-color ambient lighting and a sophisticated harmon/kardon audio system are all standard equipment.

In addition to Mercedes-pioneered ABS anti-lock brakes, traction control and ESP stability control, standard safety features include the innovative PRE-SAFE system, ATTENTION ASSIST, pop-up roll bars, bi-xenon headlights and a full compliment of eight airbags.

Optional equipment includes innovative features such as DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, ABC active suspension and KEYLESS GO.


The very first Mercedes-Benz 300SL - a race car - was totally unlike its contemporary sports/racing cars of 1952. With its innovative tubular space frame, teardrop-shaped aluminum body, and gullwing doors, the 300SL caused a stir in the motorsports world. Winning both Le Mans and the famed Carrera Panamericana that year made the 300SL race car's debut season a sensation. Then, to the surprise of many, the company began production of the road-going SL in 1954 with a direct-fuel-injection engine, debuting the production 300SL Gullwing not in Frankfurt, Paris or even in Europe, but in New York, starting a lasting legacy of exciting SL sports cars from Mercedes-Benz.

Based on the 300SL Gullwing coupe, the convertible 300SL roadster was launched in 1957. These two cars are sometimes compared to the modern-day SLS AMG gullwing and roadster models. And, not unlike today's SLK, the 190SL - a smaller, less expensive convertible that debuted in 1955 - was marketed in parallel with the 300SL.

The "Pagoda Roof"

Known internally as the W113, a second-generation SL arrived in 1963 and was promptly dubbed "the Pagoda SL" because of the shape of its removable hardtop roof. Replacing the 300SL and the 190SL, the new SL was available as a convertible with a folding top or an open car with a removable hardtop. Although it had the identical 94.5-inch wheelbase as the first SL, the second-generation SL was actually based on a shortened version of the 220 SE tailfin sedan, providing it with Mercedes-pioneered crumple zones and a rigid passenger cell.

First V8-Powered SL

The next-generation SL was launched in 1971 and was produced for 18 years - an unusually long life that meant that more R107 cars were sold than any other generation of SL. During this time, the first V8-powered SL made its debut - the 350SL. In addition, an SLC coupe (the C107) based on this SL was built until 1981. During this time, the SL was fitted with a padded dash, recessed switches, an impact-absorbing steering wheel, ABS antilock brakes and an air bag and belt tensioner.

First Pop-Up Roll Bar

Launched in 1989, the fourth-generation SL featured a number of technical innovations, including the first automatic folding top and a pop-up roll bar. The R129 series also had seats with shoulder belts integrated directly into the seatbacks - a unique design that further increased its safety in a rollover. A V12-powered model, the 600SL was added in 1992. The R129 benefited from two facelifts - one in 1995 and another in 1998.

First SL With a Retractable Hardtop

Featuring the SL's first retractable hardtop and ABC active suspension, the fifthgeneration car made its debut in 2001. The R230 line grew to include AMG versions of the V8 and V12 models, as well as an exclusive SL65 AMG Black Series model.

The Timeline of an Automotive Legend

Overall, more than 500,000 of these exclusive sports cars have hit the world's roadways, making enough history to fill several volumes.

Aluminum Unit Body

The six-generation SL roadster features a unitized aluminum body - the first such mass-produced body shell from Mercedes-Benz. In comparison to the previous-generation SL, the aluminum body weighs some 275 pounds less, while providing more crash safety and better ride comfort.

The highlights of the new aluminum body include:

- high-pressure-formed front longitudinal frame members
- hollow-cast, chilled longitudinal rear frame members
- thin-wall, double-plate, hollow-profile main floor
- cast-aluminum firewall, B-pillars and base of the A-pillars

Covered in protective body-color plastic, aluminum rocker panels below the doors are structural frame members comprised of seven-chamber extruded sections for lateral rigidity.

Steel Roof Pillars

At the same time, high-strength steel is used in the front roof pillars and roof frame, to provide the best possible occupant safety in rollovers. Instead of the usual fork-shaped tubular roof pillars, a tube-in-tube, box-section design is used for better rigidity and lower weight.

Aluminum Frame and Body Panels

The front hood, fenders and doors are also made of aluminum. In particular, the doors use a combination of aluminum sheet, extruded sections and cast parts, which are joined by riveting, bonding and folding. The door hinges are a combination of aluminum and steel.

The trunk lid features an outer panel of sheet-molded plastic and a structural inner frame of steel that are bonded together. For durability and long life, the two panels are made of compounds with nearly identical expansion rates. The plastic outer skin makes it possible to hide many of the antennas in the trunk lid.

Structural Cage for the Fuel Tank

The fuel tank is mounted above the rear suspension in a structural cage of chilled-cast aluminum longitudinal members, aluminum crossmember profiles and a magnesium partition wall.

Extra Measures Keep It Quiet

The lighter aluminum body required extra measures to ensure noise and vibration are less than the previous model. In addition to the double-layer floor, one-piece carpeting with thicker foam backing reduces road noise. Heavy firewall insulation muffles engine sound, while additional insulation is used near the rear-wall crossmember, the sides of the trunk and ventilation ductwork to minimize tire and wind noise. To reduce vibration transmitted to the cabin, spray-on insulation is used throughout the car on structural elements. Even the laminated windshield has a transparent, elastic noise-reducing film to dampen vibration.

Balancing Strength and Weight

The overall design of the new SL body produces a strong, light structure that strikes an impressive balance between stiffness and weight. Contributing to its outstanding handling as well as excellent ride comfort, the torsional rigidity of the new aluminum body is 20 percent stiffer than previous-generation steel body.

To view the complete technical guide, please download the Comprehensive_Technical_Guide_2013_SL-Class.pdf file.

Credits: Mercedes-Benz USA

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